Aggressive Representation

How can being a repeat offender impact a criminal defense case?

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

For some people, getting arrested is a powerful wake-up call. They recognize that they need to make some changes to their lifestyles if they want to benefit from a bright future. Prosecution can prompt some people to seek substance abuse treatment, enter counseling to deal with anger issues or commit to developing a better career.

However, not everyone accused of criminal activity makes changes immediately after their first criminal conviction. This happens for a variety of reasons because everyone’s life experience is unique. Recidivism is a very serious issue in the criminal justice world. Someone who has broken a law once is statistically more likely than a member of the general public to break the same law again in the future.

Ultimately, a prior offense on someone’s criminal record can result in a variety of consequences if they are charged with wrongdoing again. For example, they may face harsher sentences if convicted than they would as a first-time offender.

Repeat offenses risk harsher penalties

Louisiana criminal statutes allow judges to impose harsher penalties on those who have previously violated the same statute. In some cases, repeatedly violating the same law can take an offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) charges are a good example. A first OWI is a misdemeanor charge that could lead to between 10 days and six months in jail, 12 months without a driver’s license and up to $1,000 in fines.

A second offense will also be a misdemeanor, but the penalties shift a bit. The minimum jail sentence increases from 10 days to 30 days, although the maximum is still 6 months. The fine still has a limit of $1,000, but the minimum is $750 for a second offense instead of $300 for a first offense. The license suspension will increase to 24 months.

A third offense will be a felony that will lead to between one and five years in jail, $2,000 in fines and 36 months without a driver’s license. Different types of criminal charges do have different lookback periods. For an OWI offense in Louisiana, subsequent offenses typically need to occur within 10 years of the first to trigger enhanced penalties.

Those accused of repeatedly violating the law, therefore, need to understand both how the state enhances the penalties and how long prosecutors can look back at a record when deciding what penalties to impose. Recognizing how a prior offense can worsen subsequent charges might motivate people to fight back after a second arrest or fight more aggressively against a first criminal charge.