Multiple arrests

 Last reviewed: 17/03/2023

Is it different if I’ve already been arrested, charged or convicted?

Having previous criminal convictions, especially for similar offences, can affect 1) the likelihood that you are charged, 2) whether you are bailed after being charged and 3) the sentence you receive if convicted.

Effects on your chance of being charged

If you have repeated arrests, especially for the same or similar offences, you are more likely to be charged as the police and prosecutors consider there is a greater “public interest” in prosecuting you. Similarly, if you have previous convictions, your chance of being charged for a new arrest is higher. There still has to be evidence against you upon which a trial court could convict. You cannot be charged or convicted just because it can be shown you have behaved in this way previously. 

You may also be less likely to be offered a caution, although we discourage people from accepting cautions and in all cases you should discuss the offer with a lawyer experienced in protest law.

In all cases, the prosecution  should only charge you if they have enough evidence to believe there is a more than 50%chance of conviction. The fact that you have previous does not mean you should just go along with it, or accept cautions, or plead guilty if charged, and you should certainly still respect the “No Comment” advice when at the investigation stage.

If you are charged, you may be less likely to be released from the police station before first appearance in court. At your first appearance in court whilst everyone has a right to bail, if the Magistrates believe that you will commit further offences on bail if bailed and no conditions can stop you offending then  you may  be kept on remand (jailed for the period of the trial). 

If you are arrested after you have appeared in court for a previous offence and  the case for that previous offence is ongoing ie you are already on bail then you may be remanded in custody and  sentencing for the previous offence may be harsher.

Effects on sentencing

If you have a criminal record, you are likely to get a heavier sentence if convicted of a new offence. This is more likely the more recent your previous convictions are, and if they are similar to the new offence. You are also likely to receive a higher sentence for offences you commit while you are on bail following other arrests.

When sentencing, the court can take into account your criminal record even for dissimilar offences. Recent probably means within the last 5 or so years but cautions, guilty pleas and guilty verdicts will all count. Other arrests or charges waiting for trial shouldn't be used to increase any sentence.

If you received a conditional discharge for a previous offence and you commit a further offence during the operational period  you could be re-sentenced for that previous offence and are unlikely to receive another conditional discharge.