A New York criminal lawyer describes the ways that being charged with a second credit card fraud offense is different than a first offense.

Being hit with credit card fraud charges once isn’t pretty. In New York at least, even after you have been convicted and served your time, the charge will stay with you on your criminal record for the rest of your life, making it difficult to get a good job – or even find a place to live.

But as bad as things may be, if you get charged and convicted of credit card fraud a second time, your life will definitely get worse. As with most crimes, a second offense of credit card fraud is going to have more severe penalties than what you faced the first time.

And don’t count on a sealed record saving you. Even if your criminal record has been expunged or sealed, (and New York State does not expunge or seal criminal convictions) law enforcement still has access to these records. Your previous charge and conviction will have a huge impact on every step of the sentencing process.

How so? 

You’re Less Likely to Be Offered a Plea Bargain. Since prior convictions are often viewed as “aggravating factors,” prosecutors are going to use your previous offenses against you. Prosecutors are also less likely to offer a plea bargain. Plea bargains are often offered to first-time offenders. If you plead guilty and admit to the crime, you will get less time in jail than the maximum sentence you face. But if you’ve been charged with a second offense, you’re not going to get a great deal on sentencing for admitting your guilt.

No Pretrial Diversion. Also, as a second-time offender, you lose a lot of chances to avoid traditional sentencing. New York offers a pretrial diversion program to first offenders. Rather than being thrown in jail for a long period of time, alternative sentencing allows offenders to work on rehabilitation. Often, the programs involve tackling substance abuse or mental health disorders that could have led to the crimes being committed.

But the possibility for this program begins to disappear with a second charge. The bottom line is that you have a much higher chance of being put in jail and getting saddled with other serious penalties.

Your Possible Penalties Drastically Increase. Penalties for credit card fraud, even if it’s your first offense, are something to pay attention to. You can face up to 10 years in prison for a first conviction.

But for a second offense, penalties get even harsher.

The maximum sentence for unlawful use of an access device is 20 years in prison. That’s right. Sentences double for second offenses. And your charge will get bumped up for being a repeat offender. You are more likely to face felony charges for a second offense than you are for a first offense.

If you have been charged for a second or subsequent credit card fraud offense, call a New York criminal lawyer immediately.

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