During the pendency of your case you may have heard the word “mitigation” thrown around once or twice. But what does this really mean? Mitigation derives from the word “mitigate,” which, according to Webster’s dictionary means “to cause to become less harsh or hostile.” When it comes to your own criminal case, this is the goal.

Why Do I Need Mitigation?

When a judge or prosecutor looks over your case, they will see it from the lens of the police officer or detective who conducted the investigation. More often than not, this provides a very skewed perspective, and presents your character in a negative light. Yet, you are so much more than that one mistake.

The idea behind mitigation is to show who you are as a person and why you are worthy of redemption and a second chance. It allows your attorney to effectively present information about you or your case, so that a prosecutor or judge may consider a more lenient plea.

What Does Mitigation Include?

Mitigation evidence is wide-ranging. Thus, if your attorney asks you to provide him/her with mitigation, do not pigeon-hole yourself into thinking that it must be awards and achievements. Although this is a good place to start, mitigation includes information regarding:

This information can come in the form of:

Character Reference Letters: You can ask friends, family, bosses, and coworkers to write a letter addressed to the prosecutor that details your core values, work ethic, and your past history.

Certificates and Awards: If you’ve received any special awards or recognitions in any facet of your life, obtain copies to provide to the prosecutor.

Degrees, Diplomas, Certificates, Transcripts: Evidence of education can be great mitigation evidence to show past (or future) achievements.

Medical Records: If you have any health issues that played a role in your case, provide pertinent records to the prosecutor.  

Pictures: Pictures detailing your family life, community service, and your accomplishments can serve as great mitigation evidence.

Note that these lists are not exhaustive. If there is something you think would be beneficial for the prosecutor to know, include that in your mitigation.

When is Mitigation Used?

Mitigation can be used at all stages of your case. Many defense attorneys will utilize this information in the early stages of negotiation in an effort to secure the best plea agreement. However, mitigation may also be reserved for a punishment hearing before the judge or jury. Your attorney will provide the judge/jury with mitigating evidence and they will determine how that should play a role in sentencing.

What if I Don’t Have Mitigation?

Mitigation is not only about your past. It can also come from the steps you have taken since your arrest. For example, say you are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). You may not have a lot of information to provide about your past, but you decide to complete alcohol awareness classes, seek counseling, and maintain sobriety. This can be very effective, as it demonstrates to both the prosecutor and the judge that you are taking your case seriously.

Always ask your lawyer about what to provide in terms of mitigation. He or she will be able to suggest the evidence that will make the largest impact in your case.

If you have questions about mitigation contact me today.

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