Tuesday, November 08, 2016

EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE AS A CHILD FOR MITIGATION IN SENTENCING IN FLORIDA FEDERAL & STATE COURTS

It's believed that children exposed to high levels of violence are much more likely later in life to commit crime. Therefore it stands to reason that proof of exposure to violence as a child should be grounds for mitigation of criminal sentences. This is clearly true for a proper defense for any juvenile defendants who have been subjected to violence, sexual battery, sexual harassment, electronic harassment, bullying or any other act of inappropriate violence. But Defense lawyers should also use this information to the advantage of their adult clients to secure the best possible outcome in all Florida criminal courts (federal and state). So in evaluating your case it's important for your criminal defense lawyer to not only gather information on the charges you may be facing, but to have a clear understanding of every facet of your life and upbringing.

In Florida criminal courts and in the federal court in the Middle District of Florida reference can be made to the National Institute of Justice compendium of research on children exposed to violence, which as its name implies is a study of the most reliable recent research on effects and attributes of childhood violence. Not only does this study define in a broad way what may constitute violence in many situations, but it also discusses factors of risks and resilience, social bonds of violence, contexts of violence, teen dating violence, clusters of violence, school violence, familial violence and many physical and mental consequences of exposure to violence. So much so that even just writing about all this violence gives me a foreboding feeling of what may be lurking in the hallway as the lights flicker. 

Having this information at hand is important for any client who is a juvenile, but may also be significant for many adult clients who have been victimized or subjected to some type of violence as a child. Clearly the goal is to humanize your client. Good judges and fair prosecutors should be led into the story of your client so that they'll gain an actual interest not only in the facts of a particular case, but also in why the facts happened and how to make certain that any possible triggers for criminal behavior is resolved so that it never happens again. So no matter how old your client is now the compendium may be helpful in finding solid scientific support in persuading prosecutors to reduce felony charges to misdemeanors or as possible mitigation at the time of sentencing instead of merely relying on Florida sentencing guidelines and scoresheets.
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