If the judge finds that the defendant is guilty at the end of a Maryland trial, it is the court’s responsibility to determine the punishment for the defendant. Criminal statutes set maximum penalties for both state and federal crimes. Judges have some leeway when it comes to sentencing. Prosecutors and defendants present evidence for the court to consider when deciding the defendant’s sentence.
In a criminal defense case, a prosecutor will put forth evidence of aggregating factors that will mean that the defendant merits harsher sentencing. Most criminal statutes outline factors that can lead to harsher punishment. For example, if the defendant has a history of similar convictions, the court may decide that the punishment should be harsher this time.
Other aggravating factors include things, such as the vulnerability of the victim, whether it was a hate crime and whether the defendant played a prominent role in carrying out the crime. Mandatory minimum sentencing for some criminal offenses may remove the court’s discretion when it comes to sentencing, making it impossible for the judge to adjust the sentence.
The defense may consider mitigating factors with the gold of supporting leniency in sentencing. There is not as much attention given to mitigating factors in criminal statutes. However, courts have shown that evidence about the defendant’s character can be introduced to prove that the defendant may not need such harsh sentencing.
Examples of mitigating factors include the defendant only playing a minor role in the offense or not having a previous criminal record. Past and other circumstances, including abuse, stress or emotional problems, can be mitigating factors. It’s important to point out that mitigating factors do not excuse the accused but may explain the crime.
People dealing with the criminal justice system hope for fair treatment. Mitigating and aggravating factors are tools the courts can use to improve the chances of a person getting a just sentence.