How Does Your Criminal History Affect an Open Case?

Having a criminal record can prevent you from getting certain jobs, from living in certain places, and can result in shame and embarrassment. Past convictions can also result in prosecutors charging you more harshly and/or refusing to plea deals for subsequent offenses.

It is important to keep your criminal history clean, as having a criminal record can have serious and life-changing effects. If you have questions about your criminal history, then it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you. 

Criminal Charges Generally 

Criminal charges are generally broken into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor is considered a more minor offense that can result in a maximum possible sentence of one year in county jail. A felony is considered more serious and can result in prison time of at least one year and up to life for certain crimes, such as murder or armed robbery. 

Misdemeanors and felonies are broken into further categories based on the seriousness of the offenses. There are a limited number of criminal offenses that can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. These crimes are known as “wobbler offenses” because a prosecutor has the discretion to “wobble” between a misdemeanor or felony in their charging decision.

Does Your Criminal History Affect Potential New Charges? 

One of the first things that police officers and prosecutors do when investigating a case is to look into everyone’s criminal history. If you are accused of a crime and the police find out that you have a prior criminal history, it is unlikely they will cut you any breaks. 

If the police or prosecutors know you by name, then that is an even worse proposition. Prosecutors look at people’s criminal histories since some charges become enhanced when you are charged with them more than one time. Drunk driving (OVI/DUI) is an example of a criminal charge that gets more serious for a second or third offense. A first offense OVI/DUI in Ohio is a misdemeanor, while a fourth offense OVI/DUI is a felony charge.

How Your Criminal History Can Increase Penalties

 If you are currently charged with a crime, having a criminal record can result in harsher penalties. Judges have a lot of discretion to decide if and when someone should go to jail. If you are charged with a felony offense, then sentencing is partly determined by the Ohio Sentencing Guidelines.

The Ohio Sentencing Guidelines use many factors to determine the appropriate minimum range of sentences for any felony conviction. For each prior conviction, you are assessed a number of points. The more points you have, the more serious your punishment can be. Having a prior adult or juvenile criminal record can significantly increase the potential minimum range of sentences for a felony conviction. 

Can Your Criminal History Be Discussed in Front of a Jury?

Generally, no, but there are exceptions. A prosecutor is not allowed to simply discuss any prior criminal record in front of a jury. This is considered prejudicial. For example, if you are charged with assault and have a prior conviction for assault, the prosecutor can’t bring that up to show that you are a violent person. 

However, if you offer testimony that you’re a peaceful person, then evidence of your prior assault conviction can be used to challenge the notion you are peaceful. People that testify in a case are always being measured for their truthfulness. Because of this, any convictions that are related to the person’s honesty or truthfulness can be discussed in front of the jury to attack the credibility of the witness.  

Can Police and Prosecutors See Expunged Convictions?

 An expungement is a legal process to remove a conviction from an individual’s criminal history. It requires someone to petition the court and convince a judge that they deserve the conviction removed from their record. When a conviction is expunged, it is removed from the public record. Police and prosecutors will always be able to see any record of arrest or prior conviction for someone who has a criminal past. The benefit of expungement is that it strips away all of the consequences of a conviction on a public record. 

Any Further Questions?

 If you have questions about a specific criminal charge, then it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. We offer free consultations so you can have your questions answered by a seasoned professional.