A criminal record or prior convictions can affect your current criminal case and defense in Greensboro, NC. But how big an impact will it make? Individuals in Greensboro, NC, who are facing criminal charges are asking this question because it is crucial to understand the weight of previous criminal history in current and future charges. Gaining valuable insights into how the NC law evaluates prior convictions can bolster your current legal defense and help achieve your desired result. This guide explains how having a criminal record can impact current and future charges and what defendants can do to lessen the blow to their case.
Are Prior Convictions Admissible in Trial?
There are two ways that prior convictions can be used when defending a current criminal charge: at trial and during sentencing.
To answer the question above, the court can admit evidence of prior convictions during trial and at sentencing. Therefore, understanding when and how they can be admitted into court is critical in your defense.
Prosecutors will use the defendant’s prior convictions at trial to establish guilt. However, the court requires prior convictions to meet specific criteria before being honored as evidence. The judge must decide whether the prosecutors can use them as admissible evidence. For example, the judge will evaluate the relevance of the prior convictionto the current case or if there had been prejudice toward the defendant.
Since presenting prior convictions in court is damaging, the judge must carefully evaluate the existing evidence of the case and how prior convictions can support the case presented against the defendant. Otherwise, past criminal convictions will be useless and likely be dismissed by the judge.
One exemption of presenting prior convictions during trial is when the defendant testifies in court. The judge will allow prior convictions as evidence, as prior bad acts can impact a witness’s trustworthiness and credibility. Therefore, the defendant must carefully consider whether they should go up on the stand to testify in the case or not.
In addition, felony convictions will be admitted in court if those crimes occurred in the last ten years. Judges consider other factors in making this decision, such as the type or nature of the crime, whether or not the defendant was imprisoned for the case, and the defendant’s age at the time of committing the crime. For the latter point, juvenile crimes are inadmissible in court.
Will Prior Convictions Affect Sentence?
It is one thing for the court to admit (or not) a prior conviction during the trial, but it is another when it comes to sentencing. First, given their history, jurors might look at a defendant who has previously committed a crime as more likely to commit another. In addition, there is a risk of facing harsher penalties and sentences based on a prior criminal offense.
However, the rules in sentencing are much different than during trial. The judge will determine the sentence once the defendant is proven guilty or convicted. The sentences will range from probation with community service to several years in jail. Judges can consider prior convictions in determining that sentence.
For example, judges will impose a harsher sentence on an individual facing DUI charges if they had prior convictions on DUI. The repeat offense shows the individual has not learned their lesson and will continue to consciously violate the law. That said, sentencing will be harsher if an individual commits a crime similar to their prior conviction.
Understanding Criminal Offense Categories
There are two types of criminal charges: misdemeanor and felony. They vary in nature and their influence on the defense of existing criminal charges.
Misdemeanor crimes are considered low-level and can have a maximum sentence of one year in jail. However, felony charges are serious crimes that could result in several years in jail.
Ways That Prior Convictions Can Affect Current Charges
Clearly, a past criminal history will affect current criminal charges. The extent of its impact will vary based on the nature of the prior conviction and its relevance to the current charge.
Most judges will not allow prosecutors to discuss prior convictions when an individual is tried for a different case to ensure trial fairness. However, when the judges allow this, it will most likely impact the juror’s perception of the defendant. It will also cast further suspicion on the defendant, as there is a general perception that someone who has committed a crime will be more likely to do so again.
One example is when you are being charged with an assault case in NC, and you have a prior assault conviction. The judge will permit the admission of the defendant’s criminal history at trial as it is relevant to the case. In addition, a defendant who claims to be a nonviolent person opens the case up to scrutiny.
Hence, the judge will allow the prosecutor to bring up past convictions to “challenge” the defendant’s claim of being non-violent. It is an opportunity for the prosecutor to ensure that the defendant’s testimony in court aligns with their behavior outside of it. Moreover, prosecutors can use criminal history to establish the intent or motive for the current charge. It expresses the defendant’s capability to commit the crime, as they had done so in the past.
What to Do When Facing a Criminal Charge with Prior Convictions
If you have a prior conviction, consult a Greensboro attorney to create a defense strategy for a new criminal charge. The stakes are high as the court imposes stiffer penalties on repeat offenders.
Therefore, understanding the impact of a prior conviction on a criminal charge is an excellent first step toward a desired outcome. Experienced NC attorneys can offer the best advice and support when building a formidable defense strategy.
Given the impact of prior convictions in current cases, it emphasizes the importance of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney in Greensboro, NC. An experienced attorney can help preserve your rights, especially if the prior conviction occurred more than ten years ago.