What Are Aggravating and Mitigating Factors?Comments Off on What Are Aggravating and Mitigating Factors?
Criminal penalties for many crimes, such as drug possession, sexual assault, and robbery, can differ based on the circumstances surrounding the crime. The presence of aggravating factors can increase the severity of the consequences you may face, while mitigating factors may allow you to seek a lighter penalty.
If these factors are present in your case, it is important to notify your criminal defense attorney. Your criminal defense lawyer will explain your options for navigating these charges and develop a strategy to achieve the best possible outcome.
Aggravating Factors in Washington State
Aggravating factors refer to any circumstances that increase the severity of a crime. If you are facing charges for a criminal offense, the presence of aggravating factors increases the likelihood of a conviction—as well as the chance of additional penalties, such as longer periods of incarceration and higher penalties.
Some examples of aggravating factors include the following.
- Previous criminal record: If you have a history of charges or convictions related to the crime you are facing penalties for, the court is likely to assign harsher consequences.
- The age and vulnerability of the victim: In certain cases, you may face more serious charges if the victim in your case is a minor under the age of 18, an elderly person, or someone with a physical or mental disability.
- The presence of a dangerous weapon: If you are facing charges for a crime such as assault or robbery and the prosecution alleges you used a dangerous weapon to commit the crime, such as a knife or loaded gun, the charges can increase in severity.
- Leadership in the criminal scheme: People who mastermind criminal plans are more likely to face harsher penalties than those who were following orders. If the prosecutor alleges you influenced or controlled the criminal scheme, the court will consider it to be an aggravating factor.
What Are Mitigating Factors?
Unlike aggravating factors, mitigating factors reduce the severity of the penalties you face for a crime. These mitigating factors may involve who you are as a person, or the circumstances surrounding the case.
Common examples of mitigating factors include the following.
- Age: If you were under the age of 18 at the time of the offense, you will likely face less severe charges than an adult defendant.
- Mental capacity: People who have a mental or intellectual disability may be unaware of the nature of the crimes they commit. If you have a diminished mental capacity or if the court finds you mentally incompetent, you may face reduced penalties, such as time in a mental hospital instead of a prison.
- Accident or self-defense: If the alleged crime is actually an accident, you could face reduced charges or have the court drop the charges against you altogether. This may also occur if you committed the crime in self-defense.
- Lack of previous criminal history: If it is your first offense, the court is less likely to impose harsh penalties. You may receive a reduced or alternative sentence, depending on the alleged crime.
- Necessity: If you committed the crime out of the need for survival, it is likely you will face reduced penalties. For example, if you stole food from the grocery store to feed your children, the court may consider a reduced sentence.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to present as many mitigating factors to the court as possible. It is equally as vital to develop a compelling case to share your side of the story, helping the court understand the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. Contact a defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest to discuss your optimal path forward.