Crime and Punishment in Texas
Texas criminal law identifies a wide range of conduct that is prohibited and considered illegal. This conduct comprise of such acts as thefts, murder, drugs abuse, child pornography, sexual assault, etc. These crimes are punishable by imprisonment, fines or other sanctions based on the degree of the offence. For instance, felonies, also known as severe offenses, attract serious punishment such as death or life in prison without parole, loss of the right to vote; convicted felons may be forced to obtain a particular occupational license. Misdemeanors or less severe offences entail lesser punishments, such as a payment of fines of 4000 dollars or less. Texas has laws which are similar to those of the other states though their penalties for wrongdoers are relatively harsher. The aim of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis of different types of crimes and determine whether the corresponding punishments are justified.
The harsh image of Texas punitive measures in peoples imaginations demonstrates the ability of punishment to reduce crime. Capital punishment in Texas is one of the most feared punishments ever. Since 1923, Texas Department of Criminal Justice has executed more inmates than any other state. Currently, for a capital murder to receive a capital offence, it must strictly meet the circumstances which are statutory stated in the law (Fritsch, Caeti, and Hemmens 600). Therefore, the person will be taken through a guilt or not guilt phase so as to defend themselves. If guilty, the person will proceed to the punishment stage. At this point, a jury is required to consider the possible dangers posed by the victim in the future as well as mitigating circumstances before giving a death sentence. Punishment by death has taken many forms, including hanging, lethal injections, electric chair, nitrogen gas, and firing squads. If the person charged with capital offence is a juvenile at the time of the crime, the prosecutor may choose not put the defendant on a death penalty but sentence them to life imprisonment. This punishment has taken the lives of several people, including seven known executions of women.
Arguably, possession of various illicit and controlled drugs also warrants an excessive level of punishment in Texas. For example, possession of marijuana is a felony which is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of two years to twenty years with a fine of ten thousand dollars. Moreover, a possession of a high quantity of this drug is considered unforgivable, and the victim is sent to prison for five to ninety-nine years, and they are also charged a fine of no less than fifty thousand dollars. The possession, trafficking, and sale of other drugs, which are considered illegal under the federal law, would warrant a punishment depending on the amount and the type of drug, geographical area of distribution, and whether the victim was targeting children. The higher the amount and the more dangerous it is the likelier it is the offender will spend most of their life behind the bars. This shows how harsh these Texas laws are.
Texas State severely punishes felons found guilty of burglary and trespassing. An individual will be charged with committing this offence when they knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in places, premises, buildings, or real estate that has been enclosed in a way to keep intruders out (Fritsch, Caeti, and Hemmens 601). Moreover, a person will be considered guilty of this crime when they enter a building or a home without the knowledge of the owner and with the intention of committing a crime. An individual found guilty of this offence faces a broad range of penalties. The punishment for this crime can have several degrees. The first level comprises of breaking into someone's home or private building. The second level involves less punishment as it entails entering a private property, which is not fenced or refusing to leave the place after you have been instructed to leave. In the first case, Texas laws stipulate that a person guilty of trespassing should be jailed for a minimum of three months or they would be required to pay a fine of not less than four thousand dollars. Sometimes they may be needed to serve a jail sentence in addition to paying a penalty. This punishment may vary depending on the circumstances of the crime and the possible threats that the person placed on the owner of the property. The higher the threat to the owner's life, the harsher the punishment is. This is also a good indication of the cruel punishments in Texas.
In the recent past, the Texan government declared, that domestic violence is one of the major health threats. Therefore, to mitigate the problem, the offenders are set to receive higher punitive measures. Domestic violence is a crime that involves a particular pattern of behavior where one person in a relationship is abused by the other partner. This may include physical abuse, where the victim is consistently beaten violently and denied medical treatment. It can also be represented by psychological assault where the offenders are invalidating the victim's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It may also include sexual harassment and even marital rape. Additionally, someone can also be charged with threatening their partner or spouse with lethal weapons.
The punishment for domestic crimes is classified under a different class. They are grouped into class A, B, and C. In the A category, the crimes are considered to be minor and will entail little punishment. However, when defendant used violence and caused injuries to their partner, the charges increase and the offender may be sentenced to life in prison. The person may also be fined for not less than 400 dollars depending on the injury caused to the partner. For the class C and B, the person may be jailed for two to twenty years or, considering the intent of his crime, may be forced to leave their partner and required to carry out community work and report to the authorities as a way to monitor their behavior.
A person would be punished severely in Texas if they are charged with child abuse (Sorensen et al. 484). The law governing children criminalize physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children. This law also makes it a punishable offence to inflict mental or emotional injury that has a direct effect on the child's development and growth, physical injury leading to sexual abuse, and other forms of exploitation. This is one of the crimes, which involves many parents in Texas. This is because child neglect is a common issue in this state. This crime attracts a broad range of penalties depending on the age of the child, whether it involved sexual abuse, physical or mental injury.
Mostly, child abusers are charged with a serious felony and may receive severe punishments. If the abusers are the parents, the crime may lead to the termination of parental rights. Worse still, the law also implies that people, who fail to report child abuse or in some way neglected their duties to inform the authorities about the occurrence of the crime, can be held accountable. This makes it mandatory for neighbors or any person who witnessed child abuse to report it to the authorities. Failure to report such cases can make witnesses liable for a misdemeanor charge and may lead to fines, jail time, or both. On the same note, Texas child pornography laws prohibit exploitation of children sexually, any conduct of sexual acts or employment. When found guilty of this crime the offender will be sent to prison for ten years and will also be charged a fine of not less than ten thousand dollars. Besides, if a child is younger than a certain age, the case increases to the first degree of the crime and the victim may be sentenced to 99 years in state prison or charged a fine not less than 50,000 thousand or both. This makes Texan law crueler than the statutes in other countries.
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This paper uses different statistics to evaluate Texas crime rates globally between 2010 and 2014. For example, in 2010 Texas took the 15th position in violence rates worldwide (Texas Crime Rates 1960 -2014). The rate reduced in 2011, when the state was as the 19th globally. However, due to other factors, violence rate increased in 2014, when it was ranked as the 15th again. Besides, the rate of burglaries reduced drastically from 2010 to 2014 (Texas Crime Rates 1960 -2014). In 2010, Texas was ranked as the 11th internationally. In 2014, the crime rate decreased and Texas managed to take the 16th place. This shows that there is an improvement in handling burglaries. Furthermore, in 2015 Murphy, TX recorded the lowest violent and property crime rate of 0.02 and 6.30 respectively per 1000 people. However, according to the Texas Tribune dated February 23rd, 2016, Texas still has a higher crime rate compared to neighboring states with an over 5% difference (Aguilar and Ura).
Due to the excessive punitive measure in Texas, the crime rates have decreased tremendously. This shows that crimes are not irrational actions, but are intended and well planned by the criminal who compare the expected benefits with the expected cost. When the risk is higher than benefits, they search for alternatives to committing crimes, hence reducing the number of criminal cases. Therefore, the excessive punishment nature of Texan laws has made it citizens fear engaging in individual criminal acts due to the amount of punishment that awaits the offenders.