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Criminal Repeat Offenses

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What Are Repeat Offenses?

Under state and federal laws, “Repeat Offenses” occur when a person commits a crime that they have once been prosecuted and convicted for. The exact definition of a repeat offense depends on the type of crime that has been committed.

A crime will be considered a repeat offense if it occurs within a given time frame specified by repeat offense laws.  For example, many state DUI statutes state that a person is guilty of a repeat DUI offense if the current charges occur within 5 years of the previous DUI charge. 

Also, the person must have been convicted and not merely charged of the previous crime in order for a subsequent offense to be considered a repeat offense. A person who is convicted of a repeat offense is sometimes referred to as a “repeat offender”, especially if the crimes involved DUI or sexual assault.

What Are Some Common Examples of Repeat Offenses?

Repeat offenses are most common in connection with DUI crimes and sexual assault crimes. They are also common for substance abuse crimes due to the addictive nature of drugs and alcohol. Repeat offenses are also common for minor offenses such as shoplifting and petty theft. 

A repeat offense can also occur for violations of court orders that were issued by a judge. For example, a person can be a repeat offender if they repeatedly violated child custody and visitation orders, restraining orders, or probation requirements.

What Are the Punishments for Repeat Offenses?

Punishments for repeat offenses will be different depending on the nature of the crime. However, one thing is true for most repeat offenses: a repeat offense will usually result in more severe penalties than for the first offense. This is known as “sentence enhancement”, meaning that penalties get increasingly more severe as the offenses are repeated. 

For example, a first-time DUI conviction is usually punishable as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors result in small fines and less than one year in jail. However, in most states, a second or third-time DUI charge can result in felony charges. Felonies are punishable by higher fines and a prison sentence possibly exceeding one year.

In addition, repeat offenses can result in additional measures, especially if the judge determines that the defendant may have behavioral issues or is chemical dependent on a substance. These additional measures may include:

  • Substance abuse rehabilitation classes
  • Anger management courses
  • Community service
  • Mandatory psychiatric/psychological counseling

Finally, it is common for a repeat offender to lose some of their rights due to the offenses. These can include a loss of the right to own a gun, child custody/visitation rights, and a loss of driving privileges. These losses can either be temporary or permanent depending on the severity of the repeat offenses.

Is it Necessary to Contact a Lawyer for Repeat Offenses?

If you are facing charges for a crime, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney, especially if it is for a repeat offense. Repeat offenses can result in significantly stricter penalties, even for minor crimes like shoplifting. An experienced criminal lawyer can assist you with any questions you may have and defend you in court.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-30-2016 07:34 AM PDT

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