Texas Court Analyzes Eighth Amendment Protections Against Unjust Sentences

Under the State and Federal constitutions, criminal defendants are afforded numerous rights that protect them at each stage of a criminal proceeding. The rights do not end merely because a defendant is convicted of a crime either, but protect defendants from unjust sentences as well. The Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston, recently analyzed what constitutes an unjust sentence in a case in which the defendant was sentenced to thirty-five years imprisonment for engaging in organized criminal activity. If you live in Texas and are charged with a criminal offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Texas criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. Specifically, the defendant conspired with seven other individuals to commit armed robbery and theft of property with a total value exceeding $150,000.00. There was evidence presented at trial that the defendant, along with his co-defendants, planned to steal four trucks and sell them in Mexico. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charged offense, after which he was sentenced to thirty-five years imprisonment. The defendant subsequently appealed, arguing, in part, that his sentence was unconstitutional.

Protections Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people from unusual or cruel punishment, which includes the preclusion of sentences that are clearly disproportionate to the offense committed. In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant failed to preserve his right to raise the issue on appeal by objecting at trial.

As the defendant also raised an ineffective assistance of counsel argument, however, the court analyzed whether the defendant’s attorney’s failure to object to his sentence was so egregious that it deprived him of a right to a fair trial. In other words, the defendant was required to show that the proceedings would have had a different result, but for his counsel’s errors. Thus, the court analyzed whether an objection to the defendant’s sentence would have been overruled.

A sentence is clearly disproportionate to a crime when an objective comparison of the seriousness of the crime and the severity of the sentence illustrates that the sentence was extreme. A court assesses the seriousness of the crime by evaluating the harm caused to the victim, the guilt of the defendant, and the defendant’s prior offenses. The court noted that a finding that a sentence is disproportionate to a crime is rare.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant’s sentence was within the statutory range, and generally, such punishments will not be disturbed on appeal. Further, the court stated that the evidence introduced at trial showed that the defendant held two men at gunpoint and lied to law enforcement officials during the investigation. Thus, the court found there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defendants are not without rights, and it is prudent for anyone charged with a crime to meet with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney regarding their options for protecting their liberties. Rick Davis is a proficient attorney who will work tirelessly to help you seek the most favorable result possible in your case.  You can reach Mr. Davis at (979) 779-4357 or through the form online to set up a free and confidential meeting.

Contact Information