How Do Sentencing Enhancements Work in New York Criminal Cases?

Understanding Sentencing Enhancements in New York

When someone is convicted of a crime in New York, the judge will impose a sentence based on the charges. However, there are certain circumstances that can lead to harsher sentences – these are called sentencing enhancements. Sentencing enhancements increase the penalties that convicted individuals face.

We get that dealing with sentencing enhancements can feel overwhelming. Figuring out how they impact your specific case is confusing and stressful. But know that there are skilled defense attorneys out there familiar with these rules who can help. We wanted to provide an overview of how sentencing enhancements work in New York to help you understand what you or your loved one might be facing.

Types of Sentencing Enhancements

There are a few main categories of sentencing enhancements in New York:

  • Prior Convictions: If you have prior felony convictions, the judge can impose harsher sentences through the Persistent Felony Offender law. For example, if you have 2 prior violent felony convictions, you can face at least 15-25 years to life for another felony.
  • Hate Crimes: If a crime was motivated by bias against a protected class like race, religion, or sexual orientation, the judge can impose an enhanced sentence. For example, a misdemeanor assault motivated by bias would become a Class D violent felony under the Hate Crimes Act of 2000.
  • Firearms Offenses: Illegally possessing or using a gun during a crime leads to longer sentences. For example, criminal possession of a weapon often jumps from a Class E to a Class C felony if guns are involved under the SAFE Act.

There are also other common sentencing enhancements like those for selling drugs near schools, crimes against the elderly or disabled, public corruption, and more as defined in New York Penal Code Article 70.

How Judges Apply Enhancements

Judges have quite a bit of discretion in applying sentencing enhancements in New York. According to criminal defense lawyers, they will consider factors like:

  • The number and severity of your prior convictions
  • Whether firearms or other weapons were used
  • If victims were particularly vulnerable
  • Your role in the crime (leader vs minor participant)
  • Evidence of malicious intent

So while a judge can impose an enhanced sentence if certain factors are present, they also may show leniency depending on the circumstances. However, some enhancements like under the Persistent Felony Offender law are very rigid.

That’s why having an experienced New York sentencing lawyer argue on your behalf is so important. They can present mitigating evidence and advocate for less harsh penalties even if enhancements apply.

Fighting Sentencing Enhancements

The best way to avoid sentencing enhancements is by fighting the underlying charges themselves. If you win at trial and are acquitted (found not guilty) then enhancements no longer apply.

However, if you take a plea deal or are convicted, there are still ways a skilled New York criminal defense lawyer can limit enhancements:

  • Negotiating plea deals without enhancements
  • Separating charges related to enhancements
  • Presenting mitigating circumstances
  • Appealing sentences reduced by enhancements

Additionally, your attorney can argue that previous out-of-state or federal convictions should not count as strikes under New York law. There may also be issues with the validity of prior guilty verdicts that they can raise.

Examples of New York Sentencing Enhancements

To understand how impactful sentencing enhancements can be, let’s look at some examples:

  • Robbery Conviction
    • No Enhancements – Class D Violent Felony: 2-7 years in prison
    • Armed with Gun – Class B Violent Felony: 6-25 years in prison
  • Drug Sale Conviction
    • No Enhancements – Class D Felony: 1-2.5 years in prison
    • Within 1,000 Feet of School – Class B Felony: 6-25 years in prison
  • Assault Conviction
    • No Enhancements – Class A Misdemeanor: 1 year maximum jail
    • Hate Crime – Class D Violent Felony: 2-7 years in prison

As you can see, the sentencing enhancements can seriously ratchet up the penalties faced. Having an attorney well-versed in New York criminal law is critical for overcoming these harsher sentences.

Finding a New York Sentencing Lawyer

If you or someone you love is facing charges in New York, don’t go through it alone. Connect with a skilled local defense lawyer to protect your rights. Visit or to find experienced attorneys near you.

The initial consultation is also typically free. This gives you the chance to ask them questions about the sentencing enhancements and options specific to your case. Here are some important things to ask:

  • How might sentencing enhancements apply based on charges?
  • What experience do you have handling enhancements?
  • What are the odds we avoid enhancements through dismissal or acquittal?
  • What approach will you take to mitigate enhancements if convicted?
  • What kind of sentencing outcome can I realistically expect?

Remember, every case is unique, so get personalized advice from a lawyer on your options. But we hope this overview gives you a better sense of how New York sentencing enhancements work and what you might be facing. Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions!


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