Texas High Court Affirms Enhanced Punishment for Theft Crime Based on 20-Year-Old Federal Conviction

Criminal defendants in Texas with prior criminal convictions can be disadvantaged at nearly all stages of the Texas prosecution. Law enforcement officers who notice that an individual has a lengthy criminal record may have a bias against them and seek them out for arrest. Many Texas crimes can be charged at a higher level if an individual has prior convictions. During a trial, the judge or jury may be able to consider prior crimes or convictions in determining a defendant’s guilt, and at sentencing, prior convictions can be used to increase the punishment for a crime. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently rejected a post-conviction petition filed by a woman who had been sentenced to 40 years in a Texas prison for a theft offense, based in part upon a 2001 federal criminal conviction.

According to the facts discussed in the recently published judicial opinion, the defendant was convicted of a theft crime in Texas in 2023. Because she had a final criminal conviction out of a federal court in Alaska from 2001, the punishment for her more recent crime was enhanced to a 40-year prison term. After her conviction was final and the direct appeals were exhausted, the woman sought a petition for Habeas Corpus post-conviction relief from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Habeas relief is available in Texas for several reasons, including if the sentence issued was illegal. The woman argued that her sentence was illegally enhanced by the prior conviction because the prior conviction was not “final” as determined by Texas law.

In support of her petition, the woman argued that her prior conviction was not finalized, as she had sought appeals and other relief through the federal court. The high Texas court rejected her arguments, ruling that under Texas law, a conviction is final after all appellate remedies had been pursued and rejected, and the conviction was affirmed by the appellate court in a final mandate. Because the woman had exhausted her appeals in the federal case, the ruling was final under Texas law, and her application for Habeas relief was denied. As a result of the most recent ruling, the woman will be required to serve out her 40-year sentence for the Texas theft crime.

Have You Been Accused of a Crime in Texas?

If you or a loved one has been accused of a federal crime in Texas, you may be subject to a much larger punishment than you think based on prior convictions. Even decades-old convictions for crimes unrelated to a recent arrest could significantly increase the severity of punishment issued for the recent offense. At Guest and Gray, we can assist you to fight both any recent charges against you, as well as enhancements that may be proposed by the prosecution based on prior offenses or other factors. At Guest and Gray, we represent people accused of all Texas crimes, including theft and other property crimes. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

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