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Mitigating and Aggravating Factors

In the US, our legal system acknowledges that crimes can happen in many different ways, under many different circumstances. Thus, there are many laws designed to allow judges and juries to consider many different factors when determining guilt and deciding on a sentence. For example, sentences are often divided into various degrees, based on the defendant’s intentions and the amount of harm caused by their alleged behavior. Another way the law tries to insure a fair ruling on a wide variety of crimes is encouraging juries to consider mitigating and aggravating factors.

Mitigating Factors

This type of argument is generally made in an accused person’s defense. A mitigating factor is anything about the circumstances of a crime that lessens its severity or the accused person’s culpability. If a judge or jury is convinced that certain mitigating factors are relevant, they may reduce the charge or the sentence, or both. Some possible mitigating factors are:

  • The defendant willingly turned themselves in
  • The defendant was extremely provoked by the alleged victim
  • The defendant was coerced into committing the crime
  • The defendant believed, albeit unreasonably, that the victim was a threat

Aggravating Factors

These factors are generally named by the prosecution. They are circumstances that make a crime more severe or less understandable. If a judge or jury is swayed by arguments about aggravating factors, they may increase the charge, sentence or both. Some possible aggravating factors are:

  • The defendant has multiple prior convictions
  • The alleged crime was committed against a minor
  • The crime was motivated by bigotry, making it a “hate crime”

If you have been accused of a crime, you need an attorney who is well educated about all possible mitigating and aggravating factors. Contact Appleton criminal defense attorneys Kohler Hart Powell, SC at 414-271-9595.