Habitual Criminal Law and Legal Definition

A habitual criminal is a person who has a criminal record indicating a propensity to crime and may be subject to harsher penalties under some state statutes, which vary by state. If the person has two or three previous convictions within a specified time, the punishment for future crimes may be increased. The person must not have had any of those previous felonies set aside by an appeals court or have been pardoned by the Governor.

Some states have two categories for habitual offenders. The first category is for habitual felony offenders and the second category is for habitual violent felony offenders. If a person falls under either of these two labels, that person will not receive good time privileges and other incentives allowed by the prison system.