If you are facing assault charges – or other criminal charges – you have likely tried to figure out how much jail time you could end up doing if the court convicts you. If so, it is important to take aggravating factors into account. If they are present, it could mean a higher sentence for you upon conviction.
Statutory aggravating factors
Aggravating factors are specific circumstances that New Jersey law has listed, and that can make your jail sentence longer if they were present at the time that you allegedly committed the crime that the prosecution accuses you of. The prosecution must prove these aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt in order for them to modify your criminal charges.
Some of the most important aggravating factors that the court looks for are:
- Whether the defendant committed the crime in a particularly cruel or depraved manner
- Whether the victim of the crime was especially vulnerable or unable to defend themselves
- Whether there is a high risk that the defendant will commit the same crime again in the future
- Whether there was an organized crime element to the offense
- The past criminal history of the defendant
- Whether the victim of the crime was a police officer or public servant
- Whether the crime was an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child
- Whether the defendant used a stolen car to commit the crime
If the prosecutor is able to prove any of these – or other aggravating factors – and the court ends up convicting you, your sentence can be much more severe than it otherwise would be.
The effect of aggravating factors on sentencing
The most obvious effect that aggravating factors can have upon a criminal sentence is increased jail time. If there are fines involved in the penalty, they can increase as well.
An aggravated offense could also have an effect on parole eligibility. If you might have otherwise qualified for parole, it’s possible that the judge will delay or remove eligibility for parole for an aggravated offense, if they decide that it’s in the interest of justice to do so.
It can be difficult to prepare yourself for the stress and suspense of a criminal trial. If you know the types of factors that courts look for when deciding how to determine the sentence to give you, you can know what to expect – and you can prepare your defense accordingly.