Recidivist in the United States

A repeat criminal offender. The recidivist is the habitual offender who makes a career of criminal conduct. A high proportion of the prison population are recidivists who commit new crimes after having already been convicted, and possibly imprisoned, for earlier offenses.

See Also

Sentence (Criminal Process).

Analysis and Relevance

The large number of recidivists reflects the failure of corrections processes to effectively deal with criminal behavior. The phenomenon of recidivism has prompted two related sentencing policies. First, most states have formally adopted recidivist or habitual offender laws that supplement the sentences of repeat offenders. A second felony, for example, often results in a sentence that exceeds by 50 percent the maximum sentence for the first offense. A third offense, in turn, may result in a doubling of the length of the prison sentence. In many jurisdictions, conviction for a third or fourth felony produces a mandatory life sentence under terms of the recidivist sentencing laws. The objective is clearly not rehabilitation, but segregation of the offender from society. A second policy is less formal, but no less operational. Many judges see prisons as places where repeat offenders become more accomplished criminals. Thus, prisons are not the place for first offenders who are likely to become habitual offenders because of prison socialization. It is largely for this reason that first offenders are placed on probation or given short sentences in local jails rather than state prisons.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Recidivist from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Recidivist: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Recidivist. This part provides references, in relation to Recidivist, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Recidivist by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Recidivist and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Recidivist or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Recidivist and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Recidivist. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Recidivist should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Recidivist when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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