5 Factors That Can Aggravate Your IL Criminal Charges
When charged with a crime in Illinois, it’s essential to understand the consequences that come with a conviction. It’s not simply about being found guilty or innocent, but about a judge determining your sentence. That sentence can be heavily influenced by aggravating as well as mitigating factors.
Criminal Sentencing: What Happens?
While each criminal case in Illinois is unique, there are general factors the judge must consider in order to ensure that the punishment fits the crime.
Under Illinois law, a judge must review the case to determine what sentence is best. This is what happens at a sentencing hearing after an offender is convicted. Each side of the aisle has an opportunity to weigh in.
Prosecutors Present Aggravating Factors
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors argue the circumstances of the case that they believe warrant the penalty they are seeking. They introduce aggravating factors to the judge or the things that can make the case seem more dangerous or serious and support a harsh penalty.
Defenders Present Mitigating Factors
The defense attorney presents mitigating factors to the judge, which are thins that attempt to justify or explain your conduct, in order to argue for a more lenient sentence. The judge then considers all of these factors to determine the sentence.
Aggravating Factors: What Are They?
When it comes to the sentencing phase of a crime, aggravating factors can give cause to the judge to impose more a more severe penalty.
Some of the most common aggravating factors include:
- A previous criminal history
- Receiving compensation for the act for which convicted
- Threatening or causing to threaten serious harm
- The crime was motivated by color, creed, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry, or physical ability, also called a hate crime
- The victim was a peace officer, disabled, or elderly
Of course, these aren’t the only aggravating factors to a sentence. It’s the job of the judge to weigh any aggravating factors presented.
The use or possession of a firearm; when an act was related to gang activity; whether the crime was an abuse of public office, are all examples that may be considered aggravating circumstances.
Mitigating Factors: How Did It Happen?
Once the prosecution has presented its case for sentencing, your attorney has an opportunity to mitigate those aggravating factors, as well.
In Illinois, mitigating factors that may help to explain the defendant’s actions range from the level of harm caused or involvement of the offender to criminal history and chances of recidivism.
- Conduct that didn’t threaten or cause serious harm
- Conduct was facilitated or organized by another
- Grounds exist that were insufficient as a defense of the crime but can justify or excuse the conduct
- The conduct was the result of unexpected circumstances
- Probation is likely to be complied with
- The defendant has a mental disability
- The victim will be or is being compensated for their injuries
- The defendant is unlikely to continue committing crimes
- There is no previous criminal history
- The defendant is likely to be helped by treatment programs or counseling
Sometimes an attorney is even able to reduce sentencing due to the undue burden a sentence places on the dependents of a defendant.
Probable Criminal Sentences
Even though the judge must weigh both the aggravating and mitigating factors, they must also impose a sentence that falls within Illinois guidelines for punishments linked to the specific crime. The likely punishments include fines, imprisonment, and probation.
The reason mitigating any aggravating factors is so important in your defense strategy is because it could mean the difference between a few hundred dollars owed or upwards of $25,000 in fines per conviction.
It can also shave years off of a prison term, or possibly eliminate jail time altogether, replacing it with supervisory probation.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.