One key part of every defense is finding and documenting mitigating facts that can help our clients to avoid being charged, avoid conviction, or minimize the punishment following a conviction. Even for attorneys who conduct an independent investigation of the facts, compiling mitigation material is an often overlooked and underutilized tool in the criminal defense toolbox.
Whether your case is headed to trial or you believe you will enter a guilty plea, your attorney needs to have the means to demonstrate to a prosecutor, judge, or jury that you are a person of good character who does not deserve severe punishment.
What is Mitigation in a Criminal Case?
Mitigation consists of those facts that would tend to lessen the degree or severity of a person’s punishment. Although some mitigation materials may be collected by your attorney or private investigator, your attorney will rely on you to provide him or her with most of your mitigation materials such as:
- Character reference letters from your employer, spouse, parents or other relatives, neighbors, church members, or anyone else who knows you well and is familiar with your character. These should be detailed and state how the person knows you, how long they have known you, and their opinion of your character based on their personal experiences with you. They should include contact information in case the prosecutor or court wants to confirm the information.
- Diplomas, degrees, certificates, and documentation of your education.
- Documentation of any volunteer work or charitable contributions that you have made.
- Photographs of yourself and your family.
- Documentation of employment or enrollment in school.
- Copies or photos of all awards that you have received.
- Names and contact information for any person who is willing to speak on your behalf in court.
- Any other information, documents, or photos that tend to show good character.
More is better. There are some cases where the prosecutor or the court is overwhelmed with the evidence of a defendant’s good character. There are other cases where the prosecutor or court are presented with no mitigation whatsoever. Which defendant would you rather be?
When Should You Use Mitigation Materials?
It depends on the facts of the case, what we are trying to achieve, and the strength of the mitigation materials.
Every criminal case should be simultaneously prepared for trial and for sentencing. Even in a case that we know is headed for trial where our client is not going to plead guilty, we must prepare mitigation materials to be prepared for every possible outcome. At trial, mitigation materials can sometimes be worked into our presentation to the jurors and can contribute to your not guilty verdict.
In the right case, mitigation materials can result in charges not being filed or less serious charges being filed. In some cases, your prosecutor may use your mitigation materials to justify a dismissal or lesser sentence to an alleged victim. In cases that result in a guilty plea or conviction following trial, your mitigation materials can result in significantly reduced prison time or it can make the difference between probation or prison.
I’m Not the Horrible Person They are Making Me Out to Be…
Your criminal defense lawyer at Coastal Law, LLC, will gather your mitigation materials and use them at the appropriate times to show the police, prosecutor, alleged victim, or judge that you are not the horrible person that is described in your arrest warrant.
You can schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling our Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyers at (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.