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What Are Aggravating Factors in a Criminal Defense Case?

Posted on May 30, 2023

In Colorado, aggravating factors play a crucial role in determining the degree of punishment in criminal cases. Aggravating factors, also known as enhancement factors or sentencing enhancements, are circumstances that increase the severity of a crime and can result in more severe penalties upon conviction. While the specific factors may vary depending on the offense, some common examples include the following.

Prior Criminal History

When a defendant with a prior criminal history is convicted of a new offense, the court may impose enhanced penalties. The presence of prior convictions can lead to longer prison sentences, increased fines, or the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences. The specific impact on sentencing will depend on several aspects, including the nature and severity of the prior offenses, the time elapsed since the last conviction, and the judge’s discretion.

Use of Weapons

In Colorado, the use of weapons during the commission of a crime is taken very seriously. The presence of weapons often escalates the level of danger, increases the potential for harm, and poses a threat to public safety. As a result, the court may impose enhanced penalties. The court may also consider the type of weapon used, whether it was brandished or discharged, and whether it caused harm or injury to the victim or others present.

Serious Bodily Injury

Serious bodily injury refers to significant physical harm inflicted upon a victim during the commission of a crime. In these cases, the court may impose enhanced penalties that depend on the extent of the injury, the permanence of the harm caused, and the degree of culpability attributed to the defendant.

Hate Crimes

Crimes motivated by bias or prejudice against a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other protected classes is an aggravating factor that can result in enhanced penalties. The specific impact on sentencing will depend on the nature and severity of the offense, the presence of bias or prejudice, and the discretion of the judge.

Presence of Minors

If a crime is committed in the presence of minors or involves the victimization of minors, it can be seen as an aggravating factor. It intensifies the harm inflicted and the potential adverse effects on children’s physical and emotional well-being. Enhanced penalties can depend on the nature of the offense, the age of the minors involved, and the degree of harm or risk to which the minors were exposed.

Violation of Public Trust

Public officials and individuals in positions of authority are entrusted with the responsibility of upholding the law, serving the public, and maintaining the integrity of their positions. When they engage in criminal behavior, the impact is not limited to the immediate victims but extends to the erosion of public confidence in the system. Considering the violation of public trust as an aggravating factor, the court may impose enhanced penalties depending on the nature of the offense, the position of authority held by the defendant, the degree of harm caused, and the discretion of the judge.

The Importance of Defense Strategies

In light of aggravating factors, defendants and their defense attorneys must devise effective strategies to counter their impact. Defense strategies may involve challenging the evidence presented to establish the aggravating factors, presenting mitigating factors that could reduce the severity of the charges, or negotiating plea bargains with the prosecution.

For skilled help with your case, arrange a free consultation with a trusted Colorado criminal defense attorney today.