How Do Prior Arrests Or Convictions Impact My Pending Case?
In many circumstances prior convictions can be used against a defendant in trial if that defendant elects to testify. Specifically, prior convictions for felonies and other crimes involving honesty can be used to discredit a defendant who testifies in his own defense. The likely negative impact of these prior convictions causes many defendants to wisely elect to not testify in their own defense.
In addition, use of the prior conviction in the Guilt-Innocence phase of a criminal trial, prior convictions can be used by a judge or jury to determine the sentence a defendant will receive once he or she has been convicted. This can have a significant impact on the case given the very broad discretion the judge or jury has in sentencing a defendant. Sentencing ranges in Texas are as follows:
- Class A Misdemeanor, 0-365 days in jail
- Class B Misdemeanor, 0-180 days in jail
- State Jail Felony, 180 days to 2 years in a State Jail Facility
- 3rd Degree Felony, 2 years to 10 years in prison
- 2nd Degree Felony, 2 years to 20 years in prison, and
- 1st Degree Felony, 5 years to life or 99 years in prison.
Finally, some prior convictions can be used to enhance a sentence and change the range of punishment. Family violence and DWI cases are good examples of cases in which prior convictions cause a significant change in the range of punishment for the defendant. For example, if you’ve been convicted of two prior DWIs, your third DWI constitutes a felony. Prior convictions will likely result in an enhanced punishment under Texas law. In some cases, the enhancement can be substantial. It is essential that you confer with an Attorney competent to handle such cases in Texas.
Are There Any Alternative Punishments To Jail Available For Criminal Offenders In Texas?
There are several alternatives to jail time. There is conventional probation, which is available in many circumstances. The court finds you guilty of the offense and suspends your incarceration for a period during which time you are required to take certain actions, abstain from certain behaviors and complete training and counseling as directed by the court. If you violate any of those terms or conditions, the prosecutor will likely file a Motion to revoke your probation, you will be arrested and brought back to court. Upon a finding by the judge that you violated your probation, he can sentence you to a jail term up to whatever the original sentence was.
Deferred adjudication probation is a form of probation in which the court does not find you guilty of the underlying crime but defers a finding of guilt and places you on probation for a period. If you successfully complete that probation, you are dismissed from probation without having been found guilty of the offense. If the court finds that you have violated the terms of your deferred probation, the court can find you guilty and thereafter sentence you to any sentence within the range of punishment for the offense. Deferred adjudication probation is not available in every case.
Finally, the law provides for pretrial diversion for first time offenders. The court delays the case and puts you into a program which is very similar to probation. Upon successful completion of the program, the case is dismissed. Unlike Deferred Adjudication probation and Regular probation, once pre-trial diversion is completed, the defendant may petition the court for expungement of all records associated with the arrest and charge.
Do You Recommend These Programs For Most of Your Criminal Defense Clients?
Yes, in most cases, if alternatives to incarceration are available I recommend them to my client. However, if you have a client you believe will have difficulty complying with the terms of probation, he or she may be better off accepting a shorter jail or prison term, thereby limiting exposure to the highest available sentence. That is a decision the client must make for himself or herself.
For more information on Impact Of Prior Arrests And Convictions, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (940) 440-5250 today.