habitual criminal

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A habitual criminal, also known as a repeat offender, refers to a person who has been previously convicted of one or more crimes in the past and is currently facing new charges. Repeat offenders tend to commit the same type of crime over and over again, but a person does not necessarily have to commit the same crime in order to be considered a repeat or habitual offender. Examples of crimes that habitual offenders often commit include drug crimes, burglary, robbery, petty larceny, assault, trespassing, sex offenses, and driving while intoxicated (DWI).

To deter individuals from becoming habitual offenders, many states have implemented laws known as habitual offender laws (see example of California below). These laws aim to decrease the rate of repeated criminal activity by increasing the severity of punishment and intensifying the requirements for probation or parole. The penalties for habitual offenders may include longer prison sentences, supervised probation, higher fines, revocation or suspension of licenses, and the loss of certain civil liberties.

Other factors that may impact the penalties faced by habitual offenders include whether the case involves the same criminal charges as their last conviction, the length of time between the new offense and their last conviction, whether a habitual offender was already on probation for a previous crime, and the offender's prior criminal history.

California Penal Code 667 (e)(2)(A) states that a defendant who has been convicted of a violent or serious felony and has two prior convictions of violent or serious felonies, to be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison. Additionally, it stipulates that a defendant who has previously been convicted of a serious or violent felony must be given a sentence that is double the standard sentence for any California felony conviction.

[Last updated in January of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]