By: Mark Diaz
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Why is There Such an Increase in Violent Crime During Summer?
It may come as a surprise to learn that criminal offenses are seasonal in nature, but data indicates that rates tend to trend higher in the summer months. Some studies report that the increase in violent crime could be as much as 5% or higher on warmer days, and there are numerous theories as to why nationwide. However, Texas seems to be spared from this phenomenon. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), October and January rank #1 and #2 for serious crime arrests in the state. August falls in third place but, taken with the months of June and July, approximately 202,000 people are arrested in Texas during these summer months.
To understand the seasonal trends as it relates to the commission of a crime, reviewing some factors that play into the analysis may explain why there is a notable increase in violent crime during summer. Texas laws treat violent crimes seriously because of the harm to victims and threats to the public. The majority of these violent crimes will be classified as felony offenses due to the severity of the allegation.
Nonetheless, even for a misdemeanor charge, jail time and fines can be harsh and impact your life significantly. As such, developing a solid defense strategy is essential if you find yourself or a loved one charged with a crime during these summer months. You are at a disadvantage going up against an experienced prosecutor alone, but you can trust a La Marque criminal defense attorney to bridge that gap and protect your rights while doing so.
Possible Causes for Warm Weather Crime Spikes
There is considerable speculation over the reasons behind increases in violent crime. The following presents some of the popular theories as to why this is the case – as you will see, a lot of the justifications make sense as you think about it. For instance:
- Summer in the northern hemisphere means longer days, so people are outdoors later and into the evening. This leads to higher social engagement in public places or private places. Drinking is common at social gatherings – so, the longer the interaction and the more drinks people are having, the more likely it becomes that the situation can get out of hand quickly and sometimes even violently.
- School is out during the summer months, so many teens are unsupervised, bored, and looking to get into trouble. Based on the crime trends during the summer months, it appears as though some of those unsupervised teens in fact do find that trouble but in the form of a criminal charge, unfortunately.
- Let’s face it, it is hot in Texas…especially in the summer. Many believe that aggression, belligerence, and hostility levels spike when the mercury/heat rises.
- Warmer weather inspires a vacation-like attitude, which can inspire people to consume alcohol more often and in higher quantities. Impairment can lead to poor judgment and motivate a person to engage in criminal activity they normally would not engage in.
- Because school is out, many families save their annual vacation for the summertime. Vacationing families means empty homes while they are away. Empty homes are easy targets to criminals seeking to break into houses and steal.
Summary of Texas Violent Crime Laws
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has established a system of “Index Crimes” to track eight key offenses that are common across the US. Five involve elements of violence, including homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, and aggravated assault. The Texas Penal Code criminalizes all of these offenses, but they may go by different names under our state law.
- Murder/Homicide: The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines murder and nonnegligent manslaughter as the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. Texas classifies its various forms of “murder” under the umbrella term “criminal homicide.” In Texas, “criminal homicide” is defined as follows: “a person commits criminal homicide if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes the death of an individual.” The various forms of “criminal homicide” in Texas are defined as murder, capital murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide.
- Rape: The UCR definition of rape is penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. In Texas, the statute on sexual assault covers a wide range of misconduct, but a person can be arrested for intentionally engaging in designated, nonconsensual sexual activities that are prohibited by law. Nonconsensual means not assenting to the sexual contact in the case of an adult, which could be the result of impairment and a physical inability to resist. A minor victim is not capable of consent, so when an adult has sex with a child (not capable of consenting to the activity), it is deemed rape under Texas law.
- Robbery: While it is a type of theft, robbery also includes elements of violence. If you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to a victim while committing a theft offense, you could be charged with Aggravated Robbery, a First Degree Felony.
- Aggravated Assault: The basic definition for assault, generally, is causing bodily injury to another, making threats to cause bodily harm, or causing physical contact with the knowledge that the victim would find it offensive. The offense is elevated to aggravated assault when the defendant uses a weapon or where the conduct results in serious bodily injury.
- Burglary of a Habitation/Burglary of a Building: This offense is another example of a theft crime that carries more serious charges because it contains an element of violence. Burglary is entering a home or building not open to the public, with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault while inside; hiding inside a habitation or building with the intent to commit a felony, steal something, or attack someone; or, any attempts to enter a home or building for purposes of crime. Burglary is always a felony, but the level varies according to the circumstances. Breaking and entering into a non-residential building is a State Jail Felony, but it is elevated to a Third Degree Felony when the structure is a home. Burglary is more serious than a similar crime: Criminal trespass, a misdemeanor that does not involve violence.
Statistics on Violent Crime
Arrest data is a valuable assessment of rates, but keep in mind an important point. Law enforcement officers only need probable cause to make an arrest. This is a burden that is much lower than the standard which is required to convict. In other words, statistics on violent offenses can be somewhat misleading when you only consider the number of people charged – not the number of people convicted and sentenced. Bear this in mind when reviewing figures on crime in Texas:
- One of the most common violent crimes charged in Texas is aggravated assault, which leads to almost 25,000 arrests every year.
- The violent theft crimes of robbery and burglary account for well over 13,000 arrests annually.
- Nearly 1000 people are charged with varying degrees of murder every year in Texas
Sentencing for a Conviction
From the above description, you can see that officials could arrest you for varying degrees of felony charges based on the circumstances. Punishment is severe for the lowest level offense, and the penalties get harsher as the charges escalate.
- State Jail Felony: If convicted, you could be sentenced to 180 days to 2 years incarceration. As with all other felonies listed below, a judge could order a maximum fine of $10,000 in addition to jail time.
- Third Degree Felony: A conviction for this offense means a mandatory minimum of 2 years imprisonment, but a judge could order up to 10 years in jail.
- Second Degree Felony: The mandatory minimum is still 2 years in prison, but the maximum term of incarceration increases to 20 years if you are convicted of a Second Degree Felony.
- First Degree Felony: For a conviction on these charges, the mandatory minimum is 5 years imprisonment. The judge could sentence you to a maximum of 99 years in prison, which is the equivalent of spending life behind bars in most cases. In some cases involving violent crimes, the court will simply order life imprisonment without setting a number of years.
- Capital Felony: The most serious felony is punishable by death, though you could be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
There is a reason for the range of punishment when it comes to imprisonment. Texas sentencing guidelines allow judges to use discretion when ordering punishment after a person is convicted. Factors that could lead to longer versus shorter prison terms include your general criminal history, past convictions for specific violent crimes, the location of the offense, and many other circumstances.
Overview of Defense Strategies
When sentencing is extremely harsh, you know that taking advantage of all possible defense tactics is critical. Initially, your La Marque criminal defense attorney will seize upon opportunities to disprove or expose weaknesses in the prosecutor’s evidence. There is little room for error with the prosecution’s burden of proof, so any deficiencies could prevent the government from proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In addition, there may be defenses to violent crime charges in Texas, such as:
- Self-defense or defense of others, where you must have evidence showing that you were protecting yourself or someone else when engaging in violence
- Proof of mutual combat, is a defense that alleges that both parties voluntarily engaged in a physical altercation; a bar fight is an example
- Lack of intent or knowledge, in cases where the state of mind is an essential element
Though not defenses, plea bargaining may be an option for resolving charges. You could benefit from pleading down to a Class A Misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Set Up a Consultation With a La Marque Criminal Defense Attorney Today
There are many abstract reasons crime increases in the summer months, but bear in mind that members of the Texas law enforcement community work hard all year long to arrest suspects. However, an arrest is not a conviction, and there are multiple opportunities to fight the charges throughout the process.
If you were arrested for any felony or misdemeanor, please contact criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz right away. Individuals in La Marque, Greater Houston, and Galveston County can reach our firm by calling 409-515-6170. We are happy to schedule a free consultation with a Texas violent crimes defense lawyer who can advise you on potential strategies.