Mitigating and Aggravating Factors: For Better or For Worse

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When you are convicted of a serious criminal charge in California, a sentencing hearing is held to allow your defense attorney and the prosecution to present their views during the penalty phase of your criminal case. Beyond sentencing guidelines, it is important to understand some factors that might influence a sentence you receive.

As noted by California statute, the choice of an appropriate prison term rests with the court. For any criminal charge, there is a higher, lower and mid-range sentence for conviction of the offense. During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution has the opportunity to present aggravating factors, or conditions that call for a more severe sentence including:

  • Use of a weapon during commission of a crime
  • Commission of a particularly brutal crime
  • A crime committed against a highly vulnerable victim
  • The crime is considered a hate crime
  • You were found to be a ringleader or advocate for the planning and commission of the crime and there was substantial financial or other profit to be had through commission of the crime
  • You have a substantial criminal record or a record that shows previous violent offenses

Mitigating factors are also presented during discussion of your sentence. These are conditions that demonstrate the appropriateness of a reduced criminal sentence and may include:

  • Lack of a previous criminal record
  • Your involvement in the crime was under duress or under significant, unique circumstances that are not likely to reoccur
  • Evidence is presented that you suffered substantial, ongoing abuse by the victim of the crime
  • There was some reason you believed the actions you took were legal or appropriate
  • Little harm was done during the crime or you took care that no or little harm was done to others

It is the job of a judge to weigh these factors and others to determine an appropriate sentence. It is the job of good legal counsel to fight for and demonstrate the need for a lesser sentence in your case whenever appropriate. During any phase of a criminal case, always seek experienced legal representation.

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When you are convicted of a serious criminal charge in California, a sentencing hearing is held to allow your defense attorney and the prosecution to present their views during the penalty phase of your criminal case. Beyond sentencing guidelines, it is important to understand some factors that might influence a sentence you receive.

As noted by California statute, the choice of an appropriate prison term rests with the court. For any criminal charge, there is a higher, lower and mid-range sentence for conviction of the offense. During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution has the opportunity to present aggravating factors, or conditions that call for a more severe sentence including:

  • Use of a weapon during commission of a crime
  • Commission of a particularly brutal crime
  • A crime committed against a highly vulnerable victim
  • The crime is considered a hate crime
  • You were found to be a ringleader or advocate for the planning and commission of the crime and there was substantial financial or other profit to be had through commission of the crime
  • You have a substantial criminal record or a record that shows previous violent offenses

Mitigating factors are also presented during discussion of your sentence. These are conditions that demonstrate the appropriateness of a reduced criminal sentence and may include:

  • Lack of a previous criminal record
  • Your involvement in the crime was under duress or under significant, unique circumstances that are not likely to reoccur
  • Evidence is presented that you suffered substantial, ongoing abuse by the victim of the crime
  • There was some reason you believed the actions you took were legal or appropriate
  • Little harm was done during the crime or you took care that no or little harm was done to others

It is the job of a judge to weigh these factors and others to determine an appropriate sentence. It is the job of good legal counsel to fight for and demonstrate the need for a lesser sentence in your case whenever appropriate. During any phase of a criminal case, always seek experienced legal representation.

Posted in Criminal Defense | Tagged aggravating factors, criminal record, mitigating factors, sentencing