By: Mark Diaz
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What are the Most Common Crimes in Galveston County?
Crime statistics in Texas are interesting in terms of trends, demographics, recidivism, and related factors, but you have many other reasons to review this information if you were recently arrested. One of the most important things you will want to know is how many people charged with a criminal offense are eventually convicted, and you might be surprised by the data.
According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 68 percent of individuals arrested on felony charges were convicted. Breaking down the data, the conviction rate for felonies was 59 percent; the remaining defendants had their charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
While these figures specifically address federal criminal charges, it is possible to extrapolate the data and carry it over to state cases. Applying the BJS numbers to the Texas Department of Public Safety report on Crime in Texas:
- Defendants in felony motor vehicle theft cases had the highest conviction rate at 74 percent. Of the 5,755 people arrested on such charges in Texas, almost 1,500 would not be convicted.
- Officials obtained a conviction in 70 percent of federal murder cases, which means 223 of the 744 people arrested for murder in Texas would avoid a conviction.
- The lowest conviction rate at the federal level was for defendants charged with assault, at 45 percent. Of the 80,267 people facing such charges in Texas, almost 44,150 would not have a felony conviction on their records.
Of course, this is a loose assessment of how criminal cases at the federal level may play out in Texas. It does demonstrate the most important point of criminal law, however: An arrest is not a conviction, and there is a lot that can happen as a case makes its way to trial.
With help from a Galveston County criminal defense lawyer, you can take advantage of defenses and use procedural tactics to make the prosecutor’s job very challenging. Plus, as mentioned above, some defendants avoided a felony conviction by getting the charges reduced to a misdemeanor – which, when looking at the penalties for misdemeanors versus felony offenses, is a win.
The key takeaway from these figures is that retaining experienced legal counsel is absolutely crucial if you have been accused of any of the most common crimes in Galveston County. They include:
Drug Abuse Violations
Almost 130,000 people are arrested for violations of Texas drug laws, including 20,000 for manufacturing and 108,000 for possession. The elements vary by the offense, but the prosecutor must have proof beyond reasonable doubt that you knowingly or intentionally:
- Had possession (care, custody, or control) of a controlled substance; or
- Cultivated, processed, packaged, or engaged in other activities related to drug manufacturing; or
- Had possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute
Many drug possession cases are charged as misdemeanors, but manufacturing and trafficking are typically felonies subject to the sentencing described below. The primary factors in determining the charge and punishment for a conviction are the type of drug and amount, though there are many other variables. Potential defenses to drug possession violations include:
- Lack of evidence regarding intent, or knowledge that the controlled substance was within care, custody, or control;
- Failure to establish possession;
- Inability to show that a transaction, trafficking, or manufacturing took place;
- Crime lab confirms the controlled substance is something other than what is charged;
- Defenses are available in all criminal cases, most of which arise out of violations of your civil rights
Murder and Homicide
There are four degrees of homicide under Texas law: Capital murder, murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. These offenses are categorized according to the underlying circumstances. For instance, capital murder involves the intentional killing of someone during the commission of a violent crime. This includes murder-for-hire, killing a law enforcement officer, mass murder, or causing the death of a child under 10 years old. The offense carries only two options for punishment – life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty, making it even more essential to retain a Galveston County criminal defense attorney.
With respect to other murder crimes, note that:
- Murder is a First-Degree Felony.
- Manslaughter, causing a person’s death through reckless actions, is a Second-Degree Felony.
- Criminally negligent homicide is similar to manslaughter in that the prosecutor does not need proof of premeditation; instead, there must be facts establishing that you were negligent in causing death.
Other Violent Crimes
Assault, battery, and sex crimes are treated very seriously in Texas, starting at a Class C Misdemeanor and can escalate up to a First-Degree Felony. As an overview:
- Simple Assault is a Class C Misdemeanor. However, it is a Class A Misdemeanor if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury.
- You could be arrested for aggravated assault if the acts of assault actually cause serious bodily injury or you use a deadly weapon in commission of the crime. Aggravated assault is usually a Second-Degree Felony unless you have a familial relationship with the victim, the victim is a public servant, or other factors are present – in those situations, it could be a First-Degree Felony.
- Indecent assault is akin to other forms of the offense except that the prosecutor must also prove that the acts were conducted with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual pleasure. This crime is a Class A Misdemeanor.
Sexual assault is also included in Texas assault laws, and there are two separate offenses defined by the statute. One form covers sexual contact or attack without the adult victim’s consent; the other applies to various forms of sexual misconduct involving a child under 17 years old. However, note the application of the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” law: When the defendant is not more than three years older than the victim, and the victim is at least 14 years old, the statute provides an affirmative defense.
Defenses and Strategies for Fighting Criminal Charges
While the above includes some defenses available to specific charges, keep in mind that some defenses apply to all criminal cases. These are typically issues involving constitutional law, as violations of your civil rights are very serious – serious enough that the criminal justice system tips in your favor. Examples include violations of:
- Your Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure
- Your right to remain silent and not be forced to reveal self-incriminating statements
- The right to a speedy trial and to be allowed to confront accusers and witnesses in court
- Your right to retain legal counsel to represent you
To take advantage of the defenses stemming from these civil rights violations, a Galveston County criminal defense attorney will typically engage in motion practice. For instance, if an arrest is based upon an unlawful search and/or illegally seized evidence, it is not admissible in court.
However, getting it tossed is not automatic: You must file a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence or statements. After the motion is filed, typically a hearing will be held in court where witnesses will be called and attorneys from each side will argue their respective positions. If the judge grants it, the prosecution may be forced to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence.
Plus, keep in mind that the prosecution needs to prove each element of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. One effective defense technique would be to expose weaknesses in the evidence and testimony, so the jurors begin to question guilt. Additional defenses may include:
- Lack of intent for specific intent crimes
- Lack of knowledge or mistake
- Self-defense, defense of others, and protecting property
- Mental incapacity, or insanity, in rare cases
Penalties for Common Texas Offenses
There are numerous variables that impact the exact penalties you face for a criminal conviction, including criminal history, underlying circumstances, the identity of the victim, the presence or use of a weapon, and many more. Knowing the baseline sentencing may be helpful:
- A conviction for a Class A Misdemeanor could mean up to a year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine.
- For a state jail felony, you face at minimum 180 days and up to two years imprisonment in a State Jail and a fine of $10,000.
- A Third-Degree Felony carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- For a Second-Degree Felony, a conviction could mean no less than two years and up to 20 years incarceration in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- A conviction on First-Degree Felony charges involves a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, and the max is life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- Being convicted for a capital felony raises the possibility of the death penalty, though the prosecutor has discretion in seeking it. If not, you face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Trust Your Case to a Galveston County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you were arrested for these or another one of the most common crimes in Galveston County, make it a priority to retain legal representation. Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz is in the best position to aggressively fight the charges when you reach out at the earliest stages of a criminal case. To learn more about potential defense strategies, please call (409) 515-6170 to schedule your free appointment with a criminal defense lawyer in Galveston. Our office advocates on behalf of clients throughout Galveston County and Greater Houston, so we are prepared to take on your case.