What is Mitigation?

Jul 03, 2023

Mitigation aims to minimize the punishment or consequences faced criminal defendants who have been accused or convicted of a crime. The goal of mitigation is to present evidence and arguments that humanize the defendant, provide context for their actions, and highlight factors that mitigate their behavior thereby mitigating their sentence.

Mitigation is typically used during the sentencing phase of a criminal case, after a defendant has been found guilty or has entered a plea agreement. The defense team gathers information about the defendant's background, personal history, mental health, and any other relevant factors that may help explain their actions. This information is presented to the judge or jury to convince them to impose a less severe sentence. Mitigation can also be used throughout the plea negotiation process to present to the prosecutors on the case in hopes of reaching a more favorable disposition. 

Mitigation can involve various strategies, including presenting evidence of the defendant's positive character traits, upbringing, employment history, educational achievements, community involvement, or prior good conduct. We will also often present mental health issues, traumatic experiences, or other circumstances that may have influenced the individual's behavior. Additionally, we may call upon expert witnesses, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, to provide professional evaluations or opinions regarding the defendant's mental state or capacity for rehabilitation.

The purpose of criminal defense mitigation is not to deny or excuse the defendant's actions, but rather to present a more complete picture of the individual in order to argue for a fair and proportionate punishment. The success of a mitigation strategy depends on the strength of the evidence presented, the persuasiveness of the defense's arguments, and the discretion of the judge or jury in considering these mitigating factors when determining an appropriate sentence.


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My name is Lindsay

And I am a social worker who is passionate about making changes in the criminal justice system. Through my online course, I teach other clinicians how to use their skills to advocate for change while diversifying their practice.