How Could My Criminal History Affect My Current Case?
If you have been in trouble with the law, you have experienced how a court can control your life. If you have a criminal history, the collateral effects can last much longer than the case itself. A prior criminal record can prevent you from getting certain jobs, living in certain places, and can even prevent you from getting bank loans.
A prior criminal history can also affect your current case in several ways. If you are facing a criminal charge and have a criminal history, it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
Criminal Offense Types
Most states divide criminal offenses into two major categories: misdemeanors and felonies. California includes two other categories known as infractions and wobbler offenses. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that carries a maximum of one year in jail. A felony is a criminal offense that has the potential of state prison time.
A wobbler offense can be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies. A prosecutor decides whether to charge a wobbler offense as a misdemeanor or felony. Having a prior criminal history can have a negative effect on many kinds of current criminal charges.
How Your Criminal History Can Influence New Charges
Having a criminal history generally has a negative impact on new criminal charges. When a prosecutor or judge sees the same person more than once, they are likely to treat the individual more harshly the second time around. The law allows judges and prosecutors to do this.
If you have a criminal history and are facing a wobbler offense, don’t be surprised if the prosecutor decides to charge you with a felony. Even if you have previously successfully completed a pre-trial diversion program, new charges will be looked at unfavorably.
If you are back in court on a repeated offense, then your new criminal charges can result in harsher punishment for the same conduct. Drunk driving (DUI) is a prime example. If you are charged with a second or subsequent DUI, you will be facing more serious potential punishments than you did the first time around.
How Your Criminal History Can Increase Punishment
California’s Three Strikes Law was enacted in 1994. It provided that a defendant who has a previous felony conviction be sentenced to double the prison sentence for any new felony conviction. If the same defendant was convicted of two prior felonies, the law mandated a 25-to-life prison term.
In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36, which required a third-strike offender to commit a serious or violent felony to receive a 25-to-life sentence. Under the law, anyone serving a 25-to-life sentence for an offense that is not a serious or violent felony can petition for resentencing.
Those who face mandatory minimum sentences can be subject to extremely harsh penalties. Mandatory minimums can punish seemingly minor criminal conduct. Currently, there has been discussion in the California legislature about getting rid of mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug crimes. Senate Bill 73 aims to accomplish this goal.
Can Your Criminal Record Be Brought Up in Front of a Jury?
In most circumstances, a jury is not permitted to hear about your criminal past. This rule is meant to prevent juries from judging a person on unrelated prior conduct. If a jury hears about a defendant’s criminal past, they may become biased against them. However, this rule is not absolute. There are circumstances where a criminal past can be brought up in front of a jury.
Suppose you are charged with a crime and decide to testify in your own defense. In this case, prosecutors may be able to bring up certain prior convictions for crimes of dishonesty to discredit you. When a witness is on the stand, their character for truthfulness is at issue. Prior convictions for dishonest behavior can be used to attack a witness’s character for truthfulness.
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney for Help
If you are charged with a crime and are wondering about how your criminal history can affect you, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.