Aggravating factors in NC felony sentencing – In North Carolina, felony sentencing is determined by structured sentencing guidelines. To determine which cell a person’s sentencing range falls into, courts consider applicable criminal convictions, mitigating factors, and aggravating factors.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
Mitigating and aggravating factors are typically alleged in an attempt to persuade the judge from sentencing the defendant in the presumptive range. The decision to depart from the presumptive range is within the court’s discretion.
The defendant must prove mitigating factors to the judge by a preponderance of the evidence. Generally, aggravating factors must be proven to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt and the burden is on the State to prove such factors.
The State must provide written notice of its intent to prove specific aggravating factors at least thirty days before trial or plea, unless the defendant waives the right to notice. Aggravating factors are set forth in North Carolina General Statute 15A-1340.16(d) and are as follows:
- The defendant induced others to participate in the commission of the offense or occupied a position of leadership or dominance of other participants.
- The defendant joined with more than one other person in committing the offense and was not charged with committing a conspiracy.
- The offense was committed for the benefit of, or at the direction of, any criminal gang as defined by G.S. 14-50.16A(1), with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members, and the defendant was not charged with committing a conspiracy.
- The offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody.
- The defendant was hired or paid to commit the offense.
- The offense was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.
- The offense was committed against or proximately caused serious injury to a present or former law enforcement officer, employee of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety, jailer, fireman, emergency medical technician, ambulance attendant, social worker, justice or judge, clerk or assistant or deputy clerk of court, magistrate, prosecutor, juror, or witness against the defendant, while engaged in the performance of that person’s official duties or because of the exercise of that person’s official duties.
- The offense was committed against or proximately caused serious harm as defined in G.S. 14-163.1 or death to a law enforcement agency animal, an assistance animal, or a search and rescue animal as defined in G.S. 14-163.1, while engaged in the performance of the animal’s official duties.
- The offense was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
- The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person by means of a weapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.
- The defendant held public elected or appointed office or public employment at the time of the offense and the offense directly related to the conduct of the office or employment.
- The defendant is a firefighter or rescue squad worker, and the offense is directly related to service as a firefighter or rescue squad worker.
- The defendant was armed with or used a deadly weapon at the time of the crime.
- The victim was very young, or very old, or mentally or physically infirm, or handicapped.
- The defendant committed the offense while on pretrial release on another charge.
- The defendant has, during the 10-year period prior to the commission of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, been found by a court of this State to be in willful violation of the conditions of probation imposed pursuant to a suspended sentence or been found by the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission to be in willful violation of a condition of parole or post-release supervision imposed pursuant to release from incarceration.
- The defendant involved a person under the age of 16 in the commission of the crime.
- The defendant committed an offense and knew or reasonably should have known that a person under the age of 18 who was not involved in the commission of the offense was in a position to see or hear the offense.
- The offense involved an attempted or actual taking of property of great monetary value or damage causing great monetary loss, or the offense involved an unusually large quantity of contraband.
- The defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence, including a domestic relationship, to commit the offense.
- The offense involved the sale or delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.
- The offense is the manufacture of methamphetamine and was committed where a person under the age of 18 lives, was present, or was otherwise endangered by exposure to the drug, its ingredients, its by-products, or its waste.
- The offense is the manufacture of methamphetamine and was committed in a dwelling that is one of four or more contiguous dwellings.
- The offense for which the defendant stands convicted was committed against a victim because of the victim’s race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.
- The defendant does not support the defendant’s family.
- The defendant has previously been adjudicated delinquent for an offense that would be a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony if committed by an adult.
- The serious injury inflicted upon the victim is permanent and debilitating.
- The offense is a violation of G.S. 14-43.11 (human trafficking), G.S. 14-43.12 (involuntary servitude), or G.S. 14-43.13 (sexual servitude) and involved multiple victims.
- The offense is a violation of G.S. 14-43.11 (human trafficking), G.S. 14-43.12 (involuntary servitude), or G.S. 14-43.13 (sexual servitude), and the victim suffered serious injury as a result of the offense.