Welcome back to the DuBois Law Blog, where we disseminate available information to lead to a more informed public regarding legal matters. Please keep in mind that this blog and all others are not legal advice, you need to schedule a call or meeting with Dan DuBois for that. Today, let's briefly talk about New York's Habitual Offender Law.
New York is one of 30 states in the US that have “three strikes” laws on the books, and understanding why and how these statutes can affect an individual accused of committing multiple felonies is important.
Three Strikes Law
“Three strikes” laws exist to impose a harsher sentence when an individual is convicted of certain felonies on multiple separate occasions. These laws vary by state and the type of felony committed, as well as other factors.
Here in New York, the concept is referred to as a “persistent felony offender” law. This law defines a persistent offender as someone who had been convicted of a felony after having been convicted of two or more previous felony offenses.
There are even crime-specific repeat offender laws. For example, here in NY, the New York State Legislature passed a DWI Repeat Offender Law, which imposes a strict penalty on drivers convicted of three or more DWI charges within a 15yr period. Drivers who face this charge could potentially receive 7 years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.
Habitual Offender Laws
Habitual offender laws exist in several states too. They're conceptually similar to three stikes laws but the details are a bit different. Some of those differences are that habitual offender laws rely on the length of time between crimes, the order in which the crimes get committed, the severity, and ultimately the discretion of the judge.
NY first put its habitual offender law on the books in 1926, and amended it in 1936, essentially nullifying the original law. The law mandated a life sentence for a 4th felony conviction, regardless of the severity of the crime. That amendment process morphed that incredibly harsh law into the three strikes / persistent offender system the state uses today.
The Arguments For and Against “Thre Strikes” Laws
The purpose of “three strikes”, habitual offender laws and the like, is ostensibly to ensure repeat offenders receive large sentences and stay behind bars. Supporters claim they deter and decrease crime by keeping certain people locked up, instead of out on parole. Opponents argue that these laws actually lead to an increase in crime and clog the judicial system, because everyone in that repeat offender category will plead “not guilty” and go to trial for the chance to avoid a life sentence.
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