Repeat Offender Law Limited

U.S. Supreme Court building where Justice Kagan delivered the Borden v. United States opinion, addressing a repeat offender law, in which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch joined.
The Supreme Court’s June 10th opinion limits the Armed Career Criminal Act.
PHOTO: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Federal Repeat Offender Law Limited by Supreme Court

One June 10th, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the federal repeat offender law. As a result, prior convictions for reckless violent crimes can no longer trigger a sentence enhancement. The Supreme Court distinguished between crimes involving reckless and intentional mental states. Now, the law only applies to past intentional crimes.  

Texas’s Broader Repeat Offender Law

While the Supreme Court’s opinion limits the federal law, it has no effect on Texas’s repeat offender law. Texas’s law is broader. It does not distinguish between reckless and intentional crimes. If someone has any prior felony greater than a state jail felony, they are subject to a longer sentence under Texas’s repeat offender law.

Texas’s law increases the potential sentence range by one degree for many offenses. This subjects repeat offenders to longer sentences. Take the example of a third-degree felon who commits another third-degree felony. The maximum potential sentence increases to 20 years from ten years. With an enhanced second-degree felony, the minimum sentence increases from five years to 15 years. Also, certain offenses subject repeat offenders to potential life imprisonment, conviction for a capital felony, or life without parole. These consequences deter recidivism.

No Mental State Limitation in Texas

At Cox Law, we advocate limiting Texas’s repeat offender law. It currently exposes a third-degree felon convicted of possessing 4 grams of meth to the same maximum sentence that a recidivist convicted of manufacturing and delivering less than 4 grams of meth is. Repeat possession offenses can indicate an addiction better addressed through treatment than time behind bars. Too often, repeat possession offenses result in inordinately long terms in prison without immediate access to rehabilitation programs when treatment and rehabilitation could address the addiction that led to the criminal conduct.

Texas rightly considers manufacturing and delivery offenses more serious than possession offenses with greater societal impacts and risks. Accordingly, offense severity, and other factors such as the mental state of the crime, an explicit part of sentencing in our law. Broad repeat offender laws grant too much discretion to jurists to impose excessive sentences. This does not serve the interests of our state in many cases.

How We Can Help

At the Cox Law Firm, we have experience in dealing with the repeat offender laws in Texas. We recently represented a client who received a wrongfully enhanced sentence when the law did not apply. The Court used a prior state jail felony against our client to increase his sentence under Section 12.42 of the Texas Penal Code. We successfully argued that his sentence was erroneously lengthy and the board paroled him. The parole attorneys at Cox Law Firm have the experience and knowledge to represent your loved one if a wrongful enhancement issue arises. Please contact us if you have questions or want our support representing your loved one.

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