When a person is convicted of a
crime, the sentence they will receive generally conforms to the sentencing guidelines
in the California Penal Code. Based on certain facts or conditions, however,
the judge may have the power to increase your sentence. These are called
sentence enhancements, and are designed to punish repeat offenders and
those who have committed particularly heinous crimes.
Perhaps the most common sentence enhancement is for those who have prior
criminal convictions on their record. The judge should look at the unique
details of your case, but can often enhance your sentence even if the
prior offense was a non-violent misdemeanor.
To address habitual offenders, California has enacted its infamous “Three
Strikes” law. This means that if you were convicted of two prior
qualifying offenses, typically
violent crimes, a third serious felony will result in a minimum 25 years to life jail sentence.
Another common sentence enhancement is when a
firearm is used while committing a crime, or is even in your possession when you
commit a crime. Based on the crime itself, the type of firearm, whether
or not you used the gun, and your criminal history, a judge can add between
one year and life in prison to the end of your sentence.
Minor Victims/Minors Present
Depending on the crime, you can face an enhanced sentence for merely having
a child present. One common example of this is
DUI. This is already a serious misdemeanor charge, but you could face an additional
felony charge of
child endangerment which carries far more severe penalties.
Statistics don’t lie – those who are involved in gangs commit
crimes at a much higher rate than the general public. To crack down on
gang-related crimes, California has enacted aggressive measures that can lead to major sentence
enhancements. Furthermore, even being associated with a gang (such as
dating a gang member) can qualify you for these sentence enhancements.
Depending on the details of your offense, you could face between 2 to
15 extra years in jail, or 25 years to life behind bars.
Don’t Take Risks With Your Defense
This blog only discusses a handful of the most common sentence enhancements,
but there are many others. If you’re facing any type of criminal
charges, it’s crucial to retain a skilled Modesto criminal defense
lawyer with the skill and knowledge to mount a solid defense on your behalf. At the
Law Offices of Mark W. Girdner, our lawyer is a former Deputy District Attorney who thoroughly understands
how sentence enhancements are applied, and how to defend you against them.
Call (209) 326-1533 to
schedule a free consultation with our skilled attorney.