Your Guide to Habitual Offender Laws in Massachusetts
The criminal justice system is designed to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. One way that legislators and judges seek to accomplish these two primary goals is through the enactment and application of statutes known as “habitual offender laws.” These laws vary in scope and force from state to state, but stem from the same basic concept: that individuals who repeatedly commit serious crimes must receive correspondingly harsher penalties for their actions.
Habitual offender laws have both supporters and detractors. Nevertheless, they play an important role in the outcomes of many legal cases. The following information discusses the legal definition of a habitual offender, some common scenarios in which such laws come into play, and the importance of seeking professional legal help if you find yourself facing serious charges as a habitual offender.
With over 50 cumulative years of experience Murphy and Rudolf, LLP can help with all criminal offense charges, from first timers to habitual offenders we will work hard to defend your rights. If you are in or around Worcester, MA, contact us today for a free consultation: 508-762-1397.
What is a Habitual Offender?
Habitual offenders are the same as repeat offenders. The status of “habitual offender” is given to individuals that repeatedly commit felonies, either of the same type or of similar gravity. For example, if a person has previously committed two or three felonies, or several misdemeanors, then that person may be labelled a habitual offender, and suffer increased penalties for his or her latest crime.
Being labelled a habitual offender can have serious ramifications for a defendant. For instance:
- Even if the defendant’s current crime is relatively minor, it may be classified as a more serious offense if he/she is considered a habitual offender
- A harsher sentence may be imposed on the defendant, including a longer term of imprisonment and higher fines
- The defendant, if convicted, may have less opportunity for a reduction of his/her sentence for good behavior
- For certain repeat offenses, the defendant may not be able to obtain early parole at all
Habitual offender laws varies from state to state, as do the associated penalties. In many cases, habitual offenders struggle with poverty, substance abuse problems, or mental health issues, all of which contribute to their harmful actions.
Habitual offenders commonly perform the following criminal acts:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Possessing/using illegal drugs
- Committing petty theft
- Conducting business without a valid license
What Penalties are Commonly Associated with Habitual Offender Laws?
As noted above, the definition of a “habitual offender” and the associated punishments vary significantly from state to state. In addition, the nature of the repeated offenses plays a role in the penalties exacted upon a convicted individual.
For example, many states have a “three strikes law” that mandates harsh sentences for people that repeatedly commit serious or violent felonies. In Massachusetts, some third-time felonies automatically require a harsher penalty, per Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 279, Section 25.
Another common scenario is that of the habitual traffic offender. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 22F, if a driver accumulates a total of 3 major violations or any combination of 12 major and/or minor violations within a 5-year period, then the RMV will suspend that driver’s license for 4 years. Moreover, while a habitual traffic offender can apply for a hardship license, he can only do so after 1 full year of his suspension term has been served.
Criminal Defense Attorneys in Massachusetts
If you are facing charges that could lead to your classification as a habitual offender, then don’t delay: enlist the help of an experienced, reputable law firm immediately. Doing so could save you from a severe sentence, and help you to get back on your feet.
At Murphy & Rudolf, LLP, we have both the experience and the expertise with habitual offender laws needed to provide you with an exceptional defense, no matter what charges you are facing. Reach out to us today for a free consultation: 508-762-1397.