Multiple Crime Convictions in Texas
Most people are aware that being arrested and convicted of a crime in the state of Texas is a very serious matter. Even if it’s a relatively minor offense that isn’t likely to lead to jail time, a conviction will still be placed onto an offender’s criminal record. These records can follow people for years and make it more difficult for them to find a job, apply for a loan or find affordable housing.
However, dealing with a single criminal conviction is possible. The situation gets much more complicated when a person has multiple convictions on their record. Whether these convictions occur after a single incident or over a span of years, their combined effect can be very difficult to deal with. This post will explain how multiple crimes are handled in the state of Texas.
Cases With Multiple Crimes
When a person is arrested and charged with a criminal offense, they will typically be given a court date and an opportunity to enter a plea or take their case to trial. However, the situation is a bit different when multiple charges are filed.
Typically, a case involving multiple charges can have several different outcomes:
- A single defendant may face separate convictions for all charges
- A single defendant may have several charges combined or dropped
- Multiple defendants may have charges brought against them following a single case
How a particular case is disposed has a lot to do with the facts of the case and the way that the defendants respond to the charges.
A Legal Example
In July of 2016, a 24-year-old junior high English teacher in Montgomery County, Texas was arrested on charges of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student. A warrant was issued for her arrest and she turned herself in after an investigation was launched to discover the truth about the relationship.
The teacher admitted to having a sexual relationship with the minor and text messages were recovered backing up her admission. She also admitted to getting an abortion after she became pregnant as a result of the illegal sexual relationship. She was charged with continuous sexual abuse of a minor, an extremely serious charge.
She is also alleged to have exchanged explicit messages and images with the minor and it is claimed that she picked him up from his house and let him stay at her house with the full knowledge and permission of his parents. These circumstances have the potential to lead to further charges for both the teacher and the boy’s parents. Some of the laws violated in this case include:
- Continuous sexual abuse of a minor
- Exposing a minor to explicit materials
- Allowing a minor to be sexually abused without reporting it
- Improper relationship between an educator and student
Although the teacher has only faced one charge so far, the case could develop in one of several ways.
Combining Multiple Charges
In Texas, when a defendant is facing conviction on multiple charges, they may not necessarily have to create a formal defense for each charge. In many cases such as the one described above, the defendant will only face prosecution on one or two charges out of the group of charges filed against them. This is typically done for one of two reasons:
- The prosecution only wants to pursue a conviction on the charge that they are most likely to prove
- The defense enters a plea deal, agreeing to plead guilty on one charge if others are dropped
In nearly all legal cases, the prosecution wants to secure a conviction at all costs. While this means that they will pursue a conviction aggressively, it also means that they don’t want to take too many chances. As a result, they may only pursue the charge for which they have the most evidence. In this case, the prosecution has the admission of guilt from the teacher regarding the sexual relationship, so the prosecution has a very strong case.
The desire to reach a conviction also makes the judge and the prosecution open to negotiation. This gives the defense an opportunity to enter a guilty plea to single charge with a reduced sentence in exchange for the other charges being dropped. In this way, the prosecution gets their conviction and the defendant gets a lighter sentence than they might have gotten otherwise.
In this case of sexual abuse, the defense has a strong motivation to reach a plea bargain. The charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child has a penalty of 25 years to life in prison in Texas and the prosecution has the teacher’s admission on file. Entering a plea deal may mean that the teacher can avoid life behind bars in a Texas prison.
Additionally, after a conviction on multiple charges has been reached, a judge may order the defendant to serve their sentences consecutively or concurrently. Typically, a judge can show lenience by allowing the charges to be served concurrently, or all at the same time. A defendant convicted of an extremely serious crime may be ordered to serve their sentences consecutively, or one after the other.
Some cases involving multiple crimes also involve several defendants. For example, in this case, the parents of the student allowed sexual abuse to happen with their full knowledge and consent. This is a felony offense in Texas. As a result, the parents of the boy may be brought up on charges in a separate case. If convicted, they could lose their parental rights and serve time in jail.
In cases involving multiple defendants, the admission of guilt by one party may or may not have an effect on the cases of the other parties. If one defendant takes the majority of responsibility, a judge may reduce charges for co-defendants. However, in this case, because a child was abused with the consent of his parents, the judge may not be likely to reduce potential penalties for the responsible parties.
Are you being charged with one or more crimes? Strong legal representation is vitally important in times like these. Contact attorney Brett A. Podolsky at 713-227-0087 to get the help you need.