Trauma and Sentencing

We are experiencing an epidemic of trauma in the United States. Whether physical or emotional, intentional or accidental, an enormous percentage of people suffer from the effects of trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The trauma can cause physical changes in the brain that impair judgment, distort perceptions, and sometimes hinder your ability to think clearly. As a result, you may engage in impulsive or risky behaviors, including ones that lead to criminal charges.

Understanding the effects of trauma is crucial when examining the relationship between traumatic experiences and criminal charges. Knowledge of trauma and its long-term effects can provide insights into why some individuals may engage in behavior that results in criminal charges.

Why Trauma History Matters in Sentencing

Your trauma history matters greatly during sentencing. Judges can consider a defendant's mental health and life experiences when determining an appropriate punishment. Understanding how trauma has impacted your behavior and decision-making can help achieve a fair outcome.

Trauma-informed arguments help judges understand the root causes that contributed to your behavior.. Evidence of trauma, other mental health issues, and efforts at rehabilitation can demonstrate your capacity for change and lower the risk of re-offense. Additionally, trauma-based sentencing arguments have been shown to correlate with lesser criminal penalties.

Ways the Criminal Justice System Considers the Impact of Trauma in Proceedings

The criminal justice system has made efforts to account for the impact of trauma on criminal behavior and sentencing. Some of the ways the system aims to consider a defendant's trauma history include the following:

  • Mental Health Evaluations: Defendants undergo mental health evaluations by court-appointed professionals to determine if any mental health conditions or trauma-related disorders are present that could have influenced their actions. These evaluations can inform sentencing and treatment recommendations.
  • Use of Trauma as a Mitigating Factor: During sentencing, judges have the discretion to consider mitigating factors like a history of trauma or abuse that might have contributed to criminal behavior. It can sometimes lead to lesser sentences, especially for non-violent offenses. The judge can order community service, rehabilitation programs, or probation instead of jail time.
  • Trauma-Informed Legal Practices: The best criminal defense attorneys and legal clinics take a trauma-informed approach, recognizing how trauma can impact a client's actions, memories, and legal matters. They aim to avoid re-traumatization during legal proceedings and advocate for trauma-responsive sentencing and rehabilitation options.
  • Alternative Courts: Specialized courts like mental health courts, drug courts, and veterans treatment courts take trauma and mental health issues into account. They emphasize rehabilitation, treatment, and alternative sentencing over incarceration alone. Participants engage in court-monitored treatment programs to address underlying issues that may have contributed to their offenses.

Need Help? Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Your traumatic experiences may be a deciding factor in a criminal case.  If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, working with a criminal defense attorney who understands the impact of trauma and mental health issues is important.

At H. Ernest Stone, Attorney PC, we are trauma-informed and understand mental health issues. We will advocate for an understanding of our clients’ mental health and alternative disposition options that support rehabilitation rather than strict punishment. Contact us today for a free case review.

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Contact our team today for a free consultation. Contact us through our website or call (978) 705 4537.

We are available 24/7. We can help you through this storm.