Aggravated Circumstances: What Makes a Crime “Aggravated”?

Hearing about an aggravated crime, such as aggravated sexual assault, on the nightly news or reading about such a crime in the newspaper is a fairly common occurrence. What does the term “aggravated” mean in the context of criminal activity? What makes a particular crime aggravated and how is this classification different from simple, non-aggravated offenses like simple assault?

Although there are many legal applications for the use of the term “aggravated” in the context of criminal offenses, the most broadly used application for this term is describing a crime that is deemed more serious in some way when compared to a simple, basic crime. Basically, an aggravated crime involves some factors that enhance the offensive nature of the criminal action.

What Makes a Crime “Aggravated”?

There are a few general guidelines that can help prosecutors and criminal investigators to decide if a crime should be considered an aggravated offense. These guidelines describe the ways in a which a particular crime was enhanced beyond the scope of a simple offense.

  • Weapon possession or usage: If an alleged criminal offender commits a crime while carrying, brandishing or using a weapon, their crime may be upgraded to an aggravated offense. For example, if a person robs a gas station and holds the clerk at gunpoint while demanding money, their crime may be upgraded from a simple robbery charge to an aggravated robbery charge.
  • Injury of the victim: When the victim of a crime suffers injury during the commission of the crime, the alleged perpetrator could face an aggravated charge. An example would be the difference between a simple assault charge and an aggravated assault charge. If someone gets into a scuffle with another person that does not result in injury, they may be charged with simple assault. However, if one person seriously injures the other person during the fight, the charge can be upgraded to aggravated assault.
  • Victim status: Many jurisdictions consider crimes committed against peace officers, firefighters, teachers or public officials to be aggravated offenses. Also, a crime committed against the disabled, the elderly, a very young person or a mentally-handicapped person can be considered an aggravated offense.

Aggravated crimes can carry very severe punishments, and many of these crimes are classified as felony crimes. Unlike many misdemeanor charges for simple crimes, aggravated felony offenses can sentence the perpetrator to prison time and very high fines.

An experienced, knowledgeable attorney may be able to help someone who has been charged with an aggravated crime. For example, the attorney may be able to introduce evidence or witness testimony to show that the crime was not aggravated in nature. This could result in a less severe sentence.

For more information about the types of aggravated crimes, call The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today at 713-868-6100.