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habitual criminal law n: a law that imposes greater penalties if a convicted defendant has previously been convicted of one or more crimes NOTE: Some such laws have been challenged on the ground of violating the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or on the ground of being an ex post facto law.
Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.