Minimum Mandatory Sentences for Sex CasesPublished: May 12, 2017 in Sex Crimes
A mandatory minimum sentence is the shortest length of time you must spend behind bars for committing a particular offense. These guidelines exist because federal and some state legislatures have decided that offenders of certain crimes should spend at least a set amount of time in prison. These mandatory minimums cannot be ignored by judges or decreased by good behavior during incarceration.
In Texas, there are several minimum sentences for drug, sex, and violence crimes. If you are charged with a felony, then you face a minimum amount of time in prison, the length of which depends on the type of offense and the level of the felony charge. If convicted, you will not be able to avoid spending years in prison.
The Constitutionality of Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Mandatory minimum sentences for drug, sex, and violent crimes have received a great deal of legal and media attention over the years. Some of this attention revolves around whether mandatory minimums are helpful. While there are proponents for these sentences, others believe they lead to mass incarceration and do not prevent criminal behavior.
Other scrutiny centers on whether or not mandatory minimums are constitutional. The U.S. Constitution does not prohibit mandatory minimum sentences. However, there are caveats. For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court found that a jury, not a judge, must decide whether a defendant committed a crime that has a mandatory minimum sentence. Also, the death penalty cannot be a mandatory minimum punishment.
While some state courts have found their mandatory minimum policies to be unconstitutional, mandatory minimums are allowed in Texas. If you are convicted of a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence, you will not have constitutional grounds to challenge your punishment.
Mandatory Minimums for Sex Offenses
The minimum amount of time you may be sentenced to prison is based on the level of the felony you are charged with. In Texas, mandatory minimums for felonies are:
- State jail felony: Confinement in a state jail for no less than 180 days.
- Third-degree felony: Imprisonment for no less than 2 years.
- Second-degree felony: Imprisonment for no less than 2 years.
- First-degree felony: Imprisonment for no less than 5 years.
- Capital felony: Life in prison without parole.
For many sex crimes, the mandatory minimum sentence depends on the level of the charge. However, certain offenses or offenses with mitigating factors increase the mandatory minimum. For example, due to Jessica’s Law, if you are charged with committing aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 6, or a child younger than 14 with the use of a deadly weapon or causing serious bodily injury, then the mandatory minimum is 25 years. This 25-year minimum can apply to other serious sex offenses as well.
Additionally, a mandatory minimum may apply to you if you are deemed a repeat sex offender. This enhancement requires you to spend 35 years in prison for a subsequent offense before you can be eligible for parole.
The Importance of a Criminal Defense Attorney When Facing a Mandatory Minimum
If you are convicted of a crime with a relevant mandatory minimum, there is no way to avoid this basic amount of time in prison. However, by working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you can attempt to have your charges reduced to an offense without a mandatory minimum – or at least a lower minimum. For instance, you may be able to plead a state jail felony sex offense down to a Class A misdemeanor. Your attorney can also focus on your being sentenced to the minimum duration and not decades longer. Five years for a first-degree felony is far better than the maximum 99 years or life in prison.
Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with a sex crime in Texas, making you susceptible to a mandatory minimum punishment, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today. A conviction for a felony sex crime will disrupt your life forever. After spending years in prison, you will have to register as a convicted sex offender and live by a strict set of rules.
To defend yourself against these harsh statutory and collateral consequences, work with the skilled and proven Houston sex crimes lawyer Ned Barnett. With more than 30 years of experience in the criminal defense field, including time as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer, attorney Barnett understands the nuances of Texas sex crime law and can fight to prove your innocence or mitigate the consequences of conviction.
Call today at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free initial consultation.