During the sentencing phase, judges will have plenty of aggravating circumstances to sift through. The crime itself, whether harm was done to the community and the criminal history of the defendant will all be factored into the sentence received. However, another important component of due process is the right to present evidence during sentencing that helps mitigate, or diminish, some of the sentence received.
Mitigating Factors Related to the Underlying Charge
There are several factors which a criminal defense attorney may use to help sway the judge away from a hefty sentence. These are specific to the alleged crime itself and include:
- No harm was done. While most violent crimes will have direct damage to an individual or structure, some crimes are committed without any physical harm being done. This could be argued in court.
- Defendant was not of sound mind. An attorney is careful when using this defense, normally waiting until a psychological evaluation is completed before making the assertion that this defense is prudent.
- Relative necessity. The crime was committed to provide for an individual and/or their family. For example, stealing food to feed the defendant and their children.
- Victim culpability. The victim freely contributed to the crime which they were injured in. If the defendant was shoved and then ended up causing serious bodily injury to the victim, this defense might be used.
- Unusual circumstances existed. Defendants that act out due to stress or other mental conditions may use this defense to prove a quick “jolt” of anger or rage caused them to commit the underlying offense.
- Coercion. The crime was committed under the guidance of law enforcement or another individual in exchange for cash or other “considerations.” Proof beyond doubt an investigator or police officer forced the defendant under duress to commit a crime will be required.
Ultimately, this list is not exhaustive. There are numerous mitigating factors that can be used as part of your defense and to reduce a sentence. A qualified Tampa defense attorney will be the best judge of which mitigating factors may be presented in your case.
Mitigating Factors Related to the Individual
In addition to the previously mentioned defenses, an attorney may want the judge to know how upstanding of a citizen you actually are and also discuss your “priors.”
Some of the factors that rely on an individual include:
- Addiction. If a defendant struggles with alcohol or drug addictions, a case can be made that their choices may have been skewed by the drugs they are addicted to. After using drugs for many years, some addicts may lose the ability to reason or comprehend right from wrong, which an attorney will illustrate in court.
- Lack of record. If the defendant has managed to avoid trouble for their entire adult and juvenile life, a lone slip-up could be their wakeup call. Most judges will take into account the lack of any serious criminal activity when sentencing an individual.
- Cooperation. If the defendant has cooperated with criminal justice agencies in the resolution of other criminal activity, or has helped bring others to justice, they may receive leniency. Judges will weigh the role of the defendant in ongoing criminal investigations when determining an appropriate sentence. Similarly, prosecutors may be willing to enter into a plea agreement to reduce charges.
- Defendant is a good candidate for rehabilitation services. While incarceration is designed to rehabilitate an individual, addicts who need help getting clean and changing their lives may benefit from intensive rehab services or the use of the drug court system. A skilled Tampa defense attorney who is experienced with the Florida drug court system can help eligible defendants get their cases transferred. Because of the drug court system’s strict requirements, defendants who are able to work through the rehabilitation process are generally able to have all charges against them dismissed.
Other Ways to Reduce Criminal Sentences
In addition to introducing mitigating factors, plea bargains are often used to avoid lengthy trials. In exchange for saving the county time and money, plea bargains can reduce serious felonies to a lesser offense.
Plea bargains are also common when a prosecutor feels they don’t have enough evidence to make more serious charges stick. Through a negotiation process, a skilled defense attorney can work with a prosecutor to craft a plea agreement that serves both parties. This may include lesser charges and more lenient sentencing.
Juries can also find defendants guilty of lesser crimes that carry more lenient penalties. For example, if a prosecutor fails to make their case for a murder charge but the jury feels they have been presented enough evidence for a manslaughter charge, they may find the defendant guilty of the lesser charge.
It’s important to note that certain charges carry with them the burden of mandatory minimum sentencing—meaning that despite mitigating factors, a judge’s hands are tied. If the defendant is found guilty of a particular crime that is subject to mandatory minimum sentencing, the judge must lay out a punishment that conforms to the law. While there are many groups fighting against these types of laws, for now, they remain on the books. In cases where the defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence if found guilty, it is in their best interest to have a skilled defense lawyer that can help them negotiate a plea deal or present a strong case for their innocence.
Consulting with a Tampa Defense Attorney
Mike G Law has helped countless clients beat the charges that have been brought against them or negotiate plea deals for less serious offenses. As a former prosecutor, he has a unique understanding of the criminal justice system that works to his clients’ advantage and allows him to better protect their rights.
If you’re concerned about the charges against you or are unhappy with your current representation, don’t delay. The best way to work towards a sentence reduction is to hire a skilled Tampa defense attorney from the beginning. Call Mike G Law for the skilled legal defense you need to secure the best possible outcome for your trial.