If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska you are likely worried about the outcome of your case. Specifically, you may be concerned about the punishment you face if convicted. If you have done any research regarding the offenses with which you have been charged you likely found out that crimes are classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor I Nebraska. Within those categories, offenses are further sub-divided according to the severity of the offense. Each level then has a potential sentencing range assigned to it. At some point, you may see the term “aggravating” factor used when discussing potential punishment for your offense. What exactly is an “ aggravating ” factor and do you have any?
The Nebraska legislature decides how criminal offenses are categorized as well as the potential sentencing range for each category. For example, a conviction for a Class IC felony in Nebraska carries with it a mandatory five years in prison and up to 50 years in prison. If you have been charged with a Class IC felony, your first thought might be that there is a substantial difference between a five year and a 50 year sentence! How does the judge decide where a defendant falls in that range? How does a prosecutor decide what type of plea agreement to offer a defendant charged with a specific crime? This is where the concept of aggravating and mitigating factors usually comes into play.
As a general rule, a judge will take into account a wide variety of factor when deciding what sentence to hand down to a defendant convicted of a crime. The judge will start at the accepted “presumptive” sentence and then adjust up or down accordingly depending on the factors involved in the case. Those factors fall into either the “mitigating factor” category or the “aggravating factor” category. Mitigating factors are facts or circumstances about the defendant or offense that warrant a downward departure from the presumptive sentence. Aggravating factors are facts or circumstances about the defendant or offense that warrant an upward departure. Some common examples of aggravating factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Previous convictions for violent and/or serious offenses
· Victim of the instant offense was a minor, elderly, or disabled
· A weapon was used or present during the commission of the crime
· Crime took place near certain high risk places such as a school or park
· Someone was injured during the commission of the crime
· Someone was threatened during the commission of the crime
· Victim or target of the crime was a law enforcement officer or government agency
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska, and you wish to know whether or not your case involves any aggravating factors, contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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