A defendant who has been found guilty by a judge or jury in a criminal case must appear for sentencing.
Minimum and maximum sentences for various crimes are outlined in a state's legal code, but a judge and jury have quite a bit of leeway when it comes to sentencing guilty parties within these parameters. Aggravating and mitigating factors can play a significant role in determining the outcome of a sentencing hearing.
Learn more about what these factors are, and how a judge and jury can use them during the sentencing phase of a criminal case.
It is typically the prosecutor that will present aggravating factors to the court during criminal sentencing. Aggravating factors can be directly related to the crime that was committed, or they can be factors that are listed in the governing legal code.
All aggravating factors are meant to be used as justification for a harsher sentence.
Some of the most common types of aggravating factors that prosecutors rely on during the sentencing phase of a criminal case include the defendant's past offenses, the vulnerability of the victim, or the defendant's role in a crime committed by multiple parties.
A judge and jury will take these aggravating factors under advisement when trying to come up with a suitable sentence.
Mitigating factors are usually presented by the defense in an effort to get the judge and jury to adjust a defendant's sentence downward. There are far fewer mitigating factors outlined in legal code, so a good criminal defense attorney must explore all possible options when presenting these factors in court.
Among the list of recognized mitigating factors are the past circumstances of the defendant (typically prior abuse that contributed to criminal activity), a defendant's mental or physical illness, and whether or not the defendant has shown genuine remorse for his or her actions.
Most criminal defense attorneys also try to introduce evidence that shows a defendant has good character when presenting mitigating factors.
The criminal justice system bars cruel and unusual punishment. A judge and jury are willing to take both aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration when deciding the sentence of a convicted criminal.
Criminal defense attorneys play an essential role in helping to minimize the amount of time a defendant will spend behind bars. Be sure to have an experienced defense attorney by your side to petition for a lighter sentence if you are ever found guilty of a crime. For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney near you.
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