CHAPPELL, LANEHART & STANGL

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How To Help Your Lawyer

The Role of Mitigation in Your Case

by Chuck Lanehart and Fred Stangl

Mitigation evidence is an effective tool used by good criminal defense lawyers to increase the odds of a satisfactory result in their clients’ cases. “Mitigation” means to “make less severe, serious or painful.” In criminal cases, mitigating circumstances may lessen the gravity of an accusation or reduce a client’s culpability in a crime.

Positive information such as close family ties, involvement in kid’s activities, taking care of aging parents, military service, church attendance and volunteer activities, doing anything that helps someone or has a positive impact on the community: all such information can make a big difference in the outcome of a criminal case. Even information that may reflect negative evidence, such as rehabilitation from anger issues or recovery from substance abuse, can be important.

  1. Character references. People who know you well can illustrate your good character to a judge, jury or prosecutor. Early on in your case, you should make a list of possible character references and provide their names and contact information to your lawyer.
    • The best character references are non-family individuals who are by experience or profession in a position to judge your character. Ministers, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, neighbors, employers and former employers are good examples.
    • Your lawyer may need you to ask six or eight of your best character references to submit letters on your behalf. Examples of proper form for a character reference letter can be provided by your lawyer’s legal assistant upon request.
  2. Résumés. An updated business/job resume, including relevant work-related accomplishments and commendations, should be submitted to your lawyer as soon as possible.

  3. Education Transcripts. If you are currently a student, or a recent graduate, your college and/or high school transcript may be very useful. Provide a non-official transcript to your lawyer at your earliest convenience.

  4. Other documents. Written commendations, military discharge documents, academic honors, certificates and notes of appreciation, Eagle Scout certificates, etc. are helpful.

  5. Photographs. If you are a parent, family portraits that include you and your kids are very valuable as mitigation.

  6. Medical/psychological/substance abuse treatment records. Certain of these types of records may be helpful to your case. Your lawyer will advise you whether this evidence should be disclosed. All of these records should be provided to your lawyer early in your case.

  7. Dysfunctional families, childhood trauma. Any history of this sort of evidence may help explain why a person may have been involved in a crime. Be sure to discuss these issues with your lawyer.