A sentence enhancement is when a judge orders a more severe sentence than legal sentencing guidelines suggest. Sentence enhancements are given for many reasons. Repeat offenders are often given sentence enhancements. If the defendant has already been convicted of a crime or has a criminal history, he is more likely to be given a more severe sentence by the judge.

Habitual offenders, those who commit the same crime multiple times, are often given sentence enhancements. Possessing or using a weapon during the crime, committing a crime near a specific location such as a church or school, or committing a crime against a minor are all conditions that could lead to enhanced sentencing.

Are There Different Kinds of Sentence Enhancements?

There are different kinds of statutes that prescribe a range of sentence enhancements. The statute that will be applied during sentencing depends on the nature of the crime and the defendant’s previous criminal history and record. There are both general and specific enhancement statutes. Specific statutes are applied to specific crimes while general statutes are applied to people who have repeated the same crime or who have a criminal history.

There are crimes which are more likely to generate enhanced sentencing. With multiple DUIs, for instance, a judge is likely to add additional sentence time with each conviction. If certain conditions are present during the DUI offense, the sentence might also be extended. For example, in California, an enhanced sentence is likely if a minor was in the car, if the driver refused a breathalyzer test, or if property was damaged during the DUI. Enhanced sentences are also often given out for drug convictions

How Can a Sentence Enhancement Be Challenged?

In order to challenge a sentence enhancement, you will need to investigate the schedules for the crime you were convicted of. Schedules are legal outlines for what kinds of sentences are assigned to which kinds of crimes. There are federal schedules and state schedules. State schedules are based on federal schedules.

You will also need to request the sentencing minutes from the judge. Sometimes, the judge will order a specific sentence, but it will turn out the judge was unfamiliar or has misunderstood the sentencing law. This can occur both with too much time assigned and too little time assigned.

Still, a corrections department will usually honor a judge’s original intent. If a crime did not involve actual violence, there is a better chance of having an enhanced sentence reduced. Having a lawyer present to argue on your behalf at your sentencing hearing can prevent an enhanced sentence from being assigned.

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? 

Yes. Sentencing minutes and sentencing laws are both very dense and complicated. A criminal defense attorney has the expertise and knowledge to be able to obtain the necessary documents and form the best possible arguments regarding preventing or reversing sentence enhancements.