An enhanced sentence happens when the law allows the court to apply additional time to your sentence due to specific circumstances. In most cases, if you are convicted of a crime, the judge sets your sentence within the perimeters of the legally specified time frame. For example, for burglary of a residence, the state you are convicted in might have a sentencing range of 2-4 years. If there are other factors involved, the judge can go outside of the sentencing range and make you serve more time. In general, even enhancements must stay within preset guidelines. There are several things that can cause a sentence to be enhanced including:
Your past convictions. Some states set a range of years for sentencing, depending upon how many priors you have. For example, if you have one previous felony conviction, the state may permit an additional year to be tacked on you sentence. If you have several misdemeanors and a few of felonies in your past, that could mean even more time. Most states have guidelines that enhance the sentences for repeat offenders.
Violating felony probation. If a judge grants you probation for a felony conviction, he or she may do so with an enhancement threat. Your actual sentence may be three years, but you are allowed to serve the time on probation instead of going to prison. However, the judge also specifies that if you violate that probation, the court reserves the right to enhance your sentence and will send you away for four years. The trade-off is you get to do probation instead of prison.
Mitigating factors. When you are convicted of a crime that involves mitigating factors, most states allow the judge to enhance your sentence. Mitigating factors for enhancing purposes are anything that makes the crime especially heinous in the eyes of the law. For example, assault may have one range of years for sentencing, but if you are convicted of assaulting a child the judge may be allowed to add additional years to your sentence.
Though judges have the legal right to enhance sentences, they are not always obligated to do so. In some cases, it will be up to the judge’s discretion. Your attorney can advise you regarding your particular case.