Enhanceable crimes can increase sentences and penalties, turning a misdemeanor charge into a felony charge for a defendant. Enhancements typically relate to aggravating factors that have an impact on a criminal charge.
What Are Enhancements?
For most crimes, the law specifies a range of possible punishments for each crime. When a defendant is convicted of a crime, his/her sentence is determined within an allowable sentencing range for that crime. Sentence enhancements relate to aggravating factors that allow a judge to increase a defendant’s sentence beyond the stated sentencing range.
A defendant’s criminal history and/or special details related to an offense contribute to enhancements in a case. Enhancements often have a significant impact in criminal cases, but in some cases, they can turn a misdemeanor into a felony with substantially higher penalties. Since enhancement charges can have a serious impact on a defendant’s sentence, a felony lawyer will often work to defeat enhancements in a case.
All states have enhanceable crimes, but the specifics of enhanced sentence laws may vary from state to state. An enhanced sentence means that a sentence can be increased because of a prior conviction or the serious nature of a crime. Enhanced sentence laws often change the classification of an offense to a higher level classification. In many states, common enhancements relate to prior convictions, repeat offenses, the use of a weapon, hate crimes, and gang-related crimes. In some states, like California, repeat offenders in cases of willful homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault with a firearm, and burglary face “three strike laws” that can put a defendant in prison for life after three repeat offenses. Enhancements based on criminal history exist in every state.
Enhanceable crimes in Minnesota relate to the following:
- Repeat Offenses
- Impaired Driving
- Domestic Violence
- Privacy Violations
The constitution allows all criminal defendants certain rights, including a jury trial with representation by a felony lawyer. With any criminal charge, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, sentencing enhancements are not considered elements of a crime. They are only considered additional facts in a case that if established can increase the potential penalties for the crime.
Enhancement sentencing laws were established to deter or reduce crimes by raising the consequences for offenders. Within five to seven years after enhancement sentencing laws were imposed, many states saw a reduction by as much as 20 percent in enhanceable crimes.