What are Mitigating Factors?

What are Mitigating Factors

The Canadian justice system always delivers fair and balanced sentences. The crown does not only consider the severity of the crime but also the circumstances surrounding it. They can lessen the charge for “mitigating factors.” But do you know what is mitigating factors are? Let’s examine what it is, how to understand it, the difference between aggravating factors, and whether the crown can overrule it.

What is a Mitigating Factor?

A mitigating factor is any circumstance that reduces the offender’s severity for the crime. In simpler terms, it makes the offence seem less blameworthy on the offender’s part. 

With mitigating factors present, the judge can consider a lighter sentence, such as probation or community service, instead of jail time. It is helpful to people who are convicted of unintentional crimes.

What are Some Additional Mitigating Factors Taken by the Judge?

In addition to the factors mentioned previously, judges may consider these mitigating circumstances:

  • Minimal harm caused by the offence
  • Taking responsibility by pleading guilty
  • Cooperation with law enforcement
  • Returning stolen property
  • Demonstration of remorse and empathy
  • Age of the offender (especially young offenders)
  • Mental health issues that contributed to the crime
  • Provocation by the victim (in rare cases)
  • Exceptional service to the community
  • Letters of support from friends and family

Are Mitigating Factors the Same for Every Case?

No, mitigating factors are not a one-size-fits-all situation.  What might be considered mitigating in one case (e.g., acting under duress) might not be in another. A strong defence lawyer will carefully analyze the case to identify and present all relevant mitigating factors to the court.

Can Jury Overrule Mitigating Factors?

In Canada, judges decide sentences.  Before determining the appropriate sentence, the judge will consider the jury’s verdict (guilty or not guilty) and all the evidence presented, including mitigating factors.

How to Understand Mitigating Factors in Any Case?

Mitigating factors are assessed on a case-by-case basis.  We have listed some common examples considered by the crown:

  • Lack of Prior Criminal Record: A first-time offender is generally less likely to re-offend than someone with a crime history.
  • Genuine Remorse: Taking responsibility and showing sincere regret for the actions can demonstrate a lower likelihood of repeating the offence.
  • Mental Health Issues: If the offender’s mental state significantly contributed to the crime, it can be considered a mitigating factor.
  • Age: Young offenders and minors may receive lighter sentences due to their age and potential for rehabilitation.
  • Cooperation With Authorities: Providing truthful information or assisting in the investigation can show remorse and a willingness to take responsibility.
  • Provocation: In rare circumstances, if the victim significantly provoked the offender, it might be considered a mitigating factor.

It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and the weight given to each factor depends on the case’s specific circumstances.

What are Aggravating Factors?

Aggravating factors are the opposite of mitigating factors. They make your crime seem worse by potentially leading to a harsher sentence. Some examples of aggravating factors include prior convictions, violence, or causing serious harm.

Examples of Aggravating Factors 

Aggravating factors worsen your crime’s severity, increasing your sentence. Examples include violence, using a weapon, prior convictions, causing serious harm, or targeting a vulnerable victim.

What is the Main Difference Between Aggravating Factors and Mitigating Factors?

FactorDescriptionImpact on SentenceExample
Aggravating FactorIncreases the severity of the offence and culpability of the offender.The harsher sentence is potentially closer to the maximum allowed.
  • Prior criminal record of violence 
  • Planned and deliberate crime 
  • Caused dangerous injury or death to the victim
Mitigating FactorReduces the severity of the offence and culpability of the offender.Lighter sentence, potentially probation or community service.
  • First-time offence
  • Genuine remorse and taking responsibility
  • Mental imbalance played a role in the crime
  • The young age of the offender 
  • Cooperation with authorities 
  • Provocation by the victim (rare cases)

What Can be Mitigating Factors in Your Sentencing Hearing?

Your sentencing hearing is an opportunity to present a positive picture to the judge. You can influence the judge towards a more lenient sentence by focusing on mitigating factors.

What Mitigating Factors Can Help You?

  • Clean Criminal Record: No prior convictions demonstrate a lower risk of re-offending.
  • Responsibility and Reform: Expressing sincere remorse and outlining steps to address the root causes of your actions can show positive progress.
  • Positive Actions Since the Offense: Highlight any positive behaviours you have demonstrated, such as community service or addressing personal challenges.
  • Unique Circumstances: Explain any personal circumstances contributing to the crime, but avoid making excuses.

What to Preparing for Your Hearing?

To make the most of your sentencing hearing, be prepared to:

  • Share Your Story: Explain who you are and the positive aspects of your life.
  • Highlight Mitigating Factors: Present the factors that lessen the severity of the offence for your case.
  • Demonstrate Change: Outline concrete plans for addressing personal issues that led to your behaviour.

Is There Any Way to Reduce a Sentence? If So, How to Do It?

Absolutely! Mitigating factors can help reduce your sentence. Work with a lawyer to identify these factors, such as remorse, clean record, or cooperation with authorities. They can then present these to the judge during sentencing. And after that, they potentially lead to a lighter sentence like probation or community service.

Final Sentence

Mitigating factors are an essential part of ensuring fair sentencing in Canada. By considering these factors, the justice system can change sentences to the specific circumstances of the crime. Also, the offender can promote rehabilitation and public safety.


What are some examples of mitigating factors?

Some examples of mitigating factors include mental health struggles, young age impacting responsibility, or playing a minor role in the offence. These examples show the judge that you were less culpable. 

What is a mitigating issue?

A mitigating issue isn’t common but can be rephrased as a “mitigating factor.” For example, “Risk mitigation” focuses on business or project risks, aiming to reduce potential negative impacts before they happen.

What are the types of mitigation?

There are three main mitigation approaches: avoidance (preventing the issue entirely), minimization (reducing the impact), and compensatory mitigation (fixing the harm caused).