Sentencing Enhancement

Enhanced punishment means in a longer sentence. A national victims movement has promoted sentencing enhancements. Prior convictions or other aggravating circumstances can double a prison term. Sentencing enhancements can punish the defendant for his past. Examples include the location of the crime, or the status of the victim, and criminal history. Some types of sentencing enhancements include:

  • Firearms. Mississippi’s “trigger lock” law is patterned after the federal law and provides for a longer sentence if a gun is used or displayed.
  • Location. Generally drug convictions can have the sentence doubled for drug activity near a school, playground, or church.
  • Victim characteristics. Crimes against older crime victims such as burglary victims or vulnerable adults may result in longer sentences. Sex crimes against younger persons carry harsher penalties in Mississippi. Victims of hate crimes are targeted because of an affiliation with a social group.
  • Prior convictions. This is a repeat offender enhancement. Upon conviction for the current charge and proof of prior convictions, the judge can increase the penalty. There are numerous misdemeanors and felonies which qualify for a harsher penalty after a prior conviction.
  • Habitual offender. Mississippi was one of the first states to enact this “three strikes” law. Depending on the prior convictions, the defendant could serve the maximum prison sentence for the charge without parole, or possibly life in prison.
DUI - Driving Under the Influence

A second DUI conviction within 5 years is a misdemeanor but carries an enhanced penalty.

A third DUI conviction within 5 years is a felony and carries prison time.

A fourth DUI conviction in your entire lifetime is a very serious felony with a greater prison sentence.

A driver convicted of DUI with a child in the car is subject to increased penalties.

BUI - Boating Under the Influence

A second BUI conviction within 5 years is a misdemeanor and carries an enhanced penalty up to a year in jail plus other conditions.

A third BUI conviction within 5 years is a misdemeanor and carries a minimum of 30 days up to one year in jail plus other conditions.

A fourth BUI conviction within 5 years is a felony and carries up to 5 years in prison plus other conditions.

Shoplifting

Second offense in 7 years is a misdemeanor and subjects the defendant to jail time.

A third offense (same conduct) in 7 years is a felony and subjects the defendant to prison time.

Drugs

A second offense simple possession of marijuana under 30 grams carries an enhanced fine.

Third offense simple possession of marijuana less than 30 grams carries a greater fine and possible jail time.

A felony drug sentence can be doubled if the defendant has a prior drug conviction, or possesses, or sells drugs within 1500 feet of a school, church, or playground.

Firearm used in a Felony - Mississippi’s Trigger Lock Law.

If a gun is used or displayed during commission of any felony, an additional 5 year consecutive sentence is authorized, or 10 years if the defendant has a prior felony conviction. This provision is patterned after the federal trigger lock law.

Habitual Offender - Mississippi’s Three Strikes Law

Mississippi’s habitual offender law is similar to “three strikes” laws in other states. If a person has two prior felony convictions, he must serve the maximum sentence day for day on the next conviction. If a person has two prior felony convictions, one of which is a crime of violence, and has served at least a year on each, the defendant will be sentenced to life without parole on a third conviction.

Mississippi’s habitual offender laws are still subject to the United States Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The best Mississippi defense lawyers know how to raise defenses of proportionality and reasonableness. Your lawyer may also be able to reduce a habitual offender’s sentence after conviction.

Mississippi Hate Crime Enhancement

A hate crime, also called a bias-motivated crime, targets a victim due to affiliation with a particular social group. Examples include religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or physical appearance. Mississippi’s hate crime enhancement requires a specific finding by the jury. The prosecution must prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sex Crime Enhancement

Mississippi’s date rape law extends to drugging another person for sex. Slipping a chemical substance into someone’s drink to make the person mentally or physically incapable of giving consent to have sex is a serious crime. This applies even if the people know each other, have a preexisting relationship, or are married. The penalty can be up to life in prison.

Sexual battery is sexual penetration without permission. All sex crime sentences in Mississippi carry day-for-day prison time. A second conviction for sex battery carries a longer sentence. However, touching a child for lustful purposes, also called molestation, does not carry an enhanced penalty for a second offense.

Enhanceable Misdemeanor (Repeat Offender) Charges

Many misdemeanor crimes in Mississippi have enhanced penalties for repeat offenders. Some examples include:

  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
  • Carrying Concealed Weapon
  • Computer Fraud
  • Credit Card Theft
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Driving While License Suspended
  • Driving While License Suspended - Implied Consent
  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • Larceny - Gas Drive Off
  • Malicious Mischief
  • Passing Stopped School Bus
  • Petit Larceny
  • Possession of Marijuana
  • Possession of Synthetic Marijuana
  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Reckless Driving
  • Selling Alcohol to Minors
  • Selling Tobacco to Minors
  • Shoplifting and helping a minor shoplift
  • Shoplifting with Minor
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Municipal ordinances may have enhanced penalties for repeat offenses
Federal Sentencing Enhancements

The Armed Carrier Criminal Act (ACCA) is a federal law providing a fifteen year mandatory minimum sentence. If the defendant has three prior felonies considered “violent felony” or “ serious drug offenses,” he may qualify for sentencing under the ACCA.

Prior drug convictions can be used to increase or enhance a later conviction and the resulting sentence. Federal prosecutors are supposed to exercise restraint in filing enhancements. This enhancement, also known as an 851 enhancement, can add years to a federal sentence.

Federal weapons charges include sentencing enhancements for firearm possession in furtherance of another drug or violent crime.

Fighting Sentencing Enhancements

The prosecution must timely file written notice of intent to enhance punishment. Sometimes the enhancement notice is contained in the indictment. Alternatively, non-dispositive enhancements, such as prior convictions, may be filed by motion and heard by a judge. Elements of the offense enhancements, such as drug possession in proximity to a church, school, or playground, must be specified in the indictment and proven before a jury.

Prior convictions, including out of state convictions, must be properly authenticated. Out of state court records can be certified under Acts of Congress. Prior felony commitments can be proven by Pen Packs (Penitentiary Packets) prepared by the state where the conviction took place. There is an evidentiary presumption of regularity pertaining to governmental records. However the defendant is still presumed innocent.

Sentencing Enhancements Strong Arm Pleas

Even the threat of a sentencing enhancement can have the effect of strong arming the defendant into pleading guilty. This threat can be exercised by offering to drop an existing enhancement in exchange for a plea, or by filing a motion to enhance sentencing if the defendant goes to trial. Either way, sentencing enhancements can punish defendants for exercising their constitution right to trial.

Contact us Today

If you have been charged with a second offense, habitual offender, or other enhanced penalty, contact us today. Call the law office of Rufus Alldredge today at 228.863.0123. We are located at 1921 22nd Avenue in Gulfport, Mississippi.