By: Mark Diaz
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Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses If Weather Impacts Crime
Does The Weather Impact Crime?
I got another question this week that I thought was kind of interesting. Do I think that weather, specifically during the winter, impacts crime? I looked into it a little bit, and it does. I guess if you think about it, it makes sense, when it’s extremely cold outside, you’re less likely to have people out who would have the opportunity to commit a crime, much less desire to be out committing a crime, in the cold weather. I spent a little bit of time looking on the internet and there’s a whole bunch of research about it.
Apparently, the colder the winter, the more impact it has on crime in general. Meanwhile, the lighter, or the warmer the winter is the less impact. Again, if you think about it, it kind of does make sense. I mean, I know when it’s extremely cold, I don’t like to be outside. The same can be said for most people.
So what happens is, cold weather correlates with a drop in property crimes, and those types of things because people don’t want to get out in the weather, to break into cars, break into houses, etc. If it’s extremely miserable weather outside, no one wants to go outside to be able to commit offenses.
We’re talking about intentional offenses, there is still crime, people still get arrested. There is still family violence and whatnot. In general, though, you’ll see that crime statistics go down in extreme winter because people do not want to be outside.
Why Does The State Want To Waste All That Money Prosecuting Me Or Taking My Case To Trial?
This was a question that was emailed to me recently, and it’s one I get quite often. I’m not sure why people think that that has an impact on anything, because a trial doesn’t cost the state any more money. Everyone in the building, with the exclusion of the defense attorney, are salaried employees. The judge gets a salary. The prosecutors get a salary. There’s not an extra cost in going to trial. Everyone who works in that building gets paid for a full day’s work and is expected to be there from 9 to 5 every day.
It’s not like, if we’re not in trial, then the building clears out and everyone goes home. There’s this misconception that the state is spending more to try your case, and well, they’re not spending anything they wouldn’t be spending anyway. Now, you can get into a situation where prosecutors are wasting their time, but it’s not costing anyone any money that’s not already been spent on the prosecution of any other case.
Now, it is true that we have a case pending right now with witnesses in Florida. If that case goes to trial, the state will likely have to pay to fly those witnesses in and keep them in a hotel. That is an extra expense. However, the DAs office budgets for those on a yearly basis, they keep a budget for that specific reason, for cases that have to have witnesses flown in from out of state. These things are all budgeted yearly by the DA office. It’s something that is already built into the system.
What are some of the factors that go into sentencing?
Sentencing can sometimes be the most difficult part of a case. I say sometimes because other times, I have a really good idea of what the jury’s gonna do. I tried a case during the height of COVID that I did not want to take to trial, because of COVID in the circumstances, but my client was sitting in jail.
The state would only offer time in prison as punishment, and this particular client had never been convicted of a felony. I felt that a jury would likely give him probation. We went to trial, and the jury did indeed give him probation. He got out of jail. COVID was a difficult time for everyone, and even worse in jail. So for him that worked out, I had a good idea based upon his past criminal history, what a jury would do, it was just a situation where the state would not offer probation.
Another story from a case I tried, which was a misdemeanor in another county, two young men were arrested as CO defendants. When I was hired, they gave me the name of the CO defendant and informed me that his family did not bond him out. He took a plea agreement while he was locked up in jail. I took a look at it, and it was, in my opinion, a horrible deal. We’re talking about a misdemeanor.
The kid had to do like 30 days in jail as a condition of probation, loaded up with all kinds of conditions. It was almost a probation set up to fail, in my opinion. When they hired me, I think if I remember correctly, there was a lawyer before me and they had indicated that the offer for him, for my client, was the same as what the CO defendant had taken.
They made it very clear to me that they were not interested in that deal, which I understood and agreed with. So fast forward to the trial. I indeed got the state of Texas to agree to a deferred adjudication with no jail time as a condition, in favorable terms, which I had negotiated. We attempted to take the plea, and the judge would not accept it, he found the offense particularly offensive. He would not take a plea that did not involve some jail time as a condition of probation. I was not happy. I tried to recuse the judge, which made him even more difficult.
The bottom line is that we ended up on trial, which I knew I couldn’t win. Based on the evidence, I knew it was going to be all about punishment. I spent my entire closing statement talking about time in jail. I had gotten into evidence that my client had a child, that he worked, that he lived in an apartment by himself that he paid for. I proceeded to tell the jury, although most of the time, I was looking at the judge.
I went through an analysis of what happens when people think 30 days in jail is no big deal. I went through the whole analysis, and if I remember correctly, he was a waiter at a restaurant. No restaurant is going to hold a job for someone for 30 days. No apartment complex is going to let you skip out on your rent for 30 days. Child support won’t simply allow you to miss a payment because you were in jail.
By the time you get out of jail after having done your 30 days, you’ve lost your job, you’re facing eviction, and now you’re in arrears on your child support. I went through this in-depth. In the end, the jury sentenced my client to time served by a fine of $1,000. My client got no additional jail time, and no probation. He was satisfied. The judge was not happy, he was upset, and kind of let it be known.
Unnecessarily Harsh Sentences Ruin Lives
The reason I was thinking about sentencing is because what happens is, sometimes a prosecutor will come to the DA’s office, having recently gotten out of law school, or recently been licensed. When I say recently, I mean, sometimes immediately after getting out of law school, sometimes a year later, but just young, and then they spend some time in misdemeanor court, and then maybe sometimes people above in felony court leave, without anyone anticipating it, and then that forces prosecutors to get moved up. Sometimes we’ll find what I consider to be very young prosecutors, not young in age, but young as a prosecutor, dealing with sentences that affect not only someone’s life but their family.
I’m kind of shocked when a prosecutor offers me something like 30 years in prison on the case and acts as if it’s nothing. As if the client should be grateful for the offer. When we’re talking about 30 years of someone’s life, it’s hard to imagine. I often tell juries, if we’re in punishment, think about how much life can change in 10 years. How many loved ones have I lost in the last 10 years? How has technology changed? So on and so forth. So sometimes I’m kind of shocked when prosecutors seriously make me an offer that’s 30 years when I don’t think it’s justified.
There are times that large sentences are appropriate. I recently had a murder defendant get 35 years. The circumstances are much different when we’re talking about 30 years for murder. If we’re talking 30 to 35 years for drugs? To me, that’s quite a different situation. The reason we end up on trial is not necessarily anything to do with guilt or innocence. We know going into the trial we likely can’t win, however, what we’re fighting for is the reduced punishment. That’s what we gear up for, is the punishment argument at the end, rather than necessarily the guilt versus innocence.
Why don’t we just end up pleading guilty and going straight to the jury for punishment?
I have done that. It’s not that we don’t, but generally speaking, if I think the state is being unreasonable in their offer, then why am I going to save the state? Why would I give them that benefit of lessening their burden when I think they’re being unreasonable?
Most of the time, I will make the state go through with the trial, just to get to sentencing, because I think they’re being unreasonable. Sometimes I’m able to show that and hope that the jury picks up on it so they lean more to my side of the argument that I’m trying to make regarding punishment or appropriate punishment.
If you have been charged with a crime don’t delay, call our Galveston County criminal defense attorneys at Mark Diaz & Associates at (409) 515-6170