Criminal Defense

What Are Aggravating Factors in Criminal Sentencing?

When charged with a criminal offense in California, you may face severe penalties and fines. The penalties can be even stronger if the court determines your crime was aggravated. Aggravating factors are additional factors that are considered when determining culpability for a crime. For example, a crime committed while using a deadly weapon may receive a harsher sentence than the same crime committed with verbal threats.

At The Law Office of Elliott Kanter, our San Diego criminal defense attorneys will advocate on your behalf. Whether we seek a plea deal that reduces the severity of your charges, or fight to prove your innocence in court, our law firm is by your side all of the way.

What is an Aggravated Crime?

An aggravated crime means other additional factors came into play during the alleged offense. For an offense to be aggravated, these additional factors must have increased the severity of the crime. For instance, an assault becomes an aggravated crime if a deadly weapon was involved. In this case, the charges may include harsher sentencing.

Aggravating Factors In California

In most cases, aggravating factors affect the defendant negatively. For instance, they can lead to an extended jail term in a successful conviction. These factors are usually stipulated and regulated by the California Rules of Court and the Judicial Council of California. It is important for a defendant to understand which elements can be considered aggravating and how they can affect their case. They include:

  • Prior Convictions - A defendant with multiple prior convictions may face harsher penalties imposed by a court after a successful conviction. California has the Three Strikes law, which can heighten a relatively minor offense if the defendant has a record of more than two prior convictions.
  • Sophistication and Leadership Roles - A court can consider an offense aggravated if the defendant played a prominent role in the crime, such as a leadership role. The jurisdiction in California allows courts to consider such roles as an aggravating factor. The court can also impose harsher penalties if a defendant was involved in a high degree of planning or sophistication.
  • Vulnerability of the Victim- A court can impose harsher penalties if the defendant’s victim is determined to have been vulnerable. A victim may be vulnerable either in relation to the defendant or according to an objective standard. For example, a crime of violence or fraudulent scheme against the elderly or children is considered an aggravating factor.
  • Weapons- Using or being in possession of dangerous weaponry during an offense can be considered an aggravating factor. If the defendant was armed with a rifle when committing a crime, they are likely to face more severe charges and penalties.
  • Hate Crime- Another aggravating crime factor under the California penal code is when the crime was targeted to victims based on their perceived or actual race, religion, sexual orientation, color, sex, age, disability, or national origin. California law allows sentence enhancement if the court determines that the defendant was motivated by animus or bias towards a particular group of people.

Need a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney? We can Help

If you face criminal charges and suspect that aggravating factors could worsen your case, we at the Law Office of Elliott Kanter can assist. Our competent criminal defense attorneys will fight for you in court to ensure all your rights are protected and you receive a fair hearing. Please get in touch with us now to consult with our lead attorney, Elliott Kanter.

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