What Is a Sentence Enhancement?

Sentence EnhancementIf you are currently facing criminal charges in the State of Tennessee you should understand the possible penalties you also face if you are ultimately convicted on one, or more, of those charges. Unfortunately, simply googling a criminal offense and looking at the sentence range that applies may not give you the entire story. The reason for this is that additional facts and circumstances can have a direct, and often negative, impact on your sentence. For example, if a sentence enhancement applies in your case you could be sentenced to a longer period of incarceration than the maximum sentence for your offense would normally be. For this reason, you need to know if a sentence enhancement applies in your case. The only way to know for sure what penalties you are facing in your case is to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney but it may also be beneficial to understand what a sentence enhancement is and when they usually apply.

Every criminal offense, both at the federal and the state level, has a corresponding penalty range determined by the legislature. For example, let’s say you check the statute for the offense for which you are charged and it indicates that if convicted you are facing a potential sentence of 6-12 years and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Obviously, you hope you aren’t convicted and sent to prison but at least you know the “worst case scenario.” Except, you are convicted and at your sentencing hearing the judge sentences you to 15 years and a fine of $7,500. You are left wondering how that happened. Most likely because a sentence enhancement applied.

Sentence enhancements are essentially facts or circumstances in your crime that make the crime worse or more dangerous that then allow a judge to increase your sentence. Some common facts or circumstances that lead to a sentence enhancement include:

 ·Prior conviction for the same, or similar, offense.

  • ·This conviction qualifies you as a habitual offender.
  • ·You used, or carried, a weapon during the commission of the crime.
  • ·You injured someone during the commission of the crime.
  • ·You were on probation or out on bond when you committed the offense.
  • ·You committed the crime in a protected area (usually drug related offenses) such as near a school or playground.
  • ·The victim was a minor, elderly, or disabled.

The extent to which a sentence enhancement can increase your potential sentence can vary considerably which is why it is important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as you are charged with an offense.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.


Stan Bennett