Repeat offenders are punished more severely than single-time offenders in almost all contemporary legal systems (often referred to as the escalating sentencing rule). In the United States, the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines specifically take into account the criminal record of a defendant in calibrating the criminal sanction. In the United Kingdom, Section 143(2) of the Criminal Justice Act of 2003 dictates that previous convictions should be taken as an aggravating factor. Furthermore, this rule is not limited merely to criminal law. In tort law, namely the law applied to private disputes, judges often impose punitive damages when they believe that the defendants have repeatedly been negligent.

This entry examines the justification for the practice of punishing repeat offenders more severely than first-time offenders from three different ...

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