Criminal Defense: Frequently Asked Questions
Answers from a Houston Criminal Lawyer
Do longer prison sentences reduce crime?
Scientists have still been unable to determine whether or not sentence length directly correlates with an individual’s propensity toward crime. Prison is thought to serve the four basic goals of the criminal justice system: to rehabilitate the offender, to restrain him or her from committing another crime, to get justice for the victim, and to deter the offender and the public from committing similar crimes in the future. Many criminal offenders commit the same or similar crimes after they are released from prison, which may indicate that imprisonment does not actually teach criminals a lesson.
Studies have found that the thing that actually reduces crime the most is a person’s age. As the saying goes, “with age comes wisdom;” and it seems to be true because most people who commit crimes are under 35. For this reason, it can be suggested that keeping criminals behind bars until they are middle-aged may help reduce crime rates. Researchers have also found that a person who spends more time in prison may be able to go through more treatment programs and, thus, demonstrate more rehabilitation by the time they are released. Batterers and sex offenders may be able to fight their temptations to cause harm after going through a long-term treatment program. Additionally, some criminals who commit offenses out of desperation may be able to become employable by obtaining a high school or college diploma while behind bars.
One thing scientists agree on is that the fear of longer sentences does not seem to deter the general public from committing crimes. It seems that the likelihood of getting caught influences a person’s actions more than the potential consequences. This may be because so many crimes are impulsively committed, so the fear of punishment doesn’t enter the criminal’s mind until it is too late.
Regardless of the effectiveness of prison sentences, the public at large may suffer from lengthened criminal sentences as long-term imprisonment is very expensive and tax payers are the ones who foot the bill. Additionally, as more people enter prison and fewer are released, new prisons are required, which means even more tax payer money will be used to build and maintain them.
Is there a way to punish a criminal before the actual crime is committed?
In some cases, yes. There are a number of statutes that illegalize the attempt to commit robbery,
murder, or other crimes. The goal of these laws is to punish the person who has shown himself or herself to be inclined to commit a crime, whether or not they have actually completed it. In order to prosecute someone under these statutes, the government must prove that the person had the intent to commit a crime and that he or she took some steps toward achieving that goal.
The question of intent is difficult to prove, particularly for many serious crimes. When you work with a skilled Houston criminal attorney, you may have the charges reduced if your lawyer can make your intent seem less serious. For example, if a person intended to seriously harm, but not kill, another person and the victim did not die, the suspect cannot be convicted of attempted murder. Also, if the person plans on killing someone, but never actually initiates any part of the plan, there is no “bad act” to convict the suspect, so they cannot be charged with attempted murder.
When it comes to drug crimes, do all substances carry the same punishments?
No. Drug crime punishments are based on the classification of the drug and the quantity involved. For example, the punishment for selling 300 kilograms of heroin is much more serious than the punishment for selling 300 kilograms of cocaine.
Can someone be convicted of a DWI when he / she only had one drink?
Yes. Even if a person’s blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of 0.08%, a person can be charged with DWI if the police officer believed the person was impaired by alcohol consumption. In these trials, the officer will describe the driving behaviors that resulted in the traffic stop and the suspect’s behavior during the stop, including the ability to complete the field sobriety tests. In most cases, evidence will also include testimony regarding the person’s alcohol consumption before driving. If the jury believes this is enough to prove that the driver was intoxicated while driving, then they will convict him or her of drunk driving. In most cases, a skilled criminal lawyer can help prevent these convictions based on a lack of evidence.
What is the federal government’s role in criminal law?
While most crimes are the responsibility of the state government, there are some crimes that are overseen by the national government. Crimes under the jurisdiction of the federal courts include the postal service, commerce, taxes, white collar crimes,
computer crimes, terrorism, drug crimes, and
kidnapping. In most federal crime cases, the national government becomes involved because the interstate nature of the specific crime makes it difficult for the states to deal with effectively. If you are facing federal charges, it is crucial that you work with a
criminal defense attorney who has experience working at the federal court level.
Are the proceedings of grand juries secret?
Most courts prohibit the disclosure of grand jury proceedings that apply to the government’s attorneys, the members of the grand jury, and the courtroom personnel. People who violate these rules may be held in contempt of court, but proving the person who actually leaked information from these proceedings is usually difficult. Additionally, persons summoned before the grand jury are generally not required to withhold information on the proceedings.
Are there any crimes that only apply to children?
While there are special courts to handle juvenile crimes, there is no juvenile code. Instead, while adult criminal laws are applied in the juvenile courts, minors are usually accused of delinquencies rather than crimes; sentences also usually focus around education and rehabilitation rather than punishment. Some states have laws pertaining only to juvenile behavior, such as running away from home or skipping school.
What is the difference between parole and probation?
Probation is part of a criminal sentence, whereas parole is a way of completing an incarceration sentence upon release from prison. In most cases of probation, the penalty is used in place of incarceration. Both of these statuses have strict requirements that need to be followed, and failure to follow these requirements may result in revocation of the status. When you work with The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, you can be certain that your criminal lawyer will always push for probation in cases that warrant it.
How do district attorneys decide who to charge?
Every DA has the discretion to decide which crimes should be charged, and they make that decision after looking at a report from the police investigation of a crime. If the case has any obvious defects that will result in its getting thrown out of court, or if the investigation does not prove the guilt of the suspect, then the DA will generally not bring it to trial.
What is the difference between sexual assault and rape?
Rape generally refers specifically to forceful sexual intercourse. Most penal codes instead criminalize
sexual assault because this charge can be used against any unwanted sexual conduct. Rape is included in these laws, but conduct that does not meet the requirements of rape can still be sexual assault.
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