In criminal law, a mitigating factor serves to decrease the penalties associated with a criminal act. For example, if the defendant is very young or has a low mental capacity, then he or she may not have understood the nature of his or her criminal actions. By presenting age and mental capacity as mitigating factors to the crime, the penalties associated with the crime may decrease. Often, if a defendant is found mentally incompetent, he or she may be sent to a mental hospital instead of a jail or prison.
What can be considered a mitigating factor is determined by statue. Thus, what can be considered a mitigating factor varies widely by jurisdiction. Some examples of commonly accepted factors include:
- The defendant’s age
- The defendant’s mental capacity
- The crime was an accident
- Self defense
- Provocation or "heat of passion"
- The defendant repented from his actions
In order to establish a strong defense for you criminal case, your best interests will be served by speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction.