Will a Prior Conviction for Possession of Marijuana Affect My Criminal Case?

A criminal conviction can affect your life in many ways. It can prevent you from getting certain jobs, living in certain places, or being accepted into a college or technical school. A criminal conviction can also cause shame and embarrassment. But if you have a prior criminal conviction and are charged with another crime, your criminal record can result in being charged more harshly or a prosecutor refusing to offer you a plea deal. If you take your case to trial, your criminal record could be introduced as evidence and to increase the length of your sentence.

If you have a criminal conviction and are charged with another crime, you need experienced legal representation. The criminal defense team at Just Criminal Law will analyze your situation, help you explore your options, and mount a vigorous legal defense.

Tell Your Lawyer About Your Criminal Record

People who have a criminal record are often embarrassed to talk about it. But when you have been charged with another crime and are meeting with your criminal defense lawyer, you need to tell your lawyer about your prior conviction.

Anything you say to your lawyer is confidential and covered by the attorney-client privilege. Your lawyer has a legal obligation to keep this information private.

But most importantly, telling your lawyer about a prior conviction will help her prepare a legal defense that accounts for your criminal record.

Does a Prior Conviction Affect New Criminal Charges?

One of the first things police officers and prosecutors do when investigating a criminal case is to look into the defendant’s criminal record. If you are accused of a crime and the police or prosecutor learn you have a criminal record, they are unlikely to cut you any breaks.

In some cases, a criminal record can be used to seek harsher penalties because you have been charged more than once. This is especially common in DWUI cases, where you face more severe penalties for a second or third offense.

Use of a Criminal Conviction During Trial

Although the prosecution generally cannot use a prior conviction against you at trial, if you choose to testify, the prosecution may be able to introduce evidence of a prior conviction to impeach you.

Whenever someone testifies during a trial, their credibility is at issue. This is the case whether they are the defendant or a witness called by the prosecution or the defense. The judge or jury must decide whether and how much to believe the witness.

In general, prosecutors are not permitted to introduce evidence of a prior conviction to prove a defendant’s tendency to commit crimes. But there are exceptions, especially if the conviction goes to the witness’s credibility.

When a prosecutor seeks to impeach a witness’s credibility, they can only use prior convictions, not pending charges or arrests that did not lead to a conviction.

Typically, the prosecution cannot use a conviction that is over ten years old. In addition, judges generally only allow evidence of felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions that relate to a person’s honesty, such as a conviction for theft.

A Balancing Test to Allow Evidence of a Prior Conviction

When deciding whether to allow evidence of a prior conviction, the judge must evaluate whether letting the jury learn of the defendant’s criminal record will help them assess the credibility of the witness or whether it will unduly prejudice the defendant. Evidence of a prior conviction carries the possibility that a jury will convict a person simply because they assume the defendant is a bad person.

When deciding whether to allow evidence of a prior conviction at trial, the judge will consider:

  • The type of crime;
  • Whether the crime indicates the defendant is dishonest;
  • The length of time since the conviction (convictions that are more than ten years old are often inadmissible);
  • The length of imprisonment, if any;
  • The defendant's age at the time of the conviction;
  • Whether the defendant's credibility is central to the current case;
  • The importance of the defendant's testimony in the current case (the defendant may refuse to testify if evidence of the prior conviction will come in), and
  • The defendant's conduct since the prior conviction.

Evidence of a Prior Criminal Conviction at Sentencing

Once a criminal defendant has been convicted, the rules are slightly different. The law specifies a range of penalties, and judges and prosecutors can use the range plus additional factors, called sentencing enhancements, to increase a defendant’s sentence beyond the normal range.

Prior convictions are commonly used at sentencing to increase penalties for repeat offenders, impose mandatory minimum jail sentences, or as an aggravating factor when setting a sentence.

What Is the Effect of a Prior Conviction for Marijuana?

Whether a prior conviction for possession of marijuana will affect your criminal case will depend on your specific circumstances. For example, if you were convicted of simple possession (a misdemeanor) more than ten years ago, that prior conviction is unlikely to have much of an effect on a subsequent criminal case. On the other hand, a prior conviction for felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute could have a significant impact on a subsequent criminal case.

Just Criminal Law Protects Your One Shot at Justice

If you are facing criminal charges in Wyoming and have a prior conviction for possession of marijuana, it is important that you seek skilled and experienced legal representation as soon as possible.

The criminal defense team at Just Criminal Law is ready to help. During your personalized case review and strategy session, we will ask questions to learn about your situation. We will independently investigate the charge against you and mount a vigorous legal defense.

Led by founding attorney Christina L. Williams, our criminal defense team will carefully analyze your situation and craft a compelling defense to reduce the charges and the severity of the penalties or to have the case against you thrown out.

To put our experience to work for you, contact Just Criminal Law today.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

Categories: Marijuana