In Florida, aggravating circumstances are factors that increase the gravity or severity of a crime. Depending on the offense and the individual accused of committing the crime, aggravating circumstances may include:
- The defendant’s prior criminal record
- The way in which the defendant committed the offense
- A lack of remorse
- The location of the offense
- The type of victim
- How the crime affected the victim
When a prosecutor attaches aggravating circumstances to criminal charges, the penalties for conviction will increase, sometimes significantly.
What Are Potential Aggravating Circumstances in Violent Crimes?
Carrying a Deadly Weapon: If you threaten someone (assault) while holding a gun, you have committed aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is typically a third-degree felony. Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Injuring Someone While Committing a Felony: You commit aggravated assault if you threaten to or actually injure someone while committing a felony.
Using a Weapon or a Severe Form of Violence While Inflicting Harm: This aggravating circumstance will earn the offender an aggravated battery charge.
Using a Deadly Weapon, Administering a Date Rape Drug, or Causing Serious Bodily Harm During a Rape: These are some of the aggravating factors that merit an aggravated sexual battery charge. You can face first-degree, life, or capital felony charges for aggravated sexual battery.
Stalking Someone Under the Age of 16 or With an Order of Protection, or Posing a Credible Threat While Stalking a Victim: While stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor, these aggravating circumstances constitute aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony.
The offenses described above represent only some of the potential aggravated criminal charges included in the Florida statutes. Many other offenses carry the potential for increased penalties if committed in the presence of aggravating circumstances.
What Are Some Potential Aggravating Circumstances in White-Collar Crimes?
White-collar crimes may also qualify for aggravated circumstances under Florida law. White-collar crimes include fraud (e.g., mortgage fraud), embezzlement, forgery, bribery, and money laundering.
Florida law provides for enhanced charges under four, specific aggravating circumstances, in which the individual:
- Victimized 10 or more elderly persons
- Victimized 20 or more persons of any age
- Victimized the State of Florida or any state agency, in an attempt to obtain $50,000 or more
- Engaged in the same or a similar white-collar crime more than once
For aggravated white-collar crime, you may face first-degree felony charges carrying up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Upon conviction, you must also pay the greater sum of $500,000 or double the amount of financial gain facilitated by the crime.
What Aggravating Circumstances Might Affect Sentencing?
Upon conviction for any crime in Florida, the sentence the judge imposes must fall within the requirements prescribed by the state statutes. If the judge believes a harsher sentence is appropriate, he may apply aggravating circumstances at sentencing.
Some possible aggravating sentencing circumstances noted in the statues include:
- Acceptance of an uncoerced plea bargain
- A violent offense committed in a particularly cruel or heinous manner
- The commission of multiple offenses within a 180-day period
- The defendant has a leadership role in a criminal organization
- The defendant was a public official in office at the time of the offense
- The defendant knowingly perpetrated the crime on a law enforcement officer
- The victim was vulnerable due to mental disability, physical disability, or age
- The offense was motivated by the victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
- The defendant inflicted harm on the victim in front of a family member of the victim
When applying aggravating circumstances at sentencing, the judge may exercise discretion in the amount of extra penalties, as long as he provides appropriate justification.
Protect Your Future. Schedule a FREE Consultation With Goldman Wetzel.
If you have been arrested for an aggravated offense, call Goldman Wetzel as soon as possible. We may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduction in charges or, if necessary, defend you against aggravated charges in court or on appeal.
Attorneys Summer Goldman and Maribeth Wetzel provide aggressive legal representation for clients facing criminal charges in Florida. We work on each case together and take a proactive approach to protect your legal rights and ensure the best possible outcome in your case.
Contact Goldman Wetzel today to schedule a complimentary consultation with our Florida criminal defense lawyers: 727-828-3900.