How Can My Criminal History Affect My Current Case?

How Can My Criminal History Affect My Current Case

A criminal history can affect a current criminal case, primarily in terms of sentencing enhancements. For example, if you have prior convictions on your record, especially for the same offense, a judge may impose a harsher sentence in your current case.

If you are facing one or more criminal charges, a skilled criminal defense attorney can meet with you to discuss the charges and the circumstances of your arrest. They can also develop a plan of action for your case and work to obtain the best possible result.

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What Does the Prosecution Need To Prove in a Criminal Case?

In criminal cases involving homicide, sexual assault, and DUI (Driving Under the Influence), the prosecution has the burden of proving the accused’s (defendant’s) guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Each type of case has specific elements that must be established for a conviction.


What Does the Prosecution Need To Prove in a Criminal Case I Homicide

In a homicide case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant unlawfully caused the death of another person. The key elements include:

  • Actus Reus (Guilty Act) — This refers to the defendant’s action that resulted in the victim’s death. The prosecution must show that the act was deliberate or resulted from criminal negligence.
  • Mens Rea (Guilty Mind) — The prosecution must demonstrate the defendant’s intent. For first-degree murder, the prosecution must prove that the killing was premeditated and intentional. Second-degree murder usually involves intent without premeditation, while manslaughter involves reckless or negligent actions leading to death.
  • Causation — The defendant’s actions must be the direct cause of the victim’s death. It means showing that the death would not have occurred without the defendant’s actions.

Sexual Assault:

In a sexual assault case, the prosecution must prove:

  • Lack of Consent — The prosecution must show that the sexual activity occurred without the victim’s consent. It includes situations where the victim was coerced, threatened, unconscious, or otherwise unable to give consent.
  • Actus Reus — This involves proving that the defendant engaged in sexual contact or behavior with the victim. It can include physical evidence, witness testimony, and sometimes confessions.
  • Mens Rea — The prosecution needs to show that the defendant intentionally engaged in the sexual act, knowing that the victim did not consent.


For a DUI case, the prosecution must establish:

What Does the Prosecution Need To Prove in a Criminal Case I DUI
  • Operation of a Vehicle — The prosecution must prove that the defendant was operating or in control of a vehicle.
  • Impairment — Evidence must show that the defendant was impaired by alcohol or drugs while driving. Sobriety tests, breathalyzer results, or blood tests serve as evidence of impairment.
  • Illegality — The defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) must be above the legal limit, typically 0.08 percent, or the defendant was otherwise impaired to the extent that they could not safely operate the vehicle.

In all these cases, the prosecution relies on various types of evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence, expert opinions, and sometimes the defendant’s statements. The goal is to eliminate any reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind to obtain a conviction against the defendant.

If you are facing one or more of these criminal charges, a criminal defense lawyer can determine your eligibility for raising various legal defenses at trial.

Common Penalties and Collateral Consequences for a Homicide, Sexual Assault, or DUI Conviction

Convictions for serious crimes like homicide, sexual assault, and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) come with significant penalties and collateral consequences. Each type of crime carries its own set of punishments and long-term repercussions.


The penalties for homicide, which includes murder and manslaughter, vary depending on the degree of the crime:

  • First-degree Murder — This is the most severe, often resulting in life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and, in some states, the death penalty.
  • Second-degree Murder — Penalties typically include lengthy prison sentences, ranging from fifteen years to life.
  • Manslaughter — This includes voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Penalties usually involve prison time, ranging from a few years to several decades, depending on the circumstances.

Collateral consequences may include:

  • Loss of voting rights (in some states, even after release).
  • Difficulty finding employment due to a criminal record.
  • Ineligibility for certain professional licenses.
  • Social stigma and strained personal relationships.

Sexual Assault:

Sexual assault convictions carry severe penalties:

What Does the Prosecution Need To Prove in a Criminal Case I Sexually Assault
  • Prison Sentences — These can range from several years to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the assault and the age of the victim.
  • Sex Offender Registration — Convicted individuals must register as sex offenders, often for life. This registry is public and can severely affect housing and employment opportunities.

Collateral consequences may include:

  • Mandatory counseling and treatment programs.
  • Restrictions on living near schools or parks.
  • Loss of parental rights in some cases.
  • Long-term social ostracism.


Penalties for DUI offenses increase with the severity and frequency of the offense:

  • First Offense — This may result in fines, license suspension, community service, mandatory alcohol education programs, and possibly jail time.
  • Repeat Offenses — These can lead to longer jail sentences, longer license suspensions, larger fines, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (a breathalyzer for the car).

Collateral consequences may include:

  • Increased auto insurance rates
  • Difficulty obtaining or maintaining employment, especially jobs requiring driving
  • A permanent criminal record that can affect future opportunities

In all these cases, beyond the legal penalties, individuals can face long-lasting effects on their personal and professional lives. Convictions may also create barriers to reintegration into society, making it difficult to move forward.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can work to lessen the penalties and collateral consequences you face.

Ways That Criminal History Can Affect a Current Criminal Case

A person’s criminal history can significantly affect their current criminal case in various ways. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys consider prior convictions and charges when handling a new case. Here are some of the main ways criminal history can affect the outcome:

Sentencing Enhancements:

  • Repeat Offender Laws — Many jurisdictions have laws that impose harsher penalties on individuals with previous convictions. For instance, “three-strikes” laws can lead to life sentences for repeat offenders.
  • Habitual Offender Status — Defendants with a history of similar offenses can face enhanced sentencing. For example, a person with multiple DUI convictions can face longer jail time, higher fines, and extended license suspensions.

Bail and Pretrial Release:

  • Increased Bail Amounts — A defendant with a criminal record is often considered a higher risk, leading to higher bail amounts or denial of bail altogether.
  • Stricter Conditions — Individuals with past offenses can face stricter pretrial release conditions, such as electronic monitoring or house arrest, to ensure they do not commit further crimes while awaiting trial.

Plea Bargains:

  • Less Leniency — Prosecutors may be less willing to offer favorable plea deals to defendants with prior convictions. They may push for harsher penalties or be less flexible in negotiations.
  • Ineligibility for Diversion Programs — Some alternative sentencing options, like drug court or diversion programs, may not be available to individuals with significant criminal histories.

Trial Proceedings:

  • Impeachment of Credibility — During a trial, the defense or prosecution may use a defendant’s past convictions to challenge their credibility if they testify. This can sway the jury’s perception of the defendant’s honesty and reliability.
  • Pattern of Behavior — Prosecutors can argue that a defendant’s criminal history shows a pattern of behavior, suggesting they are more likely to have committed the current offense.

Probation and Parole:

  • Revocation Risk — For defendants on probation or parole, a new offense can lead to revocation and imposition of the original sentence — in addition to penalties for the new crime.
  • Stricter Supervision — Individuals with criminal histories may face stricter probation or parole conditions, such as more frequent check-ins or mandatory counseling.

A criminal history may complicate a defendant’s legal situation, potentially leading to harsher penalties, stricter conditions, and fewer opportunities for leniency. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can work to lessen the effects of your criminal history on your current case.

Common Legal Defenses to a Homicide, Sexual Assault, or DUI Charge

Defending against charges like homicide, sexual assault, or DUI requires strategic legal defenses tailored to the specifics of each case. Here are some common defenses used in these serious criminal cases:


  • Self-defense — The defendant claims they acted to protect themselves from imminent harm or death. Evidence must show that the use of force was necessary and proportionate to the threat faced.
  • Insanity — This defense argues that the defendant was not mentally capable of understanding their actions or distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the crime. It usually requires psychiatric evaluation and expert testimony.
  • Accident — The defendant contends that the death was unintentional and occurred as a result of a tragic accident rather than a deliberate act.
  • Alibi — An alibi is proof that the defendant was elsewhere when the crime occurred. It can involve witness testimony, video footage, or other evidence that the defendant was away from the scene.

Sexual Assault:

  • Consent — The defense asserts that the sexual activity was consensual. It can be challenging, as it often relies on conflicting testimonies and the credibility of both parties.
  • False Accusation — The defense argues that the victim fabricated the assault for reasons such as revenge, jealousy, or misunderstanding. It can involve scrutinizing the victim’s motives and presenting alternative explanations.
  • Mistaken Identity — This defense claims that the defendant was wrongly identified as the perpetrator. DNA evidence, eyewitness misidentification, or alibi witnesses can support this defense.
  • Insufficient Evidence — The defense argues that the prosecution’s evidence is not strong enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This may involve questioning the reliability of forensic evidence or highlighting inconsistencies in witness testimonies.


  • Improper Stop — The defense contends that the police lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop the defendant’s vehicle, making any evidence obtained inadmissible.
  • Faulty Testing Procedures — The defense can challenge the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results. It can involve questioning the calibration of equipment or the administration of the tests.
  • Medical Conditions — Some medical conditions can mimic signs of intoxication or affect breathalyzer results. The defense can argue that the defendant’s behavior or test results were due to a medical issue rather than alcohol or drug impairment.
  • Lack of Evidence — The defense can argue that the prosecution cannot prove the defendant was impaired at the time of driving. This can involve disputing witness statements or presenting evidence of the defendant’s normal behavior.

By using these defenses, criminal defense attorneys aim to create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors, potentially leading to reduced charges or acquittals.

How an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help with a Case

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can be crucial in navigating a criminal case. Their skill, knowledge of the legal system, and strategic approach can significantly influence the outcome. They can help in the following ways:

  • Legal Knowledge — A seasoned lawyer understands the intricacies of criminal law, including statutes, precedents, and legal procedures. They can explain the charges, potential penalties, and the legal process to the defendant, ensuring they are well-informed.
  • Case Assessment — An experienced lawyer can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the case against the defendant. They can identify critical issues, such as procedural errors or insufficient evidence, which they can use in the defense.
  • Developing a Defense Strategy — A skilled lawyer will craft a tailored defense strategy based on the case’s specifics. This strategy may involve challenging the evidence, presenting alibi witnesses, or negotiating plea deals.
  • Evidence Handling — An experienced attorney knows how to collect, analyze, and present evidence effectively. They can hire experts, such as forensic specialists or private investigators, to support the defense.
  • Advocacy — A defense lawyer will advocate vigorously for the defendant in court. It includes making opening statements, cross-examining witnesses, and presenting closing arguments.
  • Negotiation Skills — Often, cases resolve through plea bargains. A skilled lawyer can negotiate with prosecutors to secure a reduced sentence or lesser charges.
  • Ensuring Fair Treatment — A defense attorney protects the defendant’s rights throughout the legal process. This includes safeguarding against unlawful searches, coercion, or improper interrogation techniques.
  • Lessening Potential Consequences — Even if a conviction seems likely, an experienced lawyer can work to mitigate the consequences. This can involve arguing for reduced sentences or alternative sentencing options like probation or rehabilitation programs.
  • Guidance and Support — Facing criminal charges can be stressful and overwhelming. An experienced lawyer provides guidance, reassurance, and moral support, helping the defendant navigate this challenging time.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential for anyone facing criminal charges. Their knowledge, strategic thinking, and dedication can significantly affect the outcome of a case, ensuring the best possible defense and protecting the defendant’s rights and future.

Contact a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away

If you are currently facing one or more criminal charges, you need to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can review your legal options with you, aggressively protect your rights, and pursue the best possible result.

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