Certain misdemeanors that our society considers extra bad can be enhanced to felony sentencing level if that offense is committed by the same person on multiple occasions. Some of these make sense, such as assault family violence offenses. But other crimes like petty theft and prostitution lead one to question if our sentencing guidelines are in tune with our current beliefs of what punishment fits the crime.
Let’s take prostitution for example. Prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor (range of punishment 0 – 180 days in the Bexar County Jail) if it is your first offense. If it is your second offense it can be changed to a Class A misdemeanor (range of punishment 0 – 1 year in the Bexar County Jail), if you have previously been convicted of 3 prostitution cases and you pick up a 4th then your prostitution case can be enhanced to a State Jail Felony, making the range of punishment 6 months to 2 years. However, if you pick up your 4th prostitution case and have already been to state jail on two other occasions (possibly because of possession of drugs) you can be enhanced to a third-degree felony, making your punishment range 2 – 10 years in a Texas prison.
It only gets worse from here. If you pick up your 4th prostitution case and have been to prison on two other occasions then your case can be enhanced to a second-degree felony making your punishment range 2-20 years in prison.
Texas sentencing continues to increase in the same fashion until eventually a person is labeled HABITUAL and their sentencing range becomes 25 years – Life.
Think this doesn’t happen? I have had a normal every day prostitution case where the prosecutor’s offer was for my client to go to prison for 2 years. I have also had a case where a woman stole $50 worth of merchandise and the prosecutor’s offer was the same, 2 years in prison.
Fun Fact: it costs approximately $17,337.50 to incarcerate a person in a Texas person for 1 year.
With our prisons so crowded and our spending deficit so high, it begs the question, is sending prostitutes and people who commit petty theft to prison really how Texans want their government to spend its money?
At the Christiansen Law Firm we fight to get our clients the best possible outcome for their individual circumstances. Call us today for a free consultation.