The Harsh Reality of Repeat Offender Laws
A Pennsylvania man was arrested, charged with a felony, and jailed on a $50,000 cash-only bond after underpaying a convenience store for one 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew. That's right, for a seemingly insignificant 43 cents, the man faces up to seven years in prison because he has multiple prior convictions for retail theft.
In Pennsylvania, retail theft is not the only crime where repeat or habitual offenders face heightened punishment. If you are a repeat offender facing new charges, you need the guidance of a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to navigate the complex repeat offender sentencing laws and craft the best defense.
Heightened Punishments for Repeat Offenders
In Pennsylvania, you are at serious risk of receiving a harsher sentence if you have one or more convictions for the same crime. The following areas are just a few examples where punishments increase for serial offenses.
Retail theft. There are different types of theft under Pennsylvania law, and retail theft is one example where repeat violations bring serious trouble. Some offenses are treated as misdemeanors, while others are felonies, and the punishments range from fines and restitution to community service and imprisonment.
Consider the following scenario. A person steals something worth less than $150. For a first offense, they may receive a fine, and the theft is considered a summary offense. When that person is convicted a second time (assuming the stolen property has similar value), they face up to five years in jail, a $5,000 fine, and the offense is classified as a misdemeanor. When that person is convicted a third time, they face up to seven years in prison, and the offense is deemed a felony regardless of the value of the property.
Driving under the influence. Penalties for violating Pennsylvania DUI laws are very nuanced and depend on several factors, including the level of impairment, whether you took a BAC test, the number of prior offenses, and whether there was property damage, personal injury, or death. An in-depth breakdown of the escalating penalties can be found here.
Crimes of violence. Crimes of violence such as assault, burglary, domestic abuse, rape, or murder carry serious consequences for a first offense, and repeat convictions for these crimes pose significant penalties and prison sentences. A second conviction for a crime of violence carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence, and a person with two or more prior convictions faces a minimum 25-year sentence.
Drug-related offenses. Drug conviction penalties also escalate, and Pennsylvania has some of the strictest drug laws in the country. The consequences vary depending on the type and quantity of drugs, whether minors were involved, if weapons were used, and the person's history of past drug convictions.
An Advocate You Can Trust
If you were arrested and have one or more prior convictions for the same crime, you need the help of a trusted, knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a proven history of successfully representing repeat or habitual offenders. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.