This post will go through certain factors and the effect they have on reducing the sentence for a person.
Plea of guilt
If this is timeous, it is a mitigating factor because it saves the resources of the State, in terms of expenses saved by the police, prosecution and courts. It would not be timeous if it is only done when the accused realises that the prosecution will have no difficulty proving the offence. In sexual offences, a plea of guilt is also recognised to spare the victim the trauma of testifying in court.
This refers to the act of paying the victim some compensation for the crime, or returning the money stolen. If this is done voluntarily before criminal proceedings commenced, or in its earliest stages, it carries a higher mitigating value as it shows genuine remorse.
The existence of a mental condition that is causally related to the offence will reduce the need for a general deterrent value in the sentence. Kleptomania has been held to be causally related to theft. However, paedophilia or voyeurism has not been held to be causally related to the offences. This is because it was found that the offender would still be able to exercise self-control or restrain, in spite of these mental conditions.
Hardship to the offender and his family
This is generally of no mitigating value. However, there have been cases where the court takes this into consideration in sentencing. This is either done expressly, or impliedly. The latter is shown when the sentence is particularly low for an offence of that nature.
Co-operation with authorities
It is best to be as co-operative as possible with the authorities in any way possible. Eg. Identifying persons involved. Depending on the quality of assistance rendered, the weight of mitigation varies.
Ignorance of the law
This is generally not a mitigating factor. This is based on common sense as there would otherwise be an incentive for every person to know as little as possible about the law. However, if the offender commits an offence unwittingly, it is indicative of a reduced moral culpability. In any case, this is a good reason for every person to read law blogs like these and keep themselves informed of the law.
The court takes into consideration a wide spectrum of factors in determining sentence. It is best to find a criminal lawyer and discuss what factors may be available for your case.