Some states have enacted statutes that provide for longer sentences for those who have been frequently convicted of crimes. These laws increase the sentence for a crime beyond that of a first time offender if you have been found guilty of previous crimes. Even if your state doesn’t have a statute on habitual offenders, sentencing may still be affected by your prior criminal history.

The specific circumstances of previous crimes are not reconsidered. Only the nature of the present and prior conviction and the time span between them is considered. Habitual offenders usually are exposed to harsher penalties since they are repeat offenders and are not just first-time offenders.

What Types of Crimes Count Towards Habitual Offenses?

Felonies most often result in increased sentencing. Certain misdemeanors may be charged as felonies if you have had one or more prior convictions for the same offense. A habitual offender will be someone who commits the same type of misdemeanor or felony offense. There are certain statutes that vary from state to state that deal with habitual offenders. For example, some states only deal with repeat offenders that involve certain violent crimes, while other states deal with repeat offenders that commit drug crimes.

What is the Three Strikes Law?

Three strikes laws exist in several states and mandate potentially permanent imprisonment (e.g. 25 years to life) for those convicted of a felony on three separate occasions. The philosophy behind three strikes laws is that a person who commits more than two felonies is a habitual criminal with little possibility of reform and should be imprisoned for the good of society.

I Think I Might be Tried as a Habitual Offender, Do I Need a Lawyer?

Each state has different laws regarding a habitual offender. A criminal defense lawyer can explain the habitual offender laws in your state and how the court will treat your case. In addition to advising you, a lawyer can defend you in court.