In a criminal law setting, a prior conviction is when a person is being tried for a crime, but their record indicates that they have been convicted and sentenced for a previous crime. In many instances this might indicate a prior conviction for the crime that they’re currently being tried for. However, technically speaking, a prior conviction can consist of any type of criminal violations in the past.

How Can Prior Convictions Affect the Outcome of a Case?

Having prior convictions on one’s record can have various effects on one’s life and on current or future criminal proceedings. For instance, prior convictions can have effects such as:

  • They can increase the sentencing in a current, ongoing trial. For instance, if the normal jail sentencing for a crime is 1 year, the person might be required to serve a longer jail sentence due to their prior convictions.
  • Prior felony convictions can count towards "strikes" on one’s record in states that practice Three Strike laws (i.e., life sentences for a third felony conviction).
  • Certain misdemeanors might be tried as felonies if the person has prior convictions, especially for the same crime in question.

In addition, prior convictions on one’s record can have other effects on the person’s life. For example, prior convictions can affect one’s immigration rights, child custody rights, driving privileges, and ability to secure certain types of employment. Some criminal convictions may be removed from one’s record through record sealing or expungement processes.

What Are Some Common Criminal Convictions?

As mentioned, any criminal convictions can be considered a prior conviction once it’s entered into the person’s record. However, certain convictions often appear more frequently on people’s criminal records. These include:

If a person has prior convictions for the same crime, they may be considered a habitual offender for that type of crime. These often involve crimes that deal with addictive or repetitive behavior, such as drug crimes or theft crimes. Repeat or habitual offenders may face increased legal penalties, and may be required to undergo alternative rehabilitation methods, such as counseling or other options.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Criminal Case?

Criminal violations can often lead to serious consequences. These consequences may become more severe if the person has a prior criminal conviction. You may need to hire a expungement lawyer if you need representation during any type of criminal case or proceeding. A lawyer can help assist you during trial and can represent you during court meetings. Also, if you need information regarding getting a prior conviction expunged or erased from your record, your lawyer can help with that process as well.