What Are Extenuating Circumstances?

If you made mistakes as a teenager that could potentially hurt your career as an adult, learn from my family's experience on how to help with that situation.

What Are Extenuating Circumstances?

22 April 2019
 Categories: , Blog

In presenting a defense regarding a criminal complaint, the simplest approach is usually to prove that the alleged offenses didn't happen or that the defendant isn't the person who did them. Some cases, however, call for a different tack because there's no basis for the defendant to claim complete innocence. Even in situations where you might have done something bad, there's usually more to the story than that. In the parlance of a criminal law attorney, these other factors that explain what happened are called extenuating circumstances.

Notably, this approach is less about getting a defendant off the hook than it is about trying to have charges reduced. There is a degree of admission of guilt in most of these cases, or there's at least an admission that the defendant didn't fully understand what the law actually was at the time they committed the alleged offense.

Outside Influences

One of the more commonly cited forms of extenuating circumstances is when there's a specific outside influence on the defendant. A significantly younger minor in a relationship with an adult may not be seen as having the same level of culpability for crimes committed as a consequence of that relationship. If the minor were acting as a drug courier on behalf of the adult, for example, there's an argument for leniency because of that set of extenuating circumstances. A similar argument could be made if a younger sibling were pressured into participating in gang activity by a sibling or a close relative.

State of Mind

The mental condition of a defendant at the time of an offense also is sometimes factored into how a prosecutor brings charges or a judge handles sentencing. At a societal level, it would feel wrong to aggressively sentence a former soldier with PTSD for their involvement in a fight, for example, as long as they had no history of criminal conduct. There's a strong possibility that the court may offer leniency with some contingencies attaches. Someone who cited mental duress may be asked to complete some form of counseling with a suspended sentence awaiting them if they prove uncooperative.

Expected Time in Jail

If an 85-year-old was facing 10 years in jail and showed signs of ill health, there's a real possibility the sentence would effectively be a life sentence. That fact can be seen as an extenuating circumstance, especially in dealing with non-violent offenses.

About Me
teenage mistakes that could ruin adult careers

My son has had the goal of becoming an attorney since he was about 14 years old. Unfortunately, he made a very poor decision with a group of friends when he was 16 that put his future plans in jeopardy. When my son told me what had happened and we received the citation, I knew that we had to hire an attorney to help him through this. I could not see how a small incident such as this should hurt his chances for success when he is an adult. Thankfully, things worked out for us, but it was a long journey which you can follow on our blog.