In most cases, when a person is convicted of a crime in California, the judge will consider the punishment options available under the law and will assign one to the case. They will take several factors into consideration, including the specifics of the crime and any past criminal history of the person who has been convicted.
Take this example: A person is arrested and convicted of a misdemeanor shoplifting offense that has maximum consequences of six months in jail and fines of as much as $1,000. If the defendant does not have a prior conviction, the judge may decide to only assign them a fine. If the person does have a record then they could get anywhere from one day to six months in jail, plus the fine.
However, in specific cases, the judge can decide to apply aggravating factors, known as sentencing enhancements, which add harsher penalties. In some cases, the judge is required to add them while in others the judge can decide if they should be. We have outlined some examples below but if you have questions about sentencing enhancements then we highly recommend you contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.
Enhancements for repeat offenses
The most common reason that a person will be subjected to a sentencing enhancement is a previous record. For example, the Three Strikes law holds that if a person is convicted of felony charges and is charged with a third, they can face 25 years to life in prison. Note that this only applies to certain qualifying offenses, most of which are violent crimes.
Enhancements for weapons
If a person is found to have a gun, or used a gun, during the commission of a crime then they could face firearm charges and / or a gun enhancement for a different charge. How significant this enhancement will be varies based on the specifics of the type of gun involved, the crime, and whether or not the gun was actually used, but the options range from one year to life in prison.
Crimes involving minors
The courts consider a crime to be more serious if a minor was involved. In some cases, the judge may even apply a sentence enhancement if a minor was present at the time of the crime. One example is a convenience store robbery in which a child was there. Another is a DUI charge when a child was in the car. These situations can lead to years added to a charge.
Avoiding sentencing enhancements is just one reason to talk to a criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of or charged with a crime. Even if it may seem to be a minor charge, the prosecution can change the charges against you or add sentencing enhancements. Contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 now for a free legal consultation.