Understanding California's Sentence Enhancements

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.

Repeat Offenders

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.

Firearm Enhancements

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.

Gang Involvement

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.

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