Effect of Prior Criminal History in Criminal Cases

Criminal NCIC Reports are Used by Prosecutors to Determine a Defendant’s Criminal History.

Prior arrests and convictions for criminal offenses can come into play in a variety of ways from a defense standpoint according to William Moore, a Criminal Attorney in Broward County. Issues such as bond amount, credibility and criminal offense enhancement need to be considered when evaluating arrests and conviction history of a client.

The thing to remember is that arrests and convictions are viewed differently by the Florida court system depending on which aspect of the litigation you are dealing with, just as classification of misdemeanor or felony are.

Effect of Prior Arrests

Prior arrests must be considered by a criminal defense attorney when confronting issues such as bond hearings, where convictions should be evaluated when defending charges that are enhanced by previous criminal adjudication. Additionally, crime classification (i.e. misdemeanor or felony) should be analyzed for purposes of avoiding their introduction at trial should your client testify. Felony convictions can be used by a prosecutor to establish that your client lacks credibility while most misdemeanor convictions may not be (unless they involve crimes of dishonesty).

Prior arrests of a criminal defendant are never viewed favorably by the court presiding over a pending case. For obvious reasons, judges and prosecutors take these prior arrests into account in one way or another throughout a criminal action. This is true regardless of whether or not their was a conviction as a result. Issues such as a defendant’s threat to the public are considered in determining an appropriate bond amount regardless of conviction. Diversion programs designed to give first time offenders an opportunity to avoid conviction are generally not available to defendants with prior arrest records regardless of the outcome of the prior criminal cases.

Prior Convictions

Prior convictions of a criminal defendant can lead to even bigger problems for an accused in certain cases under Florida law. This is because some crimes are enhanced based on prior convictions. Enhanced offenses require convictions, meaning that an arrest alone will not suffice. For example, Repeat DUI offenders face criminal charges that advance in severity depending on an accused history specific to DUI convictions. Similarly, some crimes require a prior conviction in order to be brought by the prosecution. Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon requires that the defendant has been convicted of a felony prior to possessing the firearm.

Misdemeanors vs. Felony Convictions for Impeachment of Defendant Credibility

Although all defendants in a criminal action have the right to remain silent, the fact remains that the likelihood of success in defending a client against criminal accusations increases where an accused testifies on their own behalf. This is not the case, however, where a defendant has a criminal history report or NCIC that accurately reflects convictions for felony offenses or even misdemeanor crimes that are labeled as involving dishonesty or deceit. Broward County Criminal Lawyer William Moore states that while the introduction of a defendant’s prior convictions is allowable to impeach their credibility, the ultimate effect is to prejudice a jury against the defendant once they are made aware of his or her status as a convict.

This raises serious concerns from a defense standpoint where it is paramount that a defendant be able to testify on their behalf in order to assert a defense. Often, the only way to establish reasonable doubt is through the words of an accused – William Moore.