Getting legal help




Circumstances LAO may consider before making a decision

LAO understands that every persons situation is unique. LAO staff may ask you some questions about what you are accused of doing to see if there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances in your situation.


What is a mitigating circumstance?


A mitigating circumstance is a situation where the courts may provide you with mercy or fairness in sentencing if convicted of a crime.

Let's say you are a homeless person who has broken into an empty house while looking for a place to sleep. You did this because of your need for shelter. This is a mitigating circumstance.


What is an aggravating circumstance?


An aggravating circumstance is one that makes your offense more serious and therefore makes it more likely that you will go to jail.

If you and a group of young people are charged with a crime committed together, for instance, and you are the only adult, the court may view you as the group's leader, and blame you more than the youth.

The chart below includes the legal terms for the circumstances it describes. You may need to ask a lawyer for a less complicated explanation.


Mitigating circumstances One aggravating circumstance Two or more aggravating circumstances
  • First offender
  • Youthful offender
  • Low risk to re-offend
  • Isolated incident (out of character)
  • Spontaneous offence
  • Guilty plea
  • Remorse (accepts responsibility)
  • Follower, not leader
  • Rehabilitation (treatment or counselling)
  • Cooperation with authorities
  • Employment or in school
  • Sole provider or caregiver for dependants
  • Community or family support
  • Unfortunate background
  • Dated, minor or unrelated criminal record

You may be eligible for legal aid if you are charged with a crime and your circumstances include one of these aggravating factors:

  • Prior jail sentence for related or like offence (within last five years)
  • On bail, probation or parole for related or like offence
  • Significant physical injury to victim
  • Lengthy record, with escalation in seriousness of offences
  • Planned, deliberate or sophisticated
  • Abused position or trust or authority
  • Vulnerable victims (child, elderly or disabled)
  • Significant value to property involved (over $50,000)

You may be eligible for legal aid if you have no mitigating circumstances, but your circumstances include two or more of these aggravating factors:

  • Leader
  • Related criminal record (recent, i.e., within three years)
  • Multiple charges
  • Gravity of offence
  • Prior outstanding charges
  • History of breaching court orders
  • Motivated by greed or profit
  • Motivated by hate, prejudice or bias
  • Numerous victims
  • Damage to victims (financial loss)