What Defines an Aggravated Crime?

The term “aggravated crime” carries serious implications, often leading to harsher punishments for those found guilty. Understanding what factors elevate a crime to this level is crucial, especially in a state known for its tough stance on crime.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what makes a crime aggravated in Texas. We will examine closely the specific offenses that are commonly classified as aggravated crimes and discuss the potential consequences for individuals who find themselves facing these charges. This exploration will provide insight into how aggravated crimes impact individuals navigating the legal system.

Definition of “Aggravated” in Texas Law

In Texas Penal Code Chapter 22, an aggravated criminal act is defined as:

  • Causing serious bodily harm to someone intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.
  • Using or displaying a weapon during the commission of a crime, including threatening another person with serious bodily injury.

In Texas, Deadly Conduct is a separate crime from aggravated offenses and occurs when someone:

  • Recklessly endangers another person, placing them at risk of serious bodily injury.
  • Knowingly fires a gun at a dwelling, building, or vehicle without caring if it is occupied.

“Serious bodily injury” in these cases refers to injuries that can lead to death, permanent disfigurement, or loss of function in any part of the body. “Reckless” refers to acting without considering the consequences, without necessarily intending to harm someone, but showing a clear disregard for the possible outcomes.

What Does It Mean When A Criminal Charge Is “Aggravated”? 

Being accused of an “aggravated” crime means the accused has done something to make the crime more serious, such as using a deadly weapon during a robbery. These crimes carry higher penalties, with prosecutors seeking longer sentences and higher fines.

Examples of Aggravating Factors

In Texas, certain factors can make an offense more serious, leading to harsher penalties. These include:

  • Having a prior criminal history.
  • Showing deliberate cruelty to a victim.
  • Causing a mental or physical injury that permanently alters the victim’s life.
  • Committing offenses against particularly vulnerable victims, such as children, the elderly, or individuals with disabilities, as well as pregnant women.
  • Using or displaying a deadly weapon during the crime.
  • In drug crimes, engaging in multiple transactions, holding a high position in the drug trade, or violating a position of trust, such as that of a doctor or pharmacist.
  • In sex crimes, factors like an ongoing pattern of sexual violence against a minor, multiple incidents or victims of domestic violence, committing a domestic violence crime in the presence of minor children, the crime involving an “egregious lack of remorse,” or sex trafficking involving minors.

Crimes That Are Potentially Aggravated

An aggravated crime, also known as an enhancement or special circumstance, is designed to increase the severity of punishment for an offense. While almost any crime can be subject to an “aggravated” charge, there are some common types that often receive this classification. These include, but are not limited to:


Simple assault is typically a misdemeanor, whereas aggravated assault is consistently a second-degree felony in Texas. However, it can be upgraded to a first-degree felony under specific conditions, such as targeting certain individuals or using certain methods during the assault.


An aggravated robbery in Texas, often referred to as “armed robbery,” occurs when a weapon is used or displayed, when there’s a threat of bodily harm, or when there’s a threat to use a weapon.

Sexual Assault

Aggravated sexual assault or battery happens when a weapon is used or there is forced unwanted sexual contact with a threat of harm. If the assault involves penetration, it is classified as rape.

The Impact of Aggravated Crimes on Sentencing

Any charge that includes an “aggravated” enhancement can lead to a longer jail or prison sentence and/or a larger fine compared to the same crime without the enhancement.

  • State Jail Felony: Up to two years in jail, a fine up to $10,000, or both
  • Third-degree felony: Two to ten years in prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both
  • Second-degree felony: Two to 20 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both
  • First-degree felony: Five to 99 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both

Repeat Offenses

In Texas, repeat convictions can lead to significantly increased fines and penalties. The state’s three-strikes law means that after two prior convictions, a third offense can result in the maximum penalty. This rule applies if the new offense occurs after the previous cases are closed, making even minor charges much more serious for repeat offenders.

Capital Cases (Death Penalty)

In places where murder can result in the death penalty, specific conditions, known as aggravating circumstances, must be met.

  • Murdering more than one person
  • Killing vulnerable individuals like children or the elderly
  • Committing murder for payment
  • Inflicting extreme cruelty or torture during the murder
  • Killing a law enforcement officer

The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to determine if these conditions exist beyond a reasonable doubt before imposing the death penalty.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

What sets a crime apart as “aggravated” in Texas? It’s not just about the act itself; it’s about the circumstances surrounding it. When a crime is deemed aggravated, the penalties become more severe. Aggravated crimes often result in prosecutors seeking longer sentences. They also lead to higher fines for those facing these charges.

Understanding the differences is crucial for protecting your rights and ensuring fair treatment under the law. If you or someone you know is facing an aggravated charge, it is crucial to seek the guidance of a skilled defense attorney. They can provide the necessary legal representation and support. By being informed and proactive, you can navigate the complexities of the legal system with confidence.