Texas law allows for certain enhancements to be made to criminal charges under certain circumstances. One of these circumstances that can have a major impact on your sentencing is if you are designated a habitual and repeat offender. Those who meet this definition will face higher penalties than they would face for the same charge if it were their first offense with no prior convictions. Use of this enhancement requires the court to ensure that the offender meets the very specific definition, and if it does not apply, the court cannot use it against you.
If you are charged with a DWI in Texas, contact Texas DWI lawyer Jason S. English to fight for your rights and help you get on with your life. You are not alone, and you can fight this.
Texas DWI Attorney
After 15 years as a prosecutor in Travis County, Jason S. English will use his experience to fight for your rights. He knows how prosecutors handle criminal cases, including felony and misdemeanor DWIs. You have the right to a strong legal defense, to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. You do not have to plead guilty just because the police and prosecutor treat you like a criminal.
Habitual and Repeat Offenders
As do many states throughout the country, Texas takes a hard line with those who have been convicted of multiple felony charges. When a defendant has at least two prior felonies and now commits a third offense, he or she could be considered a habitual offender. This will cause the potential sentencing options for the third felony to increase as a result of the designation.
Repeat offenders are those who have one prior felony in their record and have now committed a second felony. The potential penalties the person faces can be increased depending on the circumstances of the case. Different scenarios may apply, which are as follows.
- If the offender was convicted of a third-degree or higher felony and faces another third-degree felony charge, the new conviction will be sentenced as if it were a second-degree felony.
- If the offender was previously convicted of a third-degree or higher felony and now faces a second-degree felony charge, the second-degree felony will be sentenced as if it were a first-degree felony.
- If the defendant has a prior third-degree or higher felony conviction and now faces a first-degree felony charge, it will be sentenced as a capital felony, with a minimum of 15 years in prison.
- If a defendant has 2 prior state jail convictions and now faces a new state jail felony, it will be punished as a third-degree felony.
- If a defendant has 2 prior third-degree or greater felonies committed in a series, then a new state jail felony will be punished as a second-degree felony.
Repeat offender status can greatly enhance the penalties you face.
Habitual offenders are subject to Texas' "three strikes" law, which states that certain crimes that are committed with one or two prior occurrences preceding them could result in the most serious possible penalties being applied to your case. When this is the case, both prior convictions must have occurred after the other was finally completed and sentenced. If there is overlap in the cases, they do not count as "prior" felony convictions.
If a person has two prior felonies that apply to the rule and now faces a third felony, the third felony could result in penalties including:
- term in prison not to exceed 99 years, and
- term in prison not less than 25 years.
This means that even if you are only facing a second-degree felony but it is your third, you could spend life in prison.
Additional Enhancements for Repeat or Habitual Offenders
Certain repeat offenses can result in a sentence of life in prison, even with only one prior conviction for that offense. These crimes are considered so serious that a repeat of them should result in a person being taken out of society permanently and kept behind bars. These offenses include:
- sexual assault (rape),
- aggravated sexual assault,
- indecency with a child, and
- aggravated kidnapping.
When any of these offenses exist in your prior record, it is incredibly important to hire an attorney well versed in defending repeat offender cases. Otherwise, you could find yourself staring down a life sentence for what otherwise may be a much shorter time in prison.
How to Defend Yourself Against a Habitual and Repeat Offender Designation
The best way to defend against a designation as a habitual and repeat offender is to be found not guilty of the charge you now face. If you are not convicted, you cannot be designated in such a way. Defenses that can accomplish this include, but are not limited to:
- filing a suppression motion to exclude unconstitutionally gathered evidence,
- presenting reasonable doubt to the jury,
- showing inconsistencies in the prosecutor's case,
- challenging the testimony or credibility of witnesses,
- calling your own witnesses to testify on your behalf, and
- demonstrating that the charges against you are false.
Even if you are ultimately convicted of the new offense, there are still ways to avoid the worst possible sentencing possibilities. Texas judges have a lot of discretion on how to sentence you, and because of factors such as prison overcrowding, funding problems, and more, judges often will sentence you to much less than a life sentence.
With an experienced attorney at your side, you can demonstrate to the judge why you should be given a significantly lesser penalty than the judge could impose. A knowledgeable attorney understands what to argue, what the judge is looking for, and can utilize the unique facts of your case to argue for a lesser sentence.
Consult an Experienced DWI/DUI Attorney in Austin, Texas
If you have prior convictions and face a new felony charge in Texas it is important to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. Contact Texas DWI lawyer Jason S. English online or call (512) 454-7548. With his many years of experience, Jason S. English is prepared to fight for your constitutional rights.