D.C. DUIs: Playing Up Mitigating Factors

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D.C. DUIs: Playing Up Mitigating Factors

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A former television actress was recently sentenced to three years in prison following a fatal crash in 2010 that claimed the life of another woman and critically injured that woman’s husband.

Our D.C. DUI lawyers understand that this sentenced has raised the ire of both the decedent’s family, as well as numerous victims’ advocacy groups who say the sentence was far too lenient and that the judge gave greater weight to mitigating circumstances involving the defendant.

The onetime “Melrose Place” actress was facing up to 15 years in prison – five to 10 years on a charge of vehicular homicide and three to five years for assault by auto.

Yet the judge gave her three years. Prosecutors are arguing that to do so was to mistakenly apply the law, and that she should have received a minimum of eight years. They have announced both their disappointment as well as their intention to appeal.

While we await the outcome of that appeal, the case highlights how powerful mitigating circumstances can be in case.

Mitigating circumstances, if you aren’t familiar, are those that serve to bolster your claim that you are a good person who made a bad choice. Mitigating circumstances usually come into play following a conviction, during the sentencing phase.

In this situation, in handing down the sentence, the judge took note of the hardship the defendant’s incarceration was going to have on her two young daughters. Specifically, she has a 4-year-old with Crohn’s disease, an untreatable inflammatory bowel condition. The judge also pointed out the fact that the defendant was regularly attending meetings with Alcoholics Anonymous and believed her unlikely to commit the same offense.

Other kinds of mitigating circumstances might be:

  • Your job history;
  • Your military service;
  • Any family or medical hardships;
  • Character references;
  • Enrollment in drug and alcohol education treatment.

Whether one or any of these will be applicable will depend on the exact details of your case, the severity of the charges against you and your unique circumstances.

Having a sick child who is dependent on you may not be enough to sway a jury or judge of your guilt, but it could be enough to prompt a judge to limit your time behind bars or possibly even to give you alternatives to jail time, particularly if you are charged with a misdemeanor.

Some sentencing alternatives might include probation, community service, electric monitoring, work furloughs, drug and alcohol counseling or house arrest. None of these is desirable, of course, but they are better than jail.

Other elements that might work in your favor would be if you have no prior criminal history, if you served in and were honorably discharged from the U.S. military. You might also find the judge more apt to give you leniency if you had a clean driving record for the last several years, you had a low BAC at the time of your arrest and/or you have people who are willing to testify on your behalf regarding your character, contributions to society and remorse.

Of course, our first goal as D.C. DUI lawyers is to prevent you from getting a conviction in the first place. But if a case does make it to the sentencing phase, you need an attorney on your side who is prepared to present every relevant bit of information to encourage the judge to give you a lighter sentence.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.