Criminal Convictions & Subsequent Crimes
Not all crimes are considered serious, but any criminal convictions can have a significant impact on your life. This is especially true if you face a subsequent criminal charge. That is why it could be a wise idea to evaluate all your options before deciding whether to plead guilty or go to trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you with your decision.
Criminal Convictions as Evidence in Later Cases
If you already have a conviction on your record, the prosecution may be able to use it against you if you are later accused of another crime, especially if the two crimes are similar. State law determines how or if a prior conviction may be used in a later case:
- Introduced into evidence at trial—State laws vary greatly on the admissibility of prior convictions. Even if the prosecution was not allowed to introduce your conviction as evidence, if you choose to testify, the prosecutor's questions could lead you to admitting to the previous conviction. If that happens, the prosecution will often be allowed to pursue it.
- To enhance your sentence if convicted of the new charge—For some types of crimes, considering previous convictions of the same type during sentencing is actually mandatory. This is the case for DUIs. Each conviction increases the sentence.
Even old, out-of-state convictions can count against you. In some cases, sealed or expunged records can also be used. Again, laws vary by jurisdiction, so talking with a lawyer can help you understand your options.
Multiple Criminal Convictions and Immigration Status
Immigrants are especially vulnerable if they are convicted of two or more crimes of "moral turpitude." Many crimes can fall under this definition, including theft, domestic violence, and DUI. The potential consequences for immigrants of committing multiple crimes are severe. They include:
- Deportation—Authorities do have some discretion, but it is becoming more common to deport even legal immigrants for multiple convictions.
- Ineligibility for readmission—Some crimes also make you ineligible to ever come back to the United States. This is not true of all crimes.
- Disqualification from U.S. citizenship—Even if you are not deported, or if you are allowed back into the country later, multiple criminal convictions can make it hard to obtain citizenship.
If you have a criminal record and have been charged with a crime, make sure you talk with your lawyer about your previous convictions, so you can evaluate how, or if, that conviction could impact your current situation.