What are Mitigating and Aggravating Factors in Criminal Sentencing?

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Faced with criminal charges? Well, in that case, knowing about two terms—mitigating and aggravating factors—is a necessary for you. These two legal terms are directly involved in increasing or lowering your sentence.

While passing a verdict about a criminal sentence, a judge examines these factors. And depending on all these factors, they take their final call.

Mitigating factors are information that tends to lessen the sentence. While aggravating factors are the exact opposite, with intensifying the sentence into a more serious and harsher one.

In the following discussion, we will talk about what are mitigating and aggravating factors along with their difference and a bonus answer on how to lessen a sentence.

Without further ado, let’s begin:

What are the Mitigating Factors?

Any facts or proof that could lower the degree of the crimes and lead to a lesser punishment is known as a mitigating factor. For example, the absence of a previous criminal history can be a mitigating factor. Mitigating factors can lead to a lesser punishment.


A person who had a history of mental illness but had no prior convictions stole from a convenience store.

As a result, the absence of a previous criminal background along with having a history of mental illness can ideally indicate mitigating circumstances.

Judges take into account the following considerations as mitigating factors:

  • Doesn’t have any kind of criminal activity record. That is, a first-time lawbreaker typically receives a softer penalty.
  • A conviction could result in the following additional penalties. For instance:
  • Increased insurance costs or a loss of coverage
  • The loss of your driver’s license
  • Loss of employment
  • Travel restriction—the inability to travel or move around
  • Loss of any kind of contact with your child.
  • Have implications for immigration.

Learn: Manslaughter Criminal Code in Canada

What are Some Additional Mitigating Factors Taken by the Judge?

The judge can also take into some sympathetic consideration while mitigating the offence. This includes the following:

  • The criminal was struggling with addiction or mental illness at the time of the incident.
  • The criminal surrendered and helped the police when they caught them.
  • Your actions that show signs of regret following the crime, are often seen sympathetically. Such acts include:
  • Have recovered or restored any missing or destroyed items.
  • To make amends for the harm done, have made donations or worked actively as volunteers.
  • If a discharge order was passed on, have obeyed it properly, without any complaints or showing any sort of anger.
  • Through counselling services or support communities, have taken action to address concerns with alcoholism or psychological well-being.

What are Some Personal Mitigating Factors?

Next up, the judge can also consider the following personal mitigating factors:

  • Age—sentencing guidelines and choices are different for minor offenders under the age of 18 years old in comparison to the adult offenders.
  • Health: If you are not feeling well or have any kind of health issues, the judge can take that into account.
  • Cultural background, including whether you are of Indigenous ancestry or not
  • Educational background and various institutional qualifications
  • Work experience and varied other future job prospects
  • In case you have any dependents (like children, old parents, etc., to look after), consider the challenges your potential punishment would put them through.
  • If you are thought to be capable of addressing your problems with mental health treatment or addiction counselling, you might be less inclined to get indulged in another crime.
  • Background history of maltreatment in the past or a lacking of parental involvement.
  • If you entered into a plea of guilty, you would avoid having to pay for a trial.
  • Whether or not you were subjected to severe pre-trial bail conditions, including home confinement, and whether or not those restrictions required extra credit.

Learn More: Aggravated Assault in Canada : Charges, Cases, & Penalties

What are Aggravating Factors?

A previous convictions history or affiliation with a criminal gang are examples of aggravating factors, which are facts or information that make a crime seem more serious. To simply state, a punishment that is harsher is the ultimate result of aggravating factors.

Suppose, a person who was in a position of authority over the victim, with an age below 18 years, committed the offence. Such situations are regarded as aggravating factors.

Examples of Aggravating Factors:

The following are examples of aggravating factors the judge can take into account:

  • Had the accused ever been convicted of the same crime before?
  • Was there any kind of weapon used in the crime?
  • Was the crime driven by discrimination, racism, or hate based on a person’s ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, age, or sexual orientation?
  • Did the criminal assault the victim, a family member, or their intimate partner?
  • Was the victim a minor, under the age of 18?
  • Has the criminal abused their power or influence towards the victim?
  • Has the victim suffered significant monetary loss, bodily harm, or emotional trauma?
  • Is the culprit a member of a criminal or terrorist organization? Or was once part of it?

Is There Any Way to Reduce a Sentence? If So, How to Do It?

Yes, there is! The only solution to reducing a sentence is hiring an experienced lawyer. They are the only person on whom you can count on and put your faith to give a tight fight on the court for lowering the sentence.

A judge ensures that the punishment corresponds to the seriousness of the offence and notes whether there are any aggravating or mitigating factors related to the defendant.

For example, a criminal history might not be argued. But if one has a convincing case, then one can certainly demonstrate that the offender has sincere regret or that the crime was a one-time occurrence that won’t occur again.

Besides, if a normal person faces charges, it could be a lot for them to take as they have no idea about the criminal and sentencing procedures. Ultimately turning the entire situation into a pretty scary experience.

This is where the lawyer can play quite a big role in helping people to protect themselves from an unjust or excessively severe result.

They can bring all the factors in front of the court and explain them in criminal sentencing to you. And thus provide guidance on how to represent your case to the court effectively and what facts to highlight.

Therefore, you should be prepared beforehand to explain all your personal situations to the judge, and provide mitigating evidence that supports your case. Besides, you can outline your plans for therapy or rehabilitation to address any difficulties that might have contributed to your offence.

Learn More: Murder, Manslaughter and Criminal Negligence Causing Death Charges

What are the Main Differences Between Mitigating and Aggravating Factors?

In aggravating factors, the information or circumstances that persuade a judge that an act was more hurtful or a greater violation could be absent.

Most of the mitigating elements are matters of justice or judicial authority, while many of the aggravating circumstances are regulated by law in any country.

For example, you are attempting to rob someone. But, if you did the robbery without any target, it is considered a less severe act than using a pistol to commit the same act.

In the latter scenario, the situation is worse, and you risk committing a different yet serious kind of robbery that could ultimately land you stricter punishments.

The victim’s age, whether the offender was a police officer or a civil servant, the offender’s any prior criminal history, the degree of criminal intent and planning, or other factors could lead the court to impose a harsher sentence owing to the seriousness of the crime are all significant aggravating factors.

In contrast, mitigating factors, as defined by the law, are events or aspects that might persuade a jury or judge that the act was less hurtful or less of a violation and breach of the law than if those elements were present.

For instance, you rush to the hospital with any of your close friends as he is experiencing severe chest ache. Suddenly, while going, you are stopped by the policeman, who issues you a ticket and immediately sends you on your way.

Looking back, you and your friend didn’t realize or know anything beforehand that s/he had a bad case of dyspepsia at that time.

Therefore, you can claim in the court that even though you were speeding, the mitigating circumstances of worrying that your friend was suffering from a heart attack should excuse the behaviour or lessen the punishment.

Final Words

Hopefully, now you know everything about mitigating and aggravating factors. If you have any kind of inquiries about aggravating and mitigating factors in criminal sentencing or currently facing any criminal charges, then make sure to take legal support as soon as possible.

A lawyer can be a true saviour at this direst time and help you solve the issue by giving the right direction with their expertise. From doing all the paperwork to putting up a tough battle in the court, they will do everything right from the start to the end of the case.


Still, have confusion about the mitigating and aggravating factors? Have a look at the below most commonly asked questions and get is clarified right away:

What is an example of a mitigating factor?

Mitigating factors are something that lowers the gravity or responsibility of a criminal conduct. Some of the examples of mitigating factors include, the ability to change, mental disability, alcohol or drug addiction that leads to the criminal behaviour, previous good deeds, etc.

What are some examples of an aggravating factors?

Aggravated factors change depending on the jurisdiction. The absence of regret, repetition or the degree of violence done to the victim is a few examples of these criteria.

What are mitigating and aggravating factors?

Any kind of conditions or facts that cause a sentence to be longer than it should be are considered aggravating factors. On the other hand, the duration of the sentence that tends to get affected, and shortened is referred to as the mitigating circumstances.