A habitual offender is a person who has repeatedly committed the same crime. Various state and jurisdictions may have laws targeting habitual offenders, and specifically providing for enhanced or exemplary punishments or other sanctions. They are designed to counter criminal recidivism by physical incapacitation via imprisonment.
The nature, scope and type of habitual offender statutes vary, but generally they apply when a person has been convicted a minimum of twice for various crimes. Some codes may differentiate between classes of crimes (for example, some codes only deal with violent crime) and the length of time between convictions. Usually the sentence is greatly enhanced, in some circumstances it may be substantially more than the maximum sentence for the crime.
Habitual offender laws may provide for mandatory sentencing - in which a minimum sentence must be imposed, or may allow judicial discretion in allowing the court to determine a proper sentence. One example of a habitual offender statute is a provision requiring the revocation of a driver's license for a person convicted multiple times of driving under the influence
The practice of imposing longer prison sentences on repeat offenders than on first-time offenders who commit the same crime is not an innovation. For example, New York has a 'persistent felony offender law that dates back to the late 19th century. These early habitual offender laws did not provide for mandatory sentencing.See also: Aggravation (legal concept)
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... In the US on March 5, 2003, the U.S ... Supreme Court held by a 5–4 majority that such sentences do not violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S ...
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