In the State of Texas, if it is shown on the trial of a felony that the defendant has previously been finally convicted of a previous felony, the state can use the prior conviction to punish the defendant at a higher range of punishment. For example, if a defendant is charged with a second degree felony, found guilty and has a previous felony conviction of a third degree or above case, the second degree case will be bumped up to a first degree punishment range. Therefore, instead of facing two to twenty years in prison, the defendant would be subject to five to ninety nine years in prison. This is called an enhancement. That is a general synopsis of how enhancements work. They are different for misdemeanors and state jail felonies, but the main point to understand is that they are used to increase punishment.
If a defendant has a prior juvenile adjudication, can it be used to enhance their adult felony? It may come a surprise, but if your answer to the question is no, you would be wrong. In the state of Texas, the state can and does use prior juvenile adjudications to enhance adult punishment. The criteria to use the juvenile case is as follows. First, the juvenile case must have been for a felony. Second, the defendant would have had to be committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Depart, what is commonly referred to as TDCJ. Third the juvenile offense would have to be committed after January 1, 1996.
If a defendant’s juvenile adjudication meets the three conditions, then they are final felony convictions that can be used to enhance adult felony convictions. As the example above explains, the second degree case would be punished as a first degree. A third degree case would be punished as second degree. For enhancement purposes in Texas, a first degree felony is raised from five to ninety nine years to fifteen to ninety nine years.
In Texas, if a defendant has two prior felony convictions, they are given habitual status. This means that the range of punishment is twenty five years to life in prison, if a defendant has two prior convictions. It is extremely important to note that, although a prior juvenile adjudication that meets the above criteria can be used to enhance punishment, it cannot be used as one of the two prior felony convictions to enhance a defendant to a habitual.
The criminal justice system in both Texas Juvenile Courts and in Texas Criminal Courts is complicated, scary and potentially life changing. An experienced, Texas Board Certified Attorney is your best choice when faced with a crisis that could involve prison time. Mario Madrid is a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer who has over twenty years of experience. If you need the help of a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney, call Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400, for a free consultation.