What is a Mitigation Package in a Criminal Case
As former prosecutors, we know well the ways prosecutors approach their investigations and prosecutions, as well as, how to leverage our criminal defense attorney clients for optimal results in addressing the charges filed against them. It is important to have the most seasoned, tested, and aggressive defense lawyers handling a criminal charge, as there are many ways to achieve excellent results for a charged client.
One of the unique ways we address that at The Bianchi Law Group, LLC is through the use of a Mitigation Package.
One has to understand that prosecutors are over-burdened with heavy caseloads, as we were when we were prosecutors. It is also important to know that the prosecutor does not know the client, typically beyond what is in the file (that by design makes the client “look bad”), and from other public records.
As for us that have practiced on both sides of the aisle, however, we know that many clients have otherwise lived law-abiding and productive lives. The Mitigation Package is meant to present this data to prosecutors, so that they have a fuller understanding of the client, in the hopes that any sentencing recommendation that they make will be balanced and more favorable to the client.
A Mitigation Package is unique to each client and takes time to prepare if done correctly. At The Bianchi Law Group, LLC, this is one of the first things we start working on while we are also accessing the legal aspects and defenses a client may also have in their favor. From our experience as prosecutors, however, most defense lawyers do not prepare mitigation packages, or they do it partially when it is too late to have a robust impact in favor of the client.
Information in a well-done Mitigation Package may include (but are not limited to):
- Schooling and level of education;
- Lack of, or minimal, criminal record and an otherwise law abiding life;
- Work history and any awards and commendations received;
- Family history and letters from family, friends, community leaders, etc…
- Military record, or other governmental service;
- Charitable work;
- Any pervious or current attempts to avail themselves to addiction or mental health counseling;
- Any other information that puts the client in a positive light.
The importance of providing this information to prosecutors is critical to the disposition of a client’s case. As prosecutors, we appreciated when this was given to us, when we were making decisions on an appropriate and more balanced plea offer.
What is Sentencing Mitigation?
Sentencing mitigation is different from a Mitigation Package, but the two do intersect if done correctly.
Sentencing mitigation is a framework in our laws dealing with a judge’s sentence. In New Jersey, the judge will receive a sentencing report either after a guilty verdict at trial, or after a plea. The court will look to the law N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1 and determine what aggravating and/or mitigating factors are present with respect to the defendant and the conduct they have been convicted of.
It is based upon these findings that the court will determine what the sentence will be. For example, in most cases a conviction for a 2nd degree offense carries a 5-10 year state prison sentence. To assist the judge, the aggravating and mitigating factors are determined so that the judge can determine where within that range to sentence the defendant.
As stated above, sentencing mitigation is therefore different from a mitigation package. But, a capable defense attorney will use the information from a well-done mitigation package and submit those materials to the judge to help lower the sentencing range. This is why doing a mitigation package as a very first step in handling a criminal case is so important. It helps in the beginning and end of a case.
It helps the prosecutor see positive information in an attempt to lower plea offers. Next, it is used by the court after conviction to help lower the sentence the judge will impose.
What Are Some Examples of Mitigating Circumstances?
Mitigating factors are found N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)
Here is the list of mitigating factors under NJ Law:
- The defendant’s conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm;
- The defendant did not contemplate that his conduct would cause or threaten serious harm;
- The defendant acted under a strong provocation;
- There were substantial grounds tending to excuse or justify the defendant’s conduct, though failing to establish a defense;
- The victim of the defendant’s conduct induced or facilitated its commission;
- The defendant has compensated or will compensate the victim of his conduct for the damage or injury that he sustained, or will participate in a program of community service;
- The defendant has no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of the present offense;
- The defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur;
- The character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he is unlikely to commit another offense;
- The defendant is particularly likely to respond affirmatively to probationary treatment;
- The imprisonment of the defendant would entail excessive hardship to himself or his dependents;
- The willingness of the defendant to cooperate with law enforcement authorities;
- The conduct of a youthful defendant was substantially influenced by another person more mature than the defendant.
Bianchi Law Group Representation
Being charged with a crime is a daunting and life-altering experience. One needs a seasoned, tested, aggressive, and skilled lawyer in New Jersey to help navigate a client through the process. The Bianchi Law Group’s former prosecutors and NJ Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Attorneys are ready and prepared to fight the government’s case!