What Are Aggravating Factors in Sentencing?
In our last blog, we discussed mitigating factors that your lawyer could raise at sentencing to protect you even if you do get convicted. Mitigating factors are circumstances that make the crime less serious and can lead to reduced sentencing. It is also important to know that there are aggravating factors the prosecution might raise. Aggravating factors are circumstances that make the crime more serious, and can lead to harsher sentencing. At a sentencing hearing, guilt has already been established, so the only question remaining is what the appropriate punishment is. Your lawyer should be able to assess which aggravating factors the prosecution might raise and prepare counterarguments.
Aggravating Factors in Illinois Sentencing
As with mitigating factors, there is a list of aggravating factors that the prosecution may use. In Illinois, aggravating factors include:
- Vulnerable victim – If the crime was committed against a vulnerable person, such as someone who is elderly, disabled, a child, or otherwise unable to protect themself, this factor is present.
- Serious harm – Offenses are considered much more serious if the victim suffered serious harm, or if you threatened them with serious harm.
- Pattern of criminal activity – If you already have a long criminal history, a repeat offense can be considered more serious, as it suggests that you are a threat to the public and do not intend to reform.
- Motivated by hate – Hate crimes based on the victim’s religion, race, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability are treated as especially serious. Incarceration becomes much, much more likely when this factor is present.
- Gang activity or crime-for-hire – If your crime was related to your membership or involvement with a gang, or if someone paid you to commit a crime, the court might see the conduct as more serious and you as a greater danger to the community.
- Guns – Using a firearm in the commission of an offense is an aggravating factor.
- Abusing a position of power – If you hold a trusted professional or civic position that you abused to enable your criminal activity, your offense could be treated more harshly. Examples may include being a city council member who embezzled funds, or being a doctor who sexually abused a patient.
The more aggravating factors found, the harsher your sentence could be. Mitigation is particularly important if aggravating factors are likely to be raised.
Call an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal prosecution, the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. can help. Our experienced Will County criminal defense lawyers will fight for your charges to be reduced or dismissed, and if needed, we will keep fighting to minimize any sentencing. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.