In this article, West Chester criminal defense lawyer Michael DiCindio discusses how your criminal history could affect your current case. A criminal record can have numerous impacts on an open criminal case.
#1 Terms of Bail
The first way your criminal history could affect your current case in Chester County is terms of bail. After you are arrested, you will make an initial appearance in court within a day or two of your arrest.
At the initial appearance, you will receive a criminal complaint detailing the charges you are facing.
The other key thing that happens at the initial appearance is the judge setting bail. Bail has two components – the dollar amount and the conditions. Not everyone gets cash bail; some defendants are able to get other types of bail.
The common types of bail in Pennsylvania include:
- Unsecured bonds (“Signature Bond”)
- Own Recognizance bonds (“ROR”)
- Non-monetary conditions only
- Cash Bail
When you have priors, the likelihood that you will obtain a ROR or signature bond is greatly reduced.
This is true of almost every crime, from DUIs to assault. The prosecution is much more likely to ask the judge to order cash bail. Additionally, the prosecutor is also far more likely to ask for oppressive bail terms and conditions.
Traditionally the bail amount and conditions serve two purposes. First, cash bail is supposed to guarantee the defendant’s future appearance in court. Second, the conditions are set to ensure public safety or the safety of the victims.
Prior convictions on your criminal record make prosecutors think you pose more of a flight risk and more of a public safety threat. They will usually ask for tougher bail terms to try to keep you in custody while awaiting trial.
If you are released, they may ask for difficult conditions such as:
- No contact orders (protective orders)
- Alcohol or drug monitoring
- GPS monitoring
Failing to follow the conditions of bail can lead to rearrest, forfeiture of bail, higher bail, and new criminal charges for bail jumping.
If you have a criminal history, it is critical that you hire an experienced, aggressive criminal defense lawyer to represent you in order to fight for favorable bail terms.
Perhaps the most serious way how your criminal history could affect your current case is at sentencing if you are convicted. Prior convictions have serious impacts on the severity of a sentence.
One of the ways your prior convictions can impact your sentence on your current case is as an aggravating factor on your “Prior Record Score.”
Under the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines, judges are required to consider criminal history and assign you a certain number of points based on your record. When determining your sentence in your current case, a bad score leads to a harsher sentence.
Another serious way prior criminal history can impact your current case is that certain offenses are counted, with each subsequent offense of the same type being charged more severely.
A classic example of this is DUIs. For instance, a first offense DUI is a low-level misdemeanor, but a fourth offense DUI is a serious felony. Many crimes are “counted” like this, with more serious charges for subsequent offenses.
If you have a prior criminal record, the odds of receiving a light sentence or just probation are reduced. You need to fight your current case with everything you’ve got.
#3 Bad Plea Offers from Prosecutors
The final way how your criminal history could affect your current case is its impact on negotiations. Not only can a criminal record impact a sentence, but it can also impact plea offers from the District Attorney in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Negotiation can often play a major role in resolving a case favorably. However, prosecutors are less willing to offer good plea deals if you have a lengthy record.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
If you have a criminal record and are facing new charges, you need an attorney. A criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid the worst consequences of your charges.
They will investigate your charges to gather evidence and identify defense strategies and alibis. From there, they can negotiate with prosecutors for a favorable plea deal.
They can also take your case to trial to pursue an acquittal, keeping your record from getting worse. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for help with your case. Most offer a free consultation. So, there’s no risk in asking for help.