Aggravating Circumstances

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  • Conditions relating to a criminal act that intensify the severity of the crime. The increased severity is generally understood as an imperative to enhance punishment. The term is commonly associated with death penalty statutes. In 1972, the Supreme Court called into question the constitutionality of capital punishment on the grounds that it was not administered fairly. In response to this objection, legislatures developed capital punishment laws with more structure. A common development was the mandate that a crime's aggravating circumstances be weighed against the mitigating circumstances to determine whether the death penalty is an equitable punishment.

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