Mitigating Circumstances for North Carolina Criminal Charges

Have you been charged with a felony in North Carolina and need more information on what the potential sentence for the offense might be? Felony sentences in North Carolina have a broad range and depend on whether aggravating or mitigating circumstances present. 

While both aggravating and mitigating circumstances must be taken into account to get the whole picture of a felony sentence, here we highlight what you need to know about mitigating circumstances for North Carolina criminal charges. 

What Are Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances? 

The presumptive, or standard, sentence imposed on a defendant can either be enhanced by aggravating circumstances or reduced by mitigating ones. The court must analyze both sets of factors (if present). In general, the presence of aggravating circumstances or factors will make a sentence worse for a defendant and the presence of mitigating circumstances or factors will make a sentence better for a defendant.

A key difference is that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating ones. In contrast, the defendant must show that the mitigating factors more likely than not outweigh the aggravating ones. Ultimately, it is up to the judge or jury to determine whether the State has met its burden or the defendant has met his. 

Mitigating Circumstances: What You Need to Know

There are nineteen specific factors in North Carolina that can mitigate a person’s sentence. One of these factors is a catch-all, which allows judges and juries to consider any other reasonably related mitigating factor. For this reason, especially, mitigating factors are very subjective and case-by-case specific.

A few of the more common mitigating factors include if the person: 

  • Was a minor participant in the commission of the offense; 
  • Made restitution (monetary pay-back) to the victim;
  • Had a reasonable belief that his act was legal; 
  • Has testified for the prosecution in the prosecution of another person’s crime;
  • Has a strong family support system or supportive community; 
  • Is employed; and 
  • Has accepted full responsibility for the offense. 

As this list is by no means exhaustive, it is recommended that you reach out to an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney to analyze your specific case and potential mitigating circumstances. 

Curious About How Mitigating Circumstances Might Impact Your Case? Contact a North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney Today for a Consultation 

Aggravating and mitigating circumstances lend complexity to felony sentencing in North Carolina. If you have been charged with a crime, contact Attorney Cotten. He is a passionate criminal defense attorney who has served hundreds of clients in Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Call him today for a consultation or click over to the main page to chat with a legal assistant.