Factors Affecting a Defendant’s Punishment in Irvine, CA

If a judge or jurors find an offender guilty at the end of a criminal trial, the court must determine the offender’s punishment. State and federal criminal ordinances often set maximum penalties based on the offense classification, with felonies having the most severe possible punishments. Judges have some discretion in regards to giving sentence, and a sentencing trial allows both prosecutors and defendants the chance to show evidence to be considered by the court.

Aggravating Factors

Prosecutors can offer evidence of aggravating factors that would merit a harsh sentence during the trial. Criminal laws often recognize specific factors that should result in harsher punishments. A common aggravating factor is a prior record of similar convictions. Other aggravating factors typically relate to the events of the crime itself, such as the use of armament or the severity of the injuries that the victim sustained. Except for prior convictions, a tribunal may not use aggravating factors to set a harsher punishment than usual unless the tribunal found those factors to be true beyond any rational doubt.

For example, a jury might consider the particular circumstances of an offender who was charged with driving while intoxicated on the same day that he received divorce papers and was dismissed from a company where he had been an employee for 30 years, and he had no previous criminal record.

A court may impose a firmer punishment on a defendant with multiple prior convictions. In states and cities that have a “three strikes” law, such as Irvine, California, a relatively minor offense may result in a long time at jail term if the defendant has two or more prior convictions.

In some jurisdictions, the court may force a harsher sentence if the victim is found to be weak, either according to an objective criterion or concerning the defendant. Vulnerability-based on age, such as a crime of violence against a minor or a fraudulent scheme targeting the elderly or people with disabilities may be an aggravating factor. Other factors may include physical or mental disability, illness or distress, and impairment.

If the offender played a prominent role in a criminal scheme, such as leadership or managing role, some states allow courts to consider that as an aggravating factor. This is especially true if the defendant manipulated or dominated others involved in the offense.

Some states like California, specifically Irvine, have set laws that allow sentencing intensifications if the state proves that the defendant was driven by bias or animus based on a group characteristic. Most hate crime statutes include discrimination categories like race, religion, and national origin. Some states incorporate categories like sexual orientation and gender identity as well.

For certain offenses, the circumstances of the case may lead to laws that eliminate a court’s discretion to adjust a sentence downward. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are still common for many drug-related offenses. The penalties for an offense involving crack cocaine, for example, used to vary extensively from the punishments for offenses involving cocaine in powder form, due to mandatory minimum laws targeting crack. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 attempted to eliminate the inequality, but other laws still have a similar effect.

Here´s a video about the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

Mitigating Factors

The defense may show evidence of mitigating factors that would maintain mercy in the sentence. Criminal statutes give far less consideration to factors that might mitigate a defendant’s sentence, but courts have held that evidence relating to an offender’s character may be introduced provided that it is relevant to the sentencing process.

Common mitigating factors include:

  • Lack of a prior criminal record
  • Minor role in the offense;
  • Liability and accountability of the victim;
  • Past incidents, such as abuse that resulted in criminal activity;

Circumstances at the time of the transgression, such as incitement, stress, or emotional issues that might not forgive the crime but might offer an explanation for it. For example if the offender broke into a house, and the family inside woke up. The teenager in the family attacked the offender in self-defense, and instead of hitting back the offender calmed the teen down and let him go to his parents for reassurance, and then he left their home.

Mental or physical illness; and

Genuine regret.

For instance: A lady was found guilty of assault after attacking her own neighbor. However, it was found that she was on a new medication for depression and anxiety which had a possible side effect of patients displaying unexplained and unprovoked violent behavior.

An Irvine Bail Bondsman can assist you with any questions you may have.

Read about Irvine, CA Police Department Information

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