Does Having A Clean Prior Record Help A Criminal Case?
You have to define what you mean by “help” to answer this question accurately, even if you have a clean record. Clean records, family history, your employment, and other things do not matter, even if you are that perfect citizen, if what you want is to change the facts. The facts are the facts as to what happened. History and a clean record does come into play big time when we talk about how we are going to dispose of this matter, and what will ultimately happen. When you deal with the prosecution, they are much more likely to consider those things, and have some leniency. Equally as true is that the prosecutor will consider a person with a lengthy criminal history and not cut them a break. This information is used when negotiating, and then secondly, it is used once you go to trial and if convicted. In Texas, we have a two-phase trial system.
If you are not guilty then your case is over after the judge or jury finds you not guilty. However, if you are found guilty, then the trial will move into a second phase of the where we are dealing with punishment issues. Clean records, family, employment, etc. are very relevant, because at the punishment phase you are able to show the judge, or jury, whichever one is going to impose sentencing, or punishment, the good character traits. A lot of people who are convicted of a crime are employed, productive members of society. These are good people, but made a bad decision on a particular occasion. When you talk about folks who put themselves in this position, you need to remember, do they need to spend time in jail? Alternatively, does this person need to be supervised, and to make sure they do not make that mistake again?
It can mean the difference between a conviction that comes with probation, and a conviction that comes with jail, or prison time. When you look into those things, and before you even get to trial, you are sometimes able to get into what they call a pre-trial diversion program. This is where the prosecutor will actually forego prosecution, only if you are willing to do certain things. For example, take classes; do reports, that type of stuff. I especially see some of that with the college students. The prosecution tends to make those types of offers, or be agreeable to those types of programs to people they think are going to perform, and positively come through this program. They do look at your family status and, those types of things. They consider whether they are willing to put something like that out on the table.
What is The Difference Between Misdemeanor And Felony Charges?
The penal code shows what misdemeanors are versus what is a felony. That is set by legislature. When you talk about misdemeanors, we are referring to crimes that are punishable by fines only, or by fine, and jail time, which is no more than one year in the county jail. When you talk about a felony, this refers to confinement in either the State Jail Division of TDCJ or the Institutional Division of TDCJ.
State jail felonies are punishable by confinement from six months up to two years, with an optional fine of up to $10,000.
Third Degree felonies are punishable by confinement from 2 to 10 years, with an optional fine of up to $10,000.
Second Degree felonies are punishable by confinement from 2 – 20 years with an optional fine of up to $10,000.00
First Degree felonies are punishable by confinement from 5 – 99 years or Life, with an optional fine of up to $10,000.00.
With a misdemeanor the confinement, if there is any, is in the county jail. With a felony the confinement, if there is any, is in the penitentiary system, or TDCJ, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division.
Do Most Criminal Cases Go To Trial Or Do They Settle Out Of Court?
The greater majority of criminal cases settle outside of court. It is a sheer number’s game. If they could try one case per week in court, and there is only fifty-two weeks in a year, several of those weeks have holidays; the courts are closed during those times. You can only move fifty cases that way. If you figure there is one person arrested every day out of the year (that is probably a low number, but even in the smaller counties, you figure the average of one arrest per day) that equals three hundred and sixty-five arrests a year.
There is no way to try them all, or it would take years to try just those arrested in one year. The system requires that there be settlement of the majority of cases. The majority of the time, once settled, the cases settle for something that appears to be a better deal, than what juries often assess as punishment.
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