What Are Aggravating Factors in a Criminal Case?

criminal law

If you’re charged with a crime, you’ll want to know what aggravating factors for your potential sentence are. A statute may spell out a range of possible punishments, but some facts or issues can increase your sentence. Depending on the crime and the factor, your sentence could be substantially longer.

If you are accused of a crime in Illinois, hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find. Prosecutors have the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced defense team may be the difference between a lengthy jail term and getting back to your life.

What Are Aggravating Factors in Sentencing?

If the prosecution establishes certain facts, these factors can increase your sentence. The legislature created them so the punishment would better fit the crime. A crime may have minimum and maximum sentences, so they play a role in determining where in that range you’ll be.

A sentencing judge must consider the factors when deciding the outcome, but a judge can decide to look past the fact that your actions fit into an aggravating factor when determining your sentence.

The opposite of aggravating factors are mitigating factors. They are issues that could mean a lesser sentence would be fairer. If both are present, the judge will need to balance the two.

What Are Aggravating Factors in Illinois?

What are examples of aggravating factors? In Illinois, they include:

  • The defendant’s conduct caused or threatened to cause serious harm.
  • The defendant had a prior history of criminal offenses.
  • The defendant held public office and the crime related to its duties.
  • The defendant held a position where their duties included preventing this specific offense or bringing those committing the offense to justice.
  • The sentence should deter others from committing the same offense.
  • The victim was 60 or older.
  • The victim was disabled.
  • The defendant targeted the victim due to their perceived race, color, creed, gender, or other protected class.
  • The offense occurred at a place of worship around or during the time of a service.
  • The defendant was out on bail, serving probation or parole at the time of the crime.

What are Examples of Aggravating Factors?

Aggravating factors are a genuine concern for criminal defendants and their attorneys. Some examples are:

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced in June to 22.5 years in prison for killing George Floyd, whose death was caused by Chauvin’s kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, reports Newsweek. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Aggravating factors leading to his sentence were his abuse of his position of trust and authority; he treated Floyd with “particular cruelty”; the crime occurred in front of at least four minors; and three others actively participated in the crime.
  • A defendant who represented himself in a 2016 Belleville, Illinois, case was sentenced to 75 years for sexual assault and ten years for unlawful restraint. He was convicted of raping a teenage girl and tying up her brother. Aggravating factors impacting his sentence were the harm he caused the victims, his criminal history, and the necessity of deterring others from committing these crimes.
  • A defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to serve fifty years in prison before being eligible for parole in a Kansas case. One of the factors leading to the sentence was the fact that the crime occurred in a church.
  • A former Indiana teacher convicted of child pornography charges in early 2021 was sentenced to 14 years in prison and three years suspended to supervised probation. Aggravating factors in his case were the fact that he was a schoolteacher at the time, and his victims were all younger than 12 years old.

These are all serious charges resulting in more jail time due to aggravating factors.

What Do I Do If I Have an Aggravated Criminal Case?

If you are facing criminal punishment for crimes you are charged with, you want to know how these factors could impact your sentence. In these cases, you want an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An experienced Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. lawyer can explain the applicable sentencing laws. In addition, we can help you decide if a plea bargain or fighting your case is in your best interests.

It’s not uncommon to be concerned about facing the possibility of a criminal conviction or possible jail time. The court is always going to look into the circumstances of a crime to verify they are assigning the correct punishment anytime someone is charged with a criminal offense. Unfortunately, aggravating factors may increase the potential penalties for a conviction.

If you have questions about your own criminal case, it is critical to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. We can help you understand how aggravating factors may play a role in your case. We will also discuss with you which factors in your particular case might be considered aggravating factors. As experienced criminal defense lawyers, we are knowledgeable of the criminal laws of both the state and the federal system.

How Are Aggravating Factors Used?

When you are asking what aggravating factors are in a criminal case, you may also want to know how they may be used. Aggravating factors, and even mitigating ones, are intended to help a judge craft sentencing consistent with the offense’s severity and the defendant’s criminal history.

Judges aren’t able to use facts that are an element of the crime to mandate an aggravated sentence. An aggravated sentence is one that is higher than the default. An excellent example of this is if someone attempts to stab another person with a knife during a fight. The individual is convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Therefore, a sentence of two, three, or four years is possible. However, the judge can’t choose four years on grounds that the individual used a knife, because it’s already a known element of the crime.

Aggravating factors are outlined in pre-sentence reports. In felony and serious misdemeanor cases, probation officers summarize police reports and interview defendants and victims to help provide a better picture to the judge. The prosecutor is allowed to submit statements to judges in the hopes of getting a longer sentence for the defendants. The defense can also provide statements requesting leniency. At sentencing, a judge weighs all of the aggravating and mitigating factors when making decisions about sentencing.

Can Aggravating Factors Impact My Case?

Yes, they can. Aggravating factors mean you’re being charged with a completely different crime. Aggravating factors often mean steeper penalties. They mean the difference between probation and jail time or the difference between a short jail term and a long prison sentence.

Call us today so we can learn more about your case: 630-305-0222. We will put all our expertise and knowledge at your service.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]