What Does Aggravated Mean in Criminal Law?

Aggravated Crimes in Washington State

Criminal offenses are defined under Washington statutes that outline what the crime consists of and how it is charged and punished. Some offenses, however, may call for exceptional or harsher penalties beyond the standard range of sentencing because of “aggravating” circumstances. Per Washington criminal code RCW 9.94A.537, aggravating circumstances must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in court to juries and verdicts on the aggravating factor or factors “must be unanimous.”

An example of the above is “aggravated” assault. This type of assault goes beyond simple assault due to the additional factors involving serious violence or a protected class of individuals. Assault can be aggravated when directed at law enforcement, other public servants engaged in their duties, or the elderly or mentally challenged. It can also occur when using a dangerous weapon such as gun, knife, or other instrument, when the assault results in serious physical injury to the victim, or when the assault occurs in the commission of another serious felony such as rape or robbery.

In the crime of murder, aggravating factors can include killing a police officer or other public servant, killing for hire, killing in a drive-by shooting, and killing more than one person in a single incident.

Aggravating Factors That Can be Considered Under Washington Law

Under Washington law, the following are some other statutory examples of factors that aggravate an offense and create harsher penalties:

  • The defendant has a prior criminal history
  • The defendant showed “deliberate cruelty” to a victim
  • The victim was especially vulnerable or incapable of resisting; this defendant knew this or should have known it
  • The victim was pregnant and subject to violence by the defendant
  • Multiple victims or multiple incidents of economic loss were suffered (as in an investment scam or Ponzi scheme)
  • Monetary loss in a white collar crime was “substantially greater” than what would be typical for that particular offense
  • In a white collar crime, the defendant violated his or her fiduciary duty or position of trust
  • In a white collar crime, particularly sophisticated means were used to conduct the crime over a long time period
  • In drug crimes, various factors can aggravate the offense, such as engaging in three separate transactions of selling, distributing, or trafficking controlled substances, holding a high position in the drug trade hierarchy, or violating a position of trust such as that of a doctor or pharmacist
  • In sex crimes, factors can include an “ongoing pattern” of sexual violence against one victim under the age of 18, multiple incidents or victims in domestic violence offenses, committing a domestic violence crime in the presence of minor children, the crime involved an “egregious lack of remorse,” or the offense was sex trafficking involving minors
  • In theft crimes, aggravating factors can include committing burglary while the victim was in the residence or building, committing an offense against a “good Samaritan,” and more

An entire list of aggravating factors is outlined in “Departures from the guidelines” under RCW 9.94A.535.

Arrested for an Aggravated Crime in Tacoma?

Being arrested and prosecuted for any type of criminal offense is a serious matter. That matter becomes even more grave when the circumstances are considered to be aggravating. When facing such a situation, the quality of your legal representation is critical. We urge you to take advantage of the 130 years of combined legal experience and high industry ratings you will find at Hester Law Group. Our firm provides dedicated and diligent legal assistance throughout the course of the criminal justice process.

Contact us at (253) 300-3034 or use our online request form to arrange for a free case evaluation.