Which Mitigating Factors Can Reduce Criminal Sentences In Pennsylvania?
When you’re facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, a good lawyer will tell you that there are many ways to fight the case. The first step is to try and fight on the facts and the law. Every so often, criminal defense lawyers will dig into the discovery in a case and figure out that the prosecution has no chance of proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, however, a defendant’s guilt will be clear. Good lawyers will then switch their attention to mitigation. Mitigation is figuring out factors that can reduce a person’s sentence despite that person being responsible for the crime. So, what factors can reduce a criminal sentence in Pennsylvania?
Mental illness, especially if it comes from military service
There is an understanding of the criminal justice system that some crimes are the result of mental illness. While this does not completely get the defendant off the hook, it can lessen the consequences of the crime in many instances. If your lawyer can show that you have a mental illness that caused you to commit the crime, then you will be less culpable. This is especially true if your mental illness is a result of military service. With more soldiers returning home with PTSD after going to war, more courts are taking this into account when sentencing defendants.
Factors that would have provoked a response in a reasonable person
There is a big difference between waking up in the morning to do a murder and committing the same crime in the heat of passion. If some circumstance occurred that would cause a reasonable person to have a violent or irrational response, then you may end up with a lesser sentence. For instance, it is still assaulted if you attack a man who was sleeping with your spouse. However, the court may consider that you acted in the heat of passion. It could lessen your sentence in part because it is perceived that such an attack is not a part of your everyday character.
Poverty and extenuating circumstances
Many crimes are the result of poverty, as people are forced into desperate situations. For instance, a person may choose to rob a store because they don’t have the money to feed their families. If you find yourself in this circumstance, then you may end up with a lighter sentence. It is worth noting that such circumstances won’t typically take away the criminal responsibility for the crime. When it comes to mitigation, the goal is to secure a fair sentence considering the full extent of circumstances surrounding the person’s actions. Poverty and the like explains why a crime happened.
An especially traumatic childhood
When people face the death penalty, one of the most common forms of mitigation is showing that even though that defendant might have committed a terrible crime, he grew up under intense trauma. Many of these defendants, for instance, will have faced tremendous sexual and physical abuse when they were young. This type of mitigation works in more than just death penalty cases. People who had to endure unconscionable conditions in childhood can sometimes benefit from lenient sentencing. It is a good lawyer’s job to learn these facts and present them to help you in your criminal case.