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What are Aggravating Factors?

June 8, 2021 / Criminal Defense

If you’re charged with a crime, there are issues that may increase your sentence, so you should ask yourself, what are aggravating factors? There are factors that increase the seriousness of the crime while others make the sentence harsher. Through these laws, the Florida legislature tells the public that some circumstances are worse than others, so there’s extra punishment to discourage the crimes.

What are aggravating factors? They vary with the crime. An aggravating factor in a DUI (having a child in the car at the time of the arrest, for example) is not the same as a robbery (committed with a firearm).

Criminal defense attorney Michael Panella understands the complexity of criminal prosecution and sentencing. There are many moving parts to the process, and he’ll work hard to get the best outcome possible for you. If you’re charged with a crime or subject to a criminal investigation, call him today at 407-233-1822.

What are Examples of Aggravating Factors?

If there are aggravating circumstances, the penalties can increase significantly:

  • Carrying a deadly weapon: If you threaten someone, simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor (jail term of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500). If you do so while holding a gun, it’s an aggravated assault, which is typically a third-degree felony (five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and five years of probation).
  • Injuring someone while committing a felony: You commit aggravated assault if you threaten to or injure someone while committing a felony, which is also a third-degree felony. This doesn’t require an intent to injure, just the intent to cause fear of an immediate attack.
  • Using a weapon or severe violence while inflicting harm: This aggravating circumstance can result in an aggravated battery That’s a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000. Battery is intentionally touching someone with the intent to harm them. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor, so the penalties can be up to a year in prison or probation not to exceed one year.
  • Use of a deadly weapon, a date-rape drug, or causing serious bodily harm during a rape: This can be an aggravated sexual battery charge. It could result in a 30-year or life sentence. Rape is generally a second-degree felony (15 years in prison).
  • Stalking someone younger than 16, violating an order of protection, or posing a credible threat while stalking: Stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor. These aggravating factors can result in an aggravated stalking charge, a third-degree felony.

What are Aggravating Factors for “White Collar” Crimes?

Florida’s White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act states that aggravating factors can increase the penalties for many fraud-related crimes. Those crimes include:

  • Theft, robbery, and related crimes
  • Computer-related crimes
  • Fraudulent practices
  • Abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly and disabled
  • Forgery and counterfeiting
  • Using worthless checks and drafts
  • Bribery and misuse of public office
  • Offenses by public officers and employees
  • Racketeering and illegal debts
  • Offenses related to financial transactions.

The law creates the offense of aggravated white-collar crime. This is engaging in at least two white collar crimes with the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims, or methods, or which are interrelated. If you commit one of these crimes and you obtain or try to obtain $50,000 or more, you commit a first-degree felony if you also victimize:

  • Ten or more elderly persons
  • Ten or more veterans
  • 20 or more persons, or
  • The State of Florida, a state agency, any of the state’s political subdivisions, or any of their agencies

If found guilty, you may face up to 30 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and paying the greater of $500,000 or twice what you financially gained by the crime.

What are Aggravating Factors in Sentencing?

Florida has sentencing guidelines a judge uses after a conviction. Under Florida statute, the actual sentence can be greater than the guidelines if an aggravating factor is present. It can’t be used unless the jury finds that the factor happened beyond a reasonable doubt. What are aggravating factors in sentencing?

  • The offense was violent and committed in a way that was especially vicious or cruel.
  • There were separate episodes, including a crime committed multiple times within 180 days.
  • The offense was committed within six months after the defendant was discharged from a release program or released from state prison.
  • The defendant had a leadership role in a criminal organization.
  • The defendant is a public official, and the offense was committed under color of his or her office.
  • The crime caused a substantial risk of death or great bodily harm to many people or to one or more small children.
  • The victim was especially vulnerable due to age or physical or mental disability.
  • The offender was motivated by prejudice against the victim’s race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.
  • The victim suffered extraordinary physical or emotional trauma or permanent physical injury or was treated with particular cruelty.
  • The victim was physically attacked and one or more members of the victim’s family was present.
  • The offense caused substantial economic hardship to a victim and involved concealment, guile, or fraud in obtaining money or property, to avoid paying for something, prevent loss of money or property, or to get a business or professional advantage.
  • The offense was committed to avoid an arrest, to impede or prevent prosecution, or to escape from custody.
  • The defendant involved a minor in an offense.
  • The defendant engaged in sexual contact or sexual penetration and, as a result, the victim contracted a sexually transmissible disease.

Knowing What are Aggravating Factors in a Criminal Case Can Make All the Difference

Many issues impact a potential conviction and sentencing. Trying to defend yourself in a crime that may involve aggravating factors could be a severe mistake, considering how much longer the possible sentence may be.

Attorney Michael Panella defends clients against criminal charges, but if they are convicted, will work aggressively to lessen the sentence. He can explain your legal options, put together the best defense possible, and negotiate the best outcome given your circumstances. Get your defense started by calling the Panella Law Firm at 407-233-1822 today.

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