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sex crime sentencing in texas; what's considered

Sex Crime Sentencing in Texas: What’s Considered?

Published: Dec 27, 2019 in Sex Crimes, Sex Crimes Involving Children

If you’ve been accused of sexual misconduct, you may wonder what your sentence could be if you’re convicted in Texas. After the verdict, the judge will conduct a sentencing hearing, in which the prosecution and the defense will present arguments for the penalties they think is appropriate. Properly preparing and executing a strategy at this stage is an essential aspect of your defense.

Texas has a well-earned reputation for being tough when it comes to sex crime convictions. At the Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we will do everything in our power to get you a fair case outcome. By vigorously advocating for you at every step of the criminal justice process and by exploring every applicable defense theory, we can help you avoid the draconian penalties of Texas sex crime conviction.

If you have been accused of a sex crime, call us today at (713) 904-1066 for a free and confidential consultation about your situation.

A Sentencing Hearing Puts Your Character on Trial

One of the biggest protections you benefit from in the criminal justice system are the rules of evidence. These rules prohibit the prosecution from introducing unfairly prejudicial evidence against you and evidence of previous wrongdoings that might show that you have a criminal character.

Unfortunately, many of these protections no longer apply at the sentencing hearing, which means that judges may consider a wider range of evidence than they would at trial–and in many cases this evidence can be damaging to your case.

That’s why you need an experienced attorney who can help you counter the prosecution’s arguments. Advocacy at the sentencing stage is unique, and requires a dedicated strategy. The overall goal at this stage will be to minimize the impact of the prosecution’s evidence, and to present your own evidence showing that you are deserving of a lenient punishment or a sentence geared primarily towards rehabilitation. This evidence can cover issues such as your good behavior in detention, the completion of substance abuse treatment, and even topics such as your positive impact on your community.

What Factors Does a Judge Consider?

Essentially, just about any information about you–whether good or bad–could potentially be brought up at your sentencing hearing. Once guilt has been established, the question turns to what actions the state should take to punish you, rehabilitate you, dissuade others from committing the same conduct, and to make the victims whole.

Here are some examples of evidence that can influence your sentencing hearing:

  • Aggravating or mitigating facts about your offense
  • Your criminal history
  • Your background and childhood
  • Your employment history
  • The opinions of people who know you
  • Community service and volunteerism
  • Efforts to rehabilitate yourself
  • The victim’s losses
  • Evidence of your remorse
  • Attempts to restitute or apologize to the victims of the crime
  • Whether the victims of the offense were vulnerable members of society

Can The Jury Decide the Punishment?

In Texas, the role of determining your sentence is usually reserved for the judge. But, Texas is one of the few states that allow a jury sentencing. This means that you may also request that the jury determine your sentence. Some defendants may choose this route if the judge hearing their case has a reputation for toughness, or if there is reason to believe the jury will be sympathetic. If the jury cannot unanimously agree to a verdict or to an appropriate punishment, the judge must declare a mistrial, after which the prosecution may decide to re-try the case.

In the majority of the sex crime cases that attorney Barnett handles, he utilizes a jury sentencing to benefit his clients. One potential issue with having the jury determine your sentence is that juries may not act as objectively as the judge. The jury may be more easily be swayed by damning evidence presented by the prosecution, and hand down a sentence based on emotional factors instead of the interests of justice.

As with other aspects of your trial strategy, the question of whether to put your fate entirely into the jury’s hands depends on the specifics of your case, including the evidence available to the prosecution, the jury selection process, and the reputation of the judge.

A Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help

The stakes are particularly high in sex crimes cases. If convicted, you may face harsh criminal penalties and devastating collateral consequences such as the loss of your job, damage to your reputation, and the obligation to register as a sex offender. Therefore, avoiding a guilty verdict should be the first priority. But even if you receive a guilty verdict, the sentencing hearing offers you the possibility to advocate for a better case outcome–and this opportunity cannot be overlooked.

To learn more about your options for defending against Houston sex crime charges, call the Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 904-1066 for a free consultation.