If you are accused of a crime in Illinois, it is vital to know and understand the meaning of the term “aggravated.” The term “aggravated” is a word that has several different contexts and purposes. In some cases, the term applies to a criminal charge (aggravated arson, aggravated battery), while it simply describes an action or type of person in other cases.
What does an Aggravating Factor in a Criminal Case Mean?
There are three factors considered as aggravated circumstances when determining parole eligibility. Those three factors must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution during trial before applying them for parole purposes.
If those factors are confirmed, and the defendant was over 18 years old at the time of committing their offense, then that defendant would not be eligible for parole until they have served at least 85 percent of their sentence.
Examples of Aggravating Factor Criminal Cases
The term “Aggravating Factor” is defined as a legally relevant fact that justifies or makes a crime or offense more serious. In cases such as People vs. Shipp, where two gang members walked into a convenience store, and one fired shots that killed someone.
Killing someone while going armed with a dangerous weapon (a felony) would be considered an aggravating factor is making the offense much more severe than if they were unarmed. In the case of People vs. Caldwell, it was decided that being under the influence while committing a shooting did not warrant a 2nd-degree murder charge to be reduced to manslaughter due to an Aggravating Factor.
When deciding on an aggravating circumstance, it is crucial to consider the defendant’s age. This plays a role in how harshly they will be punished if convicted. If they are 18 years or over at the time of their crime, then there is not much room for argument as to whether or not that particular factor applies. Still, if they are younger than 18 years old, it opens up more possibilities for defense representation.
The factors that are looked at when determining if an aggravating circumstance applies are:
- A defendant was previously convicted of another unrelated charge.
- A defendant used physical force against a victim beyond what was required to commit a crime.
- The offense was particularly heinous, considering the body’s condition after death.
- A defendant used a dangerous weapon when they were not required to do so.
If the prosecution can prove that any of these factors apply, it will be more likely for a defendant to receive a more severe punishment than they would have if none of those circumstances applied.
Aggravating Factors and Mitigating Factors
There is a list of mitigating and aggravating factors that must be considered by judges and juries when determining an appropriate sentence to apply to a defendant. The State or Defense can bring forth evidence to prove (or disprove) these factors pertaining to individual cases.
One such factor that was decided in People vs. Bunyard was that the defendants could not complain that they were singled out for harsher punishment because others involved in their crimes committed similar acts but received less substantial sentences than them. This specific decision (and many like it) focused on mitigating factors and how they only applied if proven during trial.
Eight possible mitigating factors can be considered when deciding on an appropriate sentence for a defendant who has been convicted of a crime. Those mitigating factors are:
- The defendant is youthful or aged.
- The defendant was threatened, under coercion, compulsion, or duress, and was insufficient to raise a defense, but that dramatically affected their judgment.
- The defendant was intoxicated when committing the offense as long as they did not contribute purposefully to such intoxication with illegal substances and it did not affect their state of mind.
- A victim’s participation in the crime mitigated the defendant’s culpability for the offense committed against that said victim beyond what it would have been if they had not participated voluntarily in any way whatsoever.
- The defendant believed that their participation in the offense was morally coherent with their religious faith;
- The Defendant’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his behavior with the requirements of law was substantially impaired, but not so impaired in all instances as to constitute a defense;
- A potential psychological or psychiatric history of the Defendant is available at trial, which would serve to reduce their culpability for the crime they were convicted of committing;
- The circumstances of an individual defendant who has been abused throughout childhood and adolescence may be reasonable for such abuse to affect behavior responsible for committing offenses.
While mitigating factors are often successfully argued by Defense attorneys at trial, most aggravating circumstances only come into play when it is decided that someone will be sentenced to death. While this process might seem straightforward, several factors must be considered before making a final decision. The mitigating and aggravating factors can affect the ultimate verdict handed down by jurors during the trial or by the judge presiding over the punishment proceedings.
Should You Represent Yourself in an Aggravating Factor Criminal Case?
The decision to either represent yourself in a criminal case or find an attorney capable of doing so on your behalf is often not easy.
While those who choose to go it alone might be able to make a strong case, hiring a seasoned Defense Attorney is usually the best way to ensure that all possibilities are considered. Every argument presents itself as favorably as possible for its client when mitigating or aggravating factors come into play. Having someone trained in law stand by you throughout the entire process of the trial or sentencing proceedings can only work toward your benefit.
If you have questions about this or any other criminal matter, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from experienced professionals who understand how devastating consequences such as those from a criminal conviction can be.
What Can a Defense Attorney Do for You in an Aggravating Factor Criminal Case?
An aggravating factor in a criminal case is essential for any defense lawyer. It helps determine the sentence given to the defendant if they have been found guilty by a jury or a judge if it is a non-jury trial. When someone is found guilty, they can be sentenced either with probation and community service while avoiding jail time, which would come along with the conviction of guilt; or you could receive jail time and be ordered to pay fines and restitution for damages caused.
A defense attorney’s primary goal in an aggravating factor criminal case is to reduce your sentence at all possible times during each step of the process before their role comes into play near the end when appeals are made. They do this by using their knowledge of criminal law to sway the jury or judge in your favor at each step before they are approached on appeal.
The first step is known as “plea bargaining.” This is when the defense attorney will attempt to convince prosecutors that you should be given something less severe than what you are being charged with, for example, if you are charged with Aggravated Assault, which carries a sentence of ten years in prison and considerable fines; they would argue for a charge such as Reckless Conduct instead.
The prosecutor must agree to the plea bargain, or there can’t be any negotiations made. If they go through with this process, then either side has until the following Friday morning (or Thursday night) to notify the judge whether or not they agree to the terms.
The second step is when you are formally charged with a crime and brought into court for your arraignment hearing, which can be either an in-person appearance or a video conference via jailhouse facilities. Your defense attorney will help answer any questions you have about the charges against you and also inform you of what steps need to be taken from this point forward until your trial begins.
They will also attempt to get the most favorable plea bargain possible at this time if their negotiations with prosecutors did not go through previously. If that plea bargain cannot be arranged, it will have to wait until at least ten days before the trial starts because of state law.
If your case proceeds to trial, the third step is when the trial begins, and you will be asked to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. Your defense attorney will work with you on deciding which answer is most appropriate for your case, making sure it’s only because you believe that you are innocent or because there isn’t enough evidence against you to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
If this is done correctly, then they can move onto the fourth step in the process, which is where they must prepare their case to show that you are not guilty; whether it be by use of witness testimony, cross-examination, depositions (interviews), or police reports; depending on what exactly was used as evidence during the trial.
Also, during this step, if your defense attorney has already pleaded not guilty, then it is time when they can begin pushing for a plea bargain.
During this process, a defense attorney’s primary goal is to reduce your sentence by having them argue for probation instead of jail time or anything else more severe than what you are charged with, once again, depending on the severity of what you are being charged.
However, if the trial occurred with you pleading guilty, that is the end of your journey in criminal court unless it was what you truly believed to be true all along and haven’t changed your mind at any point.
Finally, after everything has been completed in steps one through four (or five), the fifth step comes into play near the end, where they will make their appeals to the judge or jury to reduce their sentence. Suppose their attempts during steps one through four were unsuccessful before this step.
In that case, they will lead to the judge or members of the jury asking for leniency at this stage by arguing that you made mistakes in your past but have attempted to better yourself ever since; say if you pleaded guilty after you genuinely believed you were innocent all along or vice versa.
If they do not believe either one of those circumstances is true about your case, then they won’t agree to reduce your sentencing at all because it would be pointless.
Every attorney’s goal is to get their clients off with as minimal jail time as possible within reason, so there are exceptions where defense attorneys will push hard for a guilty plea from their clients if they believe the evidence is strong enough to convict you.
In fact, in most cases, when prosecutors do not accept a plea bargain from defense attorneys, it has nothing to do with the strength of their case but rather because it does not gain them anything in return for reducing or dropping charges, which is why that article says “the prosecution holds all the cards;” unless a prosecutor makes a horrible mistake that allows for an acquittal instead.
What Happens if You Win or Lose an Aggravating Factor Criminal Case?
The state has to prove you committed the crime in a criminal trial. In some instances, they must also establish an aggravating factor in your actions – something that makes it worse than just a simple misdemeanor or low-level felony.
Suppose you are convicted of a crime but have not been found guilty of an aggravating factor upon which the judge enhances punishment. Is there any way to get this evidence excluded from consideration? There are no definites because each case is different, as are the judge’s rulings.
There are so many details that can occur in different scenarios that it must be split up to understand the depth of what can happen. The remaining portions of this article will break down what happens if you win or lose in an aggravating factor criminal case.
When Does Aggravating Factor Evidence Come into Play?
Aggravating factors depend on the jurisdiction and type of offense. Not all crimes require proof of an additional element to be considered more severe than other charges. For example, if you were convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in California, there would be no need to prove that your actions involved reckless driving or that someone was hurt. However, in cases where an aggravating factor exists, it may create a heavier sentence when proven.
Each state has different rules about when evidence of an aggravating factor is allowed in court proceedings. Allegations against the accused are generally made during opening statements because they can’t come up once testimony begins – unless the opposing side opens up this line of questioning first.
This is part of why it’s so important to retain legal counsel before entering any criminal justice process. Since every jury and judge is different, you will have someone who knows both local procedures and how to work the system in your favor.
Where Can You Find These Factors?
Aggravating factors are not written down in any one place – they are usually established by law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges. If you want to know what qualifies as an aggravating factor for a specific charge, then you’ll need to look up that law specifically.
For instance, aggravated arson is when somebody starts a fire “for the purpose of collecting insurance.” That doesn’t mean that causing damage to someone else’s property will always be considered arson; it depends on the intent behind your actions.
What Happens if You Are Convicted With No Aggravating Factor?
If you plead guilty or are convicted without proving an aggravating factor, it will not come up when you are sentenced. This means that the judge is likely to hand down a much lighter sentence for your actions or give you probation instead of jail time.
It also helps if you are eligible to have an earlier crime expunged from your record since this will be one less mark in your favor when the judge decides what penalties apply for future offenses.
What Happens if You Are Convicted With an Aggravating Factor?
Judges need to determine how severe your crime was before deciding what kind of punishment fits within their jurisdiction. They can choose any penalty within legal limits that they feel is appropriate. If you are convicted with an aggravating factor, the judge must consider this additional evidence during sentencing.
Judges have a lot of leeway in determining the penalties you’ll face for a conviction, so it’s generally a bad idea to try and bargain with them or negotiate other alternatives after your case has been heard. Instead, hire an attorney early enough to do their best to mitigate the effects on sentencing. This is important because nobody wants to be sentenced more harshly than necessary.