Habitual Offender Laws - How do they Operate in Reality?

Essay by ls62805University, Bachelor'sA, June 2006

download word file, 9 pages 0.0

Downloaded 91 times

During the last decades many countries made an attempt to protect themselves against habitual offenders. Special legislation was elaborated to deal with recidivism and the punishment for such criminals became harsher.

Who is a habitual offender? For example in Florida, US, a "habitual felony offender" means a person who previously has been convicted for two or more felonies in Florida and for whom an extended term of imprisonment may be imposed by the court. Such a person may be accordingly prosecuted if committed felonies including aggravated assault, rape, child abuse and murder.

Encyclopedia Britannica explains that habitual offender is a person "who frequently has been convicted of criminal behavior and is presumed to be a danger to society" (Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006). Usually the punishment for a habitual offender is more severe: the length of imprisonment is bigger for the same crime (comparing to the first-time offender) and in some cases repeater is detained permanently.

Where does the idea of more severe punishment for habitual offenders come from? If we consider the positivist theory we will see that it compares crime with disease and proposes for recidivist the same treatment as for a person with serious infectious disease. In the beginning of the 20th century, advocates often used popular at that times biological theories of crime that defined some people criminal by nature and so justified their permanent imprisonment. But in 1950s Marvin Wolfgang, a famous criminologist and several other scientists indicated that only some criminals become multiple offenders and that only about 2 percent of all offenders commit dangerous crimes (Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006). So if in theory special laws should prevent a large number of serious crimes and stop offenders from falling out from the wrong track, in practice, it is very difficult to devise legislation...