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, and 2) 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.
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, they should only charge you if they have enough evidence to believe they will win the case. 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.
If you are charged, you may be less likely to be released from the police station before first appearance in court. In addition, you may also be kept on remand (jailed for the period of the trial) if the new offence is charged. If you are arrested after you have appeared in court for a previous offence when the case for that previous offence is ongoing, then again 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 recent other criminal records. Recent probably means within last 5 or so years but cautions, guilty pleas and guilty verdicts will count. Other arrests or charges waiting for trial shouldn't count.
If you received a conditional discharge for the first offence, you could be re-sentenced for that offence if you breach the conditional discharge by committing a second offence.