The Texas legislature assigns crimes to one of two categories:
1. felony 2. misdemeanor.
Serious criminal offense
Felony fines up to
Felony Prison punishment ranges from
six months to life, Death penalty possible
Voting rights for felons
are restored after fines and other terms of punishment have been served.
Less serious crimes
Misdemeanor fines up to
Misdemeanor punishment ranges from
Jail sentences up to one year possible Served in a county jail, not a state prison
Aside from fines and incarceration, other possible punishments include
1. Parole 2. Probation 3. Community service, counseling, treatment
Conditional early release after serving prison time: must follow specific rules, under probation officer supervision
No incarceration sentence, remains in community, must follow set rules and under probation officer supervision
Arraigned before a judge
Arraignment and Bail
After felonies and misdemeanor arrests, accussed are arraigned before a judge: Charges explained, reminded of due process rights - Bail usually set during arraignment
Determines whether evidence is sufficient to proceed with a trial. Does not determine guilt.
A serious criminal offense that is punishable by a prison sentence or a fine. A capital felony is punishable by death or a life sentence
Formal guilty or not guilty plea Trial dates scheduled Motions may be presented Plea bargains usually take place during this phase
not guilty, defendant set free
guilty, jail, prison, probation and/or fines possible punishments
Defendant can appeal guilty verdict to
Ask higher court to reconsider the court's decision.
County or District Attorneys prosecute_______ cases on behalf of the state.
County or District Attorneys also
Decides whether to prosecute or not & authorizes any plea bargains and negotiations
Four-year terms Partisan races Conviction rates central campaign issue for them Have enormous power
An elected official in some counties who prosecutes misdemeanor cases
Public official who prosecutes the more serious criminal cases in the district court
A negotiated agreement in a criminal case in which a defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for the state's agreement to reduce the severity of the criminal charge or prison sentence the defendant is facing
In a trial, the Jury decision must be unanimous otherwise will
results in mistrial
First Texas prison was built where and when?
Texas PrisonSystem in 1849-1910:
prisoners leased out as laborers
For most of 20th century, Texas prisons were
brutal and scandal-ridden
1972 Texas prisoners
successfully brought class-action lawsuit against the prison system
Texas prisons were under federal supervision during what years?
Ruiz v. Estelle class action
Federal court ruled Texas prison conditions violated U.S. Constitution (cruel and unusual punishment)
Changes resulting from Ruiz v. Estelle decision?
1. Prisons limited to 95 percent capacity 2. Violent prisoners separated from other violators 3. Improved health care for inmates 4. Created safe working conditions for prisoners 5. Ended severe and arbitrary discipline
What group runs the state prison system today?
Texas Department of Criminal Justice. - run by nine member board appointed by governor.
3 states that have higher incarceration rates than Texas?
Only LA, MS, OK (Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma)
, two factors correlated with higher crime rates
1. metro areas 2. poverty - Texas has more than most states
incarceration rates: National average vs. Texas average
-National average: 504 prisoners per 100,000 people Texas average: 639 prisoners per 100,00 people
Texas incarcerates over _________ prisoners
How much does Texas pay per year in expenses for prisoners?
$3 billion per year in expenses. - Very expensive provide housing, health care, meals, other services (e.g., education) to tens of thousands
Budget cuts mean:
pressure for early releases and alternatives to incarceration
Population size differences
Why is it hard to make comparisons (by raw number or rate) for death penalty cases for Texas?
True/False Viable appeals very difficult to establish
Why is there no guarantee of competent representation for people facing death penalty?
1. Federal courts have prevented several executions in Texas for due process failures 2. Racial disparities in death row sentencing
Who votes on clemency for death-row inmates?
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles - Both federal and state judges have been highly critical of this process.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was originally considered a remedy for what?
Possible corruption in clemency granted by the governor. - Prior to 1936, the governor essentially had unlimited power to grant clemency, and this power was often abused.
True/False Texas has more verified wrongful convictions than any other state.
Wrongful convictions are often related to the methods police and prosecutors use to convict suspects such as:
1. use of eye witnesses 2. DNA lab procedures 3. DAs not forthcoming with exculpatory evidence
Tulia drug busts
Racially charged, questionable method by police - Yet one was named Officer of the Year - Only 2 of the 47 initially convicted ended up serving time—for parole violations
other examples of egregious and deliberate miscarriages of justice
Willingham, Graves, and Morton cases
Reform innovation: Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins
Established "Conviction Integrity Unit" Reviewed more than 300 cases Helped free 25 wrongly convicted inmates Maintains 99.4% conviction rate in Dallas County
Mandatory Sentencing Minimums
1. More spending on drug treatment 2. Compensation for wrongly convicted
1. Anthony Graves 2. Innocence Project 3. Fifth Amendment
Payment of money to the state as an assurance that an accused person who is released from jail pending trial will appear for trial; if the accused does not appear, the bail is forfeited
"Three strikes" provision:
A law that allows persons convicted of three felonies (or in some cases two felonies) to be sentenced to life imprisonment
A minor offense usually punishable by a small fine or short jail small fine or short jail sentence
Punishment where an offender is not imprisoned but remains in the community under specified rules and under the supervision of a probation officer
Jury that determines whether sufficient evidence is available to justify a trial: grand juries do not rule on the accused's guilt or innocence
The conditional release of an offender who has served some prison time, under specified rules and under the supervision of a parole officer
Private lawyers appointed by judges to provide legal representation for indigent defendants in serious criminal cases. The lawyer's fee is determined by and paid by the county
Salaried lawyer who is funded by the government or by grants who represents indigents in Texas in some counties or for some types of counties or for some types of cases
The most serious crimes are classified as
Probation refers to
A suspension of the jail or prison sentence.
True/False People convicted of capital crimes are not eligible for parole.
Determine if there is probable cause to prosecute an individual for a crime.
District attorneys may have the most important roles in the criminal justice process because:
1. They have the power to charge people with crimes. 2. They have the power to plea bargain with defendants. 3. They usually make the only presentation before grand juries.
Plea bargains are made by:
Defendants with district attorneys and agreed to by a judge.
Indigent defendants charged with serious crimes in Texas:
Most commonly are represented by judicially appointed private attorneys.
People have been wrongfully convicted in Texas because of:
- Police misconduct. - Bad or outdated forensic science. - Mistaken identifications. - Prosecutorial misconduct.
An advance in which technology has conclusively proved the innocence of a large number of convicted people is:
- DNA analysis.
The Texas prison system:
1. Was vastly affected by a federal court decision, Ruiz v. Estelle. That declared that the overcrowded system was unconstitutional. 2. Holds mostly persons convicted of violent crimes. 3. Is a very costly way of dealing with crime as op- posed to community supervision such as drug and alcohol programs and probation and parole 4. Is beginning to contract in size after a long period of expansion.
Reforms in the criminal justice process include:
Financial compensation for people wrongfully convicted.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice:
Is run by a nine-member board appointed by the governor
The death penalty:
Has been imposed less frequently since Texas allowed juries to sentence a defendant to life without parole
Probation costs are:
Double the cost of prison.
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