Factors in deciding a voluntary manslaughter sentence
Voluntary manslaughter is a conviction that may occur in Alabama, as well as other parts of the country. The laws governing the sentence that is handed down by the judge following a conviction vary from state to state. Some states have one sentence for all circumstances of voluntary manslaughter whereas others give the judge a range of sentences from which to choose. When there are different severities of punishments that are possible under the law, the judge is allowed to take factors that were allowed into the trial into consideration.
Judges have two factors to consider when sentencing someone convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and these are aggravating and mitigating factors. A mitigating factor, such as taking responsibility for the crime or the defendant having no previous criminal record, tends to reduce sentences. Aggravating factors, such as a brutal assault or past criminal history, tend to increase the sentence that is handed down.
Judges are generally given some room to decide the punishment necessary for a particular defendant. When a jury convicts a defendant of voluntary manslaughter, there can be differing circumstances for each particular case. Another mitigating factor is if the defendant poses little, if any, threat to society. In that case, the judge may be lenient according to the laws governing his decision. An aggravating factor, such as a violent crime that targets a particularly vulnerable victim, could lead to a more severe punishment. The laws governing the jurisdiction of the trial location decide the procedure that will be used, but generally, a hearing is held that allows the defense and the prosecution to present the mitigating and aggravating factors. The judge then decides what the sentence will be and gives the court his decision.
In the event a person is charged with voluntary manslaughter, an experienced attorney may be able to help the defendant receive a lighter sentence. An attorney may be able to point out to the court the mitigating factors in the case. An attorney may also be able to convincingly argue that a defendant deserves a less severe penalty for their actions.