What Are Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in a Texas Criminal Case?

30 Sep 2023
Greco Neyland, PC

Sometimes, the circumstances of a case are unusual. The law makes allowances for those extraordinary circumstances by using “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors.

While an aggravating or mitigating factor won’t have much bearing on whether you are convicted of a crime, it can have a massive impact on sentencing. That is the point where courts begin taking those factors into account.

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors warrant harsher sentences. In Texas, common aggravating factors include:

  • Repeat offenses
  • The vulnerability of the victim
  • Whether the defendant was the leader of a criminal scheme
  • Whether the crime was a hate crime
  • Committing the crime with a deadly weapon

Aggravating factors are so common in assault cases that “aggravated assault” is its own distinct crime. In the case of assault, you’d be charged with aggravated assault, which has already set the sentencing for the most usual aggravating factors. The judge would be unlikely to go over them again unless you are a repeat offender.

Mitigating Factors

Some factors warrant a lighter sentence. The judge may take any of the following factors into account.

  • Whether you played a very minor role in the crime
  • Whether the victim initiated the events or willingly participated in them
  • Lack of a criminal record
  • Lack of harm
  • Genuine remorse
  • The relative necessity of the crime (i.e., you committed the crime to save a life)
  • Difficult personal histories

The judge may also consider any other unusual circumstance they feel to be relevant.

The Lawyer’s Role

At the sentencing phase, your lawyer will be working either to downplay aggravating factors or to play up mitigating factors to make your sentence as light and bearable as possible.

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Ideally, your case wouldn’t reach the sentencing stage at all. It’s often better to try to resolve the case prior to trial.

If your charges are dropped or dismissed, aggravating or mitigating factors won’t come into play. In addition, if the case against you is strong, a solid plea bargain can often help you get a lighter sentence than even a mitigated sentence for a more serious crime.

In this case, we’d be presenting the mitigating factors to the District Attorney to get you the best deal possible.

Either way, you should never face a criminal case alone, and the best results come from private criminal lawyers like us. If you or a loved one are in trouble with the law, contact our office to schedule a consultation today.

See also:

How to Work With a Criminal Lawyer in Houston, TX

Understanding the Duress Defense in Houston, TX

Understanding the Texas Three Strikes Law

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