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Indianapolis Criminal & OWI Lawyers > Blog > Criminal Defense > Mitigating vs. Aggravating Factors in Indiana Criminal Sentencing

Mitigating vs. Aggravating Factors in Indiana Criminal Sentencing


Judges in Indiana have discretion when it comes to sentencing criminal defendants. While Indiana sentencing guidelines provide judges with recommended sentencing ranges, they also allow judges some level of discretion. Judges can consider individual circumstances that may warrant departing from the recommended sentencing range. Mitigating and aggravating factors are two types of factors that may warrant departing from the recommended sentencing range. If you are facing criminal sentencing, it is crucial that you understand what this means for your case. Mitigating factors may result in a more lenient sentence. On the other hand, aggravating factors may justify a harsher sentence. Below, we discuss the difference between mitigating and aggravating factors.

Mitigating Factors

Mitigating factors, which are also referred to as extenuating circumstances, are any facts or circumstances that reduce the offense’s severity or the offender’s culpability of the crime. However, mitigating factors do not exempt a defendant from liability.

In a criminal case, the defense attorney can present evidence of mitigating factors that would warrant a more lenient sentence. This occurs during the sentencing phase of the case. Evidence of mitigating factors can be presented in almost all criminal cases. When a defense attorney presents evidence of mitigating factors, they do so with the aim of convincing the judge to impose a lighter sentence on their client.

In Indiana, there are several mitigating circumstances. They include the following;

  • The offender has no prior criminal record
  • No bodily harm nor threat of harm resulted
  • Offender has mental health issues
  • The victim of the crime aided or encouraged the crime
  • Offender cooperated with law enforcement during the investigation
  • The offender’s character demonstrates that they are unlikely to commit the offense again
  • The offender is willing and able to make restitution to the victim(s)
  • The offender was strongly provoked
  • The offense happened due to conditions that are unlikely to happen again

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors are the complete opposite of mitigating factors. Aggravating factors can elevate the severity of punishment for an offense. You don’t want aggravating factors in your criminal case.

Usually, evidence of aggravating factors is offered by prosecutors. There are many types of aggravating factors, and you can face multiple factors in one criminal case. Prosecutors use aggravating factors to argue for a more severe sentence.

The following are some examples of aggravating factors in Indiana;

  • The offender used a deadly weapon
  • The victim suffered bodily harm
  • The victim of the crime is 65 years or older
  • The offender has a prior criminal history
  • The victim of the crime is below 12 years
  • The defendant violated a protective order
  • The victim was disabled, and the defendant knew this

It is possible for a case to involve both mitigating and aggravating factors. In such a case, the resolution of the case would involve careful consideration of both aggravating and mitigating factors.

Finally, it is vital to note that courts are only allowed to order a legally authorized sentence, regardless of any of the factors mentioned above.

Contact an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing mitigating or aggravating factors in your criminal case, contact our qualified Indianapolis criminal defense lawyers at Rigney Law LLC to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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