How Your Criminal History Could Affect Your Current Case
September 17, 2022 | Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law
A criminal history has numerous collateral consequences beyond the criminal penalties you receive for a criminal conviction. Your criminal record can impact your career, family court cases, educational loans, housing situation, and other aspects of your life. Your criminal history could also affect current and future criminal cases.
Examples of the impact your criminal history can have on a current criminal case include:
Effect on the Type of Criminal Charge You Face
California criminal offenses fall into three categories:
- Infractions (least serious)
- Felonies (most serious)
Some criminal charges are what we call “wobbler” offenses. A wobbler offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor is the one who decides how to charge the crime.
The prosecutor considers several factors when deciding how to charge a wobbler offense. Aggravating factors often increase the charge to a felony. However, your criminal record could also negatively impact whether you face a misdemeanor charge or a felony offense.
A priorable offense counts against you if you are charged with the same or similar offense in the future. Driving under the influence (DUI) in California is an example of a priorable offense.
Suppose you have a prior DUI conviction or wet reckless conviction on your record. The penalties for a subsequent drunk driving charge increase. If you have three DUIs within the past 10 years, the fourth DUI will likely be charged as a felony.
Judges look unfavorable at defendants who have long criminal records. Even if the offense does not count against you for charging or sentencing purposes, the judge may decide to sentence you to the maximum penalty for your current case.
California’s Three Strikes Law
The state enacted the Three Strikes Law in 1994. Your criminal history can have a serious impact on sentencing under this law. If you receive a second felony conviction, the sentence is double the prison term for your second felony conviction.
A third strike could result in life in prison. The law was amended in 2012 to require a third strike that is a serious or violent felony to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Expunged Convictions Can Be Used Against You
Many criminal convictions in California are eligible for expungement. However, expungement does not mean that the prosecutor cannot see the prior convictions. Therefore, even expunged convictions could increase a charge to a felony or result in harsher penalties for a conviction or guilty plea.
That does not mean you should not try to expunge past convictions from your criminal record. On the contrary, expungement or “cleaning your record” has many benefits.
The Clean Slate Act makes many new misdemeanor crimes eligible for automatic expungement, including sealing the record. Individuals with convictions before January 1, 2021, can still petition the court for expungement.
Using Your Criminal History Against You in Court
In most cases, your criminal history cannot be brought up during a trial. Generally, a prosecutor cannot tell jurors about your prior criminal convictions. However, there is an exception.
A prosecutor could use a prior felony conviction to impeach your credibility if you chose to testify at your trial. The same is true for any witness testifying during a trial. Some exceptions to this rule include:
- You were granted a pardon based on innocence
- The prior felony conviction was not a crime of moral turpitude
- You were granted a certificate of rehabilitation or pardon
Your criminal history is not used as evidence of your guilt as to the current crime, but the information could change the juror’s perception of you. Some misdemeanor convictions could be disclosed during trial under the right circumstances.
How Can You Prevent Your Criminal History From Being Used Against You?
Once you have a criminal record, that record is for life. There are very few cases in which a criminal conviction can be removed from your record. Even if the case is sealed so that it is not a matter of public record, the courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers can still see the record.
The only way to prevent a criminal record is to avoid a conviction. The first step is to stop talking to the police. Answering questions, making a statement, and negotiating with a prosecutor without a lawyer present are not in your best interest.
Second, hire a San Jose criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Relying on being “innocent until proven guilty” can result in a conviction. The state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but that does not mean you don’t need a solid defense when you go to court.
A criminal defense attorney investigates the charges and gathers evidence for your defense. If going to trial is too risky, your lawyer can often negotiate a better plea agreement than the prosecutor would have offered you if you represented yourself.
The steps you take now can determine whether you have a criminal record to deal with in the future.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law Today For Help.
Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law – San Jose Office
1922 The Alameda #201, San Jose, CA 95126
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