By: Mark Diaz
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How The Texas Three Strikes Law Can Impact Your Sentence
In all states, a person charged with a crime usually faces tougher punishments when a person has a previous felony conviction. The theory behind this thinking is that the person did not learn their lesson the last time, and they are more likely to re-offend. These statutes are often called ‘three strikes’ laws, taking their name from American baseball, implying that a three-time offender faces a lengthy prison sentence, even life.
While no law in Texas is called the ‘three strikes law,’ there are statutes that allow for more serious penalties for subsequent felony convictions. If you have been convicted of felonies before and face a new charge, you should understand the potential severe consequences. Also, you should retain an experienced League City criminal defense lawyer at Mark Diaz & Associates to defend you against these serious charges.
Mr. Diaz has defended the rights of his clients for over 18 years and focuses his practice only on criminal defense. He prides himself on his ability to respond promptly to the needs and concerns of his clients. If you retain him as your attorney, you will have his personal cell phone number, and he will be available to address your questions and concerns at any time. Your freedom and the rest of your life are on the line, so call (409) 407-4784 for a consultation today.
Which Felony Convictions Are A ‘Strike’ In Texas?
The three-strike guidelines in Texas apply to individuals who have been convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison before. Examples of felonies that can land you in prison are:
- Child molestation
- Use of a weapon during a crime
- Crimes involving explosions
- Crimes leading to great bodily harm
If you have been in prison for previous felonies, the three strikes statute increases the minimum prison term for your second, third, or subsequent offense. Depending on the circumstances, you could receive a sentence of 25 years, 99 years, or life.
The first strike against you would be your first stint in prison for a felony, regardless of the sentence details. For example, it does not matter if you received the minimum sentence rather than the maximum. However, the second and third offenses with the Texas three-strike rules are where it can affect the sentence:
If you receive a second felony conviction, the potential punishment range will be increased according to the following:
- If the second case is a first-degree felony, the mandatory minimum sentence will rise from five to 15 years. But the court could still order you to life in prison or 99 years, essentially the same.
- If the second case is a second-degree felony, the mandatory minimum sentence increases from two to five years. The maximum 20-year range is increased up to 99 years or a life sentence.
- If the second case is a third-degree felony, you still have a minimum sentence of two-years, but the maximum could be up to 20 years.
- If the second offense is a state jail felony, you could get two to 10 years in prison.
You will see even more severe increases in prison time if you get strike #3. Other than a state jail felony, any third felony charge will significantly increase the potential punishment. When you have been to prison twice, your third trip could be 25 years to 99 years or life. If your two earlier strikes were state jail felonies, strike #3 will be treated as a second-degree felony.
The Reality Of The Texas 3-Strike Rules
The critical takeaway from this article is that how severe the felony is does not matter for strikes #1, #2, and #3 (unless it is a state jail felony). Even if you were convicted the first two times for more serious felonies, a third felony conviction of any type can put you in prison for life. The judge must also comply with the three strikes law, but they have some discretion when determining the advisory range. So, if your mandatory minimum sentence is increased for subsequent felony convictions, the judge cannot sentence you to less than 25 years.
What To Look For In A League City Criminal Defense Attorney
This blog post should make you understand how serious things are if you are subject to the three-strikes law. You could easily be put away for many years for a third offense, especially if you do not have an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. So, who you choose as your attorney is a vital decision. Some tips to consider are:
- Only hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, ideally one who has obtained satisfactory results for defendants subject to the habitual offender statute.
- Ensure that your attorney has plenty of experience in court as primary defense counsel and not just a supporting role. You also should hire a lawyer who has handled serious felonies.
- Find a lawyer who once worked as a state or county prosecutor if you can. Attorneys who once prosecuted cases have critical skills when they enter private practice. They understand how prosecutors think and approach felony cases.
Other Things To Remember About Felony Convictions In Texas
Now that you understand the basics of the three-strikes law, we will review some additional details. First, when considering the potential punishment range, you should remember that the judge could order anything in the parameters when sentencing you. The lowest figure is the mandatory minimum, so the judge must at least sentence that amount. But the judge has discretion when issuing a sentence up to the maximum, so many things can affect your ultimate sentence.
Second, the three-strikes law does not alter the nature of the charge you face. If you got convicted of a second-degree arson felony, it will not be elevated to a more severe felony because you were convicted before. How you are treated when sentenced for your second or third conviction is critical.
Potential Defenses Against A Habitual Offender Designation
The best way to fight a habitual offender designation and a longer prison term is to be found not guilty of the current charge. If you are not convicted, you can avoid the devastation of that third strike. Some defenses that Mark Diaz may use to fight your current charge are:
- Filing a motion to suppress evidence that was obtained unconstitutionally. For example, if the police recovered guns and drugs from your car and did not have probable cause, the evidence could be inadmissible.
- Showing reasonable doubt to the jury.
- Showing how the prosecutor’s case is inconsistent.
- Challenging the testimony of the prosecutor’s witnesses.
- Calling witnesses to testify in your favor.
- Proving that the criminal charges against you are false.
Even if you are convicted, there still is a chance with the help of your attorney to avoid the most severe sentence. Texas judges have a certain amount of discretion on sentences. Because of problems with funding and overcrowding, you could receive less of a sentence than you could have. If you have an experienced attorney fighting for you, he can argue for why you should receive a sentence on the lower end.
There also are other options for resolving certain criminal charges that could be useful to reduce the possible penalties of the three-strikes law. If your attorney succeeds in getting evidence suppressed, plea bargaining could be possible. The prosecutor’s case could be damaged if the evidence is thrown out, and the government might be more willing to plea bargain than lose the case in court. When facing a three-strikes scenario, the best legal strategy would be to plead the case from a felony to a misdemeanor. Depending on the situation, attorney Mark Diaz might recommend the following:
- Pretrial diversion. This means you plead guilty to the charge, but they are dropped when you complete a program similar to probation. But pretrial diversion means keeping your nose clean and staying out of trouble, or you can face a lengthy prison sentence for a third strike.
- Drug court. This possibility focuses on treatment and not punishment for substance abuse.
Contact Our Texas League City Criminal Defense Lawyers
When you know that you could receive a double, triple, or life sentence for a subsequent felony conviction, you understand just how critical it is to have the best criminal defense attorney. It is essential to have a skilled litigator working for you when facing the consequences of three strikes.
Once you have one or two felony convictions, your attorney will need to defend against the current allegations and minimize the consequences of the three-strikes statute. While the judge must apply the three-strikes rule, they have some leeway when issuing a sentence in the increased range. Your attorney must present a strong argument for the most lenient sentence, so choose your attorney wisely.
Our highly regarded League City criminal defense lawyer at Mark Diaz & Associates can offer the best defense if you are facing habitual offender consequences. Set up a legal consultation today by calling (409) 407-4784. Mr. Diaz has dedicated his practice to standing up for the rights of those charged with crimes in League City and the surrounding community.