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If you have a criminal history, you have probably already seen its effects on your daily life. Having a criminal past may have prevented you from getting a job, an apartment, or even a loan from a financial institution. Unfortunately, it is common to have these issues recur over and over again.
Your criminal history can also influence any new criminal charges against you. If you are facing a criminal charge and have a prior criminal record, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
Criminal charges are generally separated into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Non-criminal offenses are known as infractions. A misdemeanor is a minor criminal offense where the maximum penalty is one year in jail, while a felony is a major criminal offense that can result in at least one year of prison time.
In Arizona, there is an additional category known as “wobbler” offenses. A wobbler offense is one that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. No matter what the crime, a prior criminal history can influence the misdemeanor or felony charges in your current case.
Your criminal history will have a negative influence on any new charges prosecutors bring against you. Prior criminal convictions or diversions can result in the prosecutor treating you more harshly and charging higher offenses. Suppose you have a criminal record, and the prosecutor has the option to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony for a wobbler offense. In this case, it is a safe bet that the prosecutor will look to charge you with the more serious felony instead of the misdemeanor.
If you are back in court on the same or similar charge from your past, then your new charges can result in harsher consequences for the same crime. Drunk driving (DUI) is an example of this; you can face increased charges for each DUI. If you are charged with a second or subsequent DUI, you will face more serious charges than you did on your first DUI charge.
Felony sentencing in Arizona is largely determined by the Arizona Sentencing Guidelines. The Arizona Sentencing Guidelines categorizes crimes and criminal history to help judges determine an appropriate criminal sentence. A felony conviction can result in state prison time.
A serious felony conviction can result in life in state prison or even the death penalty. The death penalty has not been administered in Arizona since 2014, but it appears that the state is preparing to restart death penalty sentences.
Those who face mandatory minimum sentences can face even stiffer penalties under Arizona law. Anyone who is a repeat offender in Arizona can have their sentence enhanced by a judge under the Arizona sentencing guidelines.
In general, prosecutors cannot discuss your criminal record in front of a jury except for in specific situations. The simple mention of your criminal past in front of a jury can result in unfair bias against you.
However, suppose you are charged with a crime and take the stand to testify in your own defense. In this case, any prior convictions related to dishonesty can be brought up in front of the jury to undermine your credibility. The reason for this is that the honesty and truthfulness of a witness are always at issue.
So, if you have a prior conviction for shoplifting or fraud, then the prosecutor can bring that up when they cross-examine you. There are other scenarios when your criminal record can be brought up. Make sure you speak to an attorney to see if they apply to you.
It is important to gather as much information as you can when you are facing criminal charges. While finding a website such as ours may help you answer some general questions, online research should never take the place of professional legal advice.
If you have questions about how your criminal history could affect you in your current case, contact a Phoenix criminal defense attorney for help.