Understanding the Texas Habitual Offender Law

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Under the Texas Habitual Offender law, someone can be classified as a habitual offender if he or she has two prior felonies. If you have two prior felonies and are charged with another crime, the Habitual Offender or “Three Strikes” law can enhance the punishment ranges under the Texas Penal Code. In most cases, prior convictions will increase the current punishment range up one level, but sometimes prior convictions can result in a 15-year or 25-year minimum prison sentence. If you have prior convictions on your record, it’s important to understand how the habitual offender law can affect you.

What Convictions Are Considered Under the “Three Strikes” Law?
The habitual offender law applies to felonies that are considered violent or serious. This may include:

  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • The use of a weapon during a crime
  • A crime involving an explosion
  • A crime resulting in significant bodily harm
  • DWI with injuries

The habitual offender law can mean you will serve a longer jail or prison sentence for a conviction than you would have otherwise. As an example, a theft conviction usually does not have harsh penalties, but it can mean years in jail if it is your third conviction.

Unlike the “three strikes” law in California, Texas instead focuses on the penal code classification and enforces penalties that are based on the severity of the past and current felonies. Still, a first-degree felony must carry a minimum 15-year penalty that may be increased with other penalties.

Some second and third convictions also require a life sentence, including sexual assault, indecency with a child, and aggravated kidnapping.

A Recent Example of the Habitual Offender Law with DWI
This month, an East Texas man was sentenced to life in prison for a DWI. The reason? He was classified as a habitual offender under Texas law. The man, 48-year-old James Eric Nachlinger, has 10 DWI arrests and 7 convictions on his record, including 4 DWI felonies.

Nachlinger was pulled over in July of last year while driving on I-20 in Parker County and a blood sample showed a blood alcohol concentration (NAC) of more than three times the legal limit. He consented to have Texas District Judge Craig Towson assess a sentence, who sentenced him to 66 years in prison by saying, “I have to protect the public from you.”

Nachlinger was charged under the habitual offender law, in part, because he refused every opportunity along the way to stop drinking through rehabilitation. He had been sent to SAFPF drug and alcohol rehab three times prior to the last offense which includes up to 9 months of inpatient rehab followed by a halfway house.

Potentially being prosecuted under the habitual offender law is one of many reasons it’s important to consult with an experienced San Antonio defense attorney if you have been charged with a crime. Even if you are facing your “third strike,” it is not a guarantee that you will spend years behind bars due to overcrowding, budget issues, and the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you are facing a criminal charge and may even be prosecuted as a habitual offender, contact the Locke Law Group today for a free consultation with a defense attorney in San Antonio to discuss your case.

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