DUI charges are ‘’priorable.’’ This means that subsequent offenses will carry harsher sentences than the previous charges. However, this is not always the case. A Phoenix DUI Attorney can still have the potential sentence reduced by having the charges reduced to a lesser charge. Other aspects will also affect your sentence, including the judge’s discretion and whether your previous criminal history is permissible in court.
When a defendant is found guilty in a trial or accepts a plea deal from the prosecution, the court might use previous criminal sentencing to increase the sentence of the defendant beyond the legal limit. However, this doesn’t mean that the previous sentence has been introduced in the case. This is because it will not appear in the record as evidence that the offender committed the offense in the new case. It is up to the judge to decide whether to use the previous convictions to increase the sentence. Even the jury that gives a verdict in the case may not know if a defendant has a past conviction unless they are present when the judge imposes the sentence.
In DUI cases, the state statutes require judges to increase the sentence of DUI repeat offenders. The prosecuting attorney will introduce previous DUI convictions in a defendant’s record based on the DUI look-back period in that state. The more previous convictions on the defendant’s criminal record, the harsher the penalties the judge will impose. When imposing penalties for a DUI case where the defendant is a repeat offender, the judge will consider previous DUI convictions. Thus, you should hire a Phoenix DUI Attorney when you are facing these charges. An attorney can help prevent a conviction by having the charges dropped, which means the defendant’s current DUI will not be affected by the previous DUI arrest because there will be no criminal record on a similar case.
Testifying in a Criminal Case
Apart from DUI cases or when a judge decides to use a previous conviction to increase your punishment beyond what is provided by the law, a past sentence will not affect a defendant’s new case if he or she doesn’t testify in the trial. For this reason, defendants are not encouraged to testify in court because, by doing so, they open doors for destructive evidence that would have otherwise been inadmissible. So, by failing to testify, it means the previous criminal convictions will be inadmissible hence can’t affect the current case.
If either the prosecutor or defense lawyer wants the defendant to testify, they must make their intentions known through a notice to the judge. The attorney prosecuting the defendant’s case can make prior convictions admitted if the offender testifies in court or when he or she introduces the subject of character in the case. A prosecuting lawyer cannot present the issue of a defendant’s previous criminal sentence to show the court that the offender has a terrible character unless the defendant makes it a subject of the case—the same case with the propensity to take part in criminal activity. The prosecution cannot present a defendant’s prior conviction to show the person inclined to commit an offense.
Take note that it is not every time that a defendant decides to testify that previous convictions get admitted. In most cases, judges will balance between the probative value of allowing the past convictions to be introduced against the detrimental impact against the defendant. If the previous crime is similar to the present one, the judge will establish that the risk is too high and that if the defendant committed the crime the first time, then most likely, he or she did the same thing in the current case.
Even if a defendant is allowed to testify, the prosecution can use previous convictions to impeach their integrity. Indicting the credibility of a defendant’s testimony, in turn, makes the jury or judge question the trustworthiness of the testimony, thus impacting sentencing. For the impeachment to happen, the defendant must have been convicted of a felony crime or one dealing with dishonesty. If the prosecutor introduces a witness with a criminal record involving dishonesty or a felony, the defense attorney may also use the prior convictions to question the integrity of the testimony, which gives the defendant an advantage.
In general, the prosecuting or defense party may request the court to introduce a prior sentence or multiple sentences to be introduced in the new case as evidence. The purpose of admitting these convictions as evidence in new sentencing is to show motive, intent, preparations, accident, or willful action. When this happens, prior convictions affect sentencing.
Your Defense Attorney Can Help You Understand How a Previous Conviction Might Affect your Sentence
Whether previous convictions are admissible or not is a subject of the law. It depends on the state evidence laws, the judge’s interpretation of the laws, and their personality. Statutes on evidence rules also keep changing, which is why reaching out to a Phoenix DUI Attorney is essential. That way, a defendant is aware of how a previous conviction will affect new sentencing.