Texas Court Rules Jury Instruction on Lesser Included Offense is Proper

Under Texas law, if the evidence is insufficient to convict a defendant of a crime, he or she may be convicted of a lesser included offense. In some cases, a defendant may choose to enter into a plea bargain to a lesser included offense to avoid a possible conviction for the greater offense. Typically, either the State or the defendant will ask the court to submit an instruction to the jury regarding a lesser including offense.

As a Texas appellate court recently held, however, the court may choose to provide the jury with an instruction as to a lesser included offense regardless of whether either party requested the instruction. If you face criminal charges, you should retain a capable Texas criminal defense attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Trial

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by the police while he was on a bus. He submitted to a pat-down, which ultimately led to the revelation that he was carrying 332 grams of cocaine. He was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, to which he plead not guilty. The defendant did not testify at his trial but did not dispute that he possessed the cocaine. Rather, the contested issue at trial was whether the defendant intended to distribute the cocaine. During his closing, the defendant’s attorney argued that because the State had not produced sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to distribute the cocaine, the defendant was not guilty of the charged offense.

Reportedly, although neither the State nor the defendant requested the jury receive an instruction on the lesser included offense of possession of cocaine, the court provided the jury with the instruction on its own volition. The defendant objected to the instruction, which the court overruled. The defendant was subsequently convicted of the lesser included offense, after which he appealed.

Instructions on Lesser Included Offenses

Upon review, the court found that to determine whether a jury should be instructed of a lesser included offense it must analyze whether the proof needed to show the defendant committed the charged offense includes the lesser offense. If so, the court then looks at the evidence to determine whether the defendant is guilty of only the lesser included offense. Here, the court found that the evidence produced at trial indicated that the jury could reasonably find that the defendant was guilty of the lesser included offense. Further, it was undisputed that possession of cocaine was a lesser included offense of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that the trial court was not permitted to provide the jury with an unrequested instruction regarding the lesser included offense, finding that it was allowed under Texas law. Thus, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction.

Confer with a Trusted Texas Criminal Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Charges

If you are charged with a crime, you should meet with a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney to develop an argument in your defense. Rick Davis is a proficient Texas criminal defense attorney who will offer you a vigorous defense to help you seek a successful outcome under the circumstances. You can contact Mr. Davis at (979) 779-4357 or through the online form to set up a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Texas Court Explains Evidence Needed to Convict of Theft for Failure to Perform Services, January 26, 2019, Rick Davis & Associates Blog

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