A criminal repeat offense occurs when an individual commits the same unlawful act they were prosecuted and convicted of at a previous time. Recidivism occurs when a convicted criminal reoffends. It is important to note that being charged for a crime but not ultimately convicted for it, does not constitute a criminal repeat offense.

A criminal offense is an illegal act that violates the moral standards of society. Crimes can range from less serious offenses called misdemeanors to more serious felony crimes. With criminal matters, the party that brings the lawsuit is typically the government.

This can include different levels of government ranging from city, county, state to federal. If the defendant is found guilty of a criminal offense, the government imposes punishments. Examples of punishments include:  jail time, fines, probation, etc. Punishments for repeat offenders are typically more severe.

Why Do Repeat Offenses Occur?

Once a criminal has served their time, if a reoffense occurs, it is more likely that they will reoffend within a three year timeframe of being released from prison. There is no singular answer to the question as to why a former criminal reoffends. There are, however, some striking trends worth mentioning.

  • Mental Illness: Most individuals with mental health illness that are in the prison system go without proper treatment during their incarceration. Once released, the formerly imprisoned individuals battling mental health issues often lack: 
    • Necessary coping skills; 
    • Proper medication; 
    • Proper therapy; and 
    • Other treatments and/or resources. 
      • This inadequacy in the system for these individuals, frequently results in circumstances wherein they may place themselves in bad situations and thus return to a life of crime. 
  • Unemployment: It is often difficult for individuals to find work once released from prison. For some individuals, their prior work experience is limited thus they are seen as unemployable in the job market and others have difficulty finding an employer willing to hire someone with a criminal past. Sadly, reverting back to criminal habits is viewed as a solution to moving forward for some. 
  • Drug and Alcohol Addiction: Few incarcerated individuals with substance abuse problems receive proper treatment. Once released from jail, many of these individuals seek out their old addiction habits. In order to fund their dependence on drugs or alcohol they resort to crime. Others with addiction issues may not commit theft to fund their habits, however, their dependency issues result in other crimes such as driving under the influence.

Although state and federal laws have been implemented across the nation in an effort to reduce recidivism, many believe that more should be done.

What are Defenses and Mitigating Factors for Repeat Offenses?

In some instances a court will take into consideration valid defenses or mitigating factors that may in turn lessen the fault of a defendant. Examples of such defenses and mitigating factors include:

  • Mistaken Identity: this is a classic defense that still carries weight in the courtroom if the defendant can show they were not to blame for the criminal act.
  • Minimal Role in the Crime: if there are other actors involved in the crime and the defendant can show they minimally participated, the court may consider this mitigating factor.
  • Solid Alibi: another classic defense occurs when the defendant can show they were not able to participate in the crime because they were in a different location during the commission of the crime.
  • Victim Participated in Crime: if the defense team can prove that the victim willingly and/or knowingly participated in the criminal activities, the court may take this into consideration and diminish the defendant’s fault.
  • Stress-Induced situation: may be brought on by dangerous or other uncontrollable factors wherein the defendant’s guilt may be excused or lessened.
  • Mental Illness: may also prove to be a defense or mitigating factor during a defendant’s court case.
  • Remorse: expressing sincere regret about the actions and involvement in a crime can impact the resulting punishment.

This list highlights the importance that a defendant’s case must be fully explored because there may be factors that excuse the potential crime or at least minimize the defendant’s culpability in the crime. This is crucial, especially in repeat offense matters, because, as noted above, oftentimes, courts impose harsher penalties on defendants already found guilty in a previous criminal matter.

The notion of a second chance diminishes in the legal world for defendants found guilty of a repeat offense. For example, some states impose a “three strikes” penalty on defendants found guilty of three prior felony matters.

Should I Call an Attorney If I am a Repeat Offender?

If you or someone you know is convicted of any criminal offense, including a criminal repeat offense, it is a good idea to contact a knowledgeable local criminal defense attorney to assist with achieving the best possible results in the case.

An experienced criminal law attorney can assist with understanding the consequences as well as any defenses to a repeat offense. The attorney will be able to provide any and all options available in the matter. As in any legal matter, a lawyer will assist with providing sound advice as well as preserving your rights as a defendant in the criminal justice system.