The Importance of Mitigation in Sentencing

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In Arizona, the law provides for a wide range of sentence options and gives judges a substantial amount of discretion in sentencing. A judge may look at mitigating factors to help him decide on whether or not to give a convicted person a lower sentence.

Jail Time and Parole

Mitigating Factors for Lesser Sentences

The practice of giving lighter sentences due to mitigating factors exists, and this is one area you and your lawyer should fully explore early on.

Before the hearing scheduled for sentencing, prepare yourself to:

  • Talk about your background and personal information
  • Explain the mitigating factors related to your case
  • Talk about plans to address personal issues that led you to commit the crime
  • Other penalties you may experience in relation to your conviction
  • Absence of criminal record prior to the current case
  • The circumstances surrounding your offence
  • How your behavior has changed after the commission of the crime

Many mitigating factors can be presented to the court. Clinical assessments of the defendant and the circumstances are frequently helpful. This presentation of mitigating factors involves psychiatric and psychological analysis.

About half of the states in the US accept evidence that shows the offender was under extreme emotional or mental distress as a mitigating factor. In this case, the defendant’s lawyer should also convince the court that his client’s capacity to appreciate the unlawful aspect of his act, or his capacity to control his behavior to satisfy the law’s requirements, was impaired.

Mitigating Circumstances: Additional Considerations

Mitigating circumstances are conditions that are taken into consideration when a court considers the consequences of legal and moral culpability.

For example, you are speeding to get your father to a hospital because he’s experiencing chest pains. In court, you would argue that the mitigating circumstance of fearing your father was having a heart attack might excuse the act altogether or lower the penalty meted out by the judge.

Here are common types of mitigating circumstances:

  • Minor role – The defendant played only a minor role in the commission of the crime.
  • Victim culpability – The victim has participation in the crime or initiated the events leading to it.
  • Unusual circumstances – Significant amount of provocation and temporary emotional distress are examples under this category.
  • No harm – The offender did not harm anyone and committed the criminal act in a way that would be unlikely to cause injury or offence to another person.
  • Relative necessity – The offender committed the criminal act out of a desire to provide life’s basic needs.
  • Addiction – Drug or alcohol addiction contributed to the defendant’s tendency to commit the crime. Addiction cannot be used as an excuse to commit the crime.

How Much Time Would You Spend in Prison?

The law in the sphere of sentencing is complex. Provisions in the law state any required duration of jail sentences for different types of crimes, but the actual length of time spent behind bars can be longer or shorter. Actual term of incarceration can be affected by credit for good behavior and jail-alternative programs. Along with or instead of imprisonment, punishments can take other forms such as restitution, community service, probation, and fines.


Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law

If you face criminal charges and you need expert advice, go to the offices of Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law. He is a former prosecutor who has over 30 years of experience in court battles. Robert is results-driven and he will not rest until he gets the best resolution for his clients.

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