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Domestic violence cases and mitigating factors

Does a domestic batterer ever deserve sympathy?

That's a hard question to ask and a harder one to answer -- but attorneys who advocate for the rights of those charged with domestic violence often ask the court to look on a batterer with both sympathy and compassion -- and to translate those feelings into a reduced charge or lighter sentence.

Mitigating factors are facts and circumstances that can allow the judge or jury to view a batterer with some compassion. They don't excuse the violence, but they do help people see a batterer as a deeply flawed human being -- rather than simply a monster who deserves neither compassion nor leniency.

What mitigating factors can possibly be presented in a domestic violence case?

-- The batterer walked in on a situation that was both unexpected and gut-wrenching. For example, walking in on a spouse in the middle of a tryst with a lover would understandably upset or enrage most people. While some people have the emotional fortitude to simply walk away, others don't. Those that respond with violence aren't justified, but their reactions can be understood.

-- The batterer was a victim of child abuse. Child abuse can not only leave psychological scars that last well into adulthood, it can also stunt someone's emotional growth. The victim of abuse may lack any role model that could help him or her learn to respond to frustration without violence.

-- The batterer is a victim of mental illness. Soldiers, for example, who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after being on the battlefield may have a hard time controlling their "flight or fight" response. In a stressful situation, adrenaline may cause them to lash out before they can get their reactions under control.

-- The batterer was defending himself or herself against another batterer. Sometimes victims of long-term domestic violence will suddenly "snap" and turn on their abuser. They often then find themselves in handcuffs as a result. Understanding the stress of the long-term abuse that person has suffered and how that abuse may have affected that person's mental state may help the judge or jury feel some compassion for the batterer.

These are only some of the potential mitigating factors that an attorney can present to a judge or jury on the behalf of someone charged with domestic violence. For more information, talk to an attorney today.

Source:, "Neuorscience, PTSD, and Sentencing Mitigation," Betsy J. Grey, accessed June 21, 2017

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