What Are Lesser Included Offenses, And Why Are They Important?
In Texas, in criminal cases, lesser included offense laws might have a significant role to play for the defense. However, the prosecuting attorney can also use them to gain an advantage during a trial. When charged with a crime, the key to succeeding with lesser included offenses is having the right strategy. This requires a thorough and in-depth understanding of the way the law works. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney in Houston TX will give you more information on how those laws can be applied to your specific situation, but it can be useful to go over the basics and discover what the potential advantages are.
Lesser Included Offense Under State Law In Texas
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that a lesser included offense is an offense that:
- Can be proven by the same facts or fewer than all the same facts, that can prove the crime that the prosecution has charged;
- Is different from the crime that has been charged, in only that a less serious risk of injury or injury to the public interest, property, or person is involved;
- Is only different from the crime that has been charged, in that a less blameworthy state or mind is involved; or,
- Includes characteristics of attempting to commit the crime that has been charged or a crime that is otherwise included.
A Good Example
One common scenario that is used for describing the lesser included offenses concept is strangulation. In the Texas Penal Code, this crime falls under the Assaultive Offenses category. Assault is a Class A Misdemeanor and refers to knowingly threatening or causing bodily injury to another individual.
Choking someone is also a form of assault; however, it includes the added element of stopping another person’s airflow. The strangulation assault crime is raised to a Third Degree Felony.
Based on our example, assault is the lesser included offense of strangulation. It may be proved by less than all of the identical facts because it isn’t necessary for assault to establish that the airflow of another individual was stopped by the defendant.
Implications at Trial of Lesser Included Offenses
Lesser included offenses in the Texas statute may be included in an effective strategy for defending your rights during a criminal case. Your goal is to ultimately have the option of a lesser offense included before the jury has gone into deliberations.
Is Not a Separate Charge: Whenever there is an option for a lesser included offense in your case, it won’t be a separate charge. The judge is the only one who can order the jury to take into consideration whether or not to convict you based on a crime that isn’t part of the official charges that have been brought against you. Jury instructions are used to do this.
How Jury Instructions Work in the State of Texas: After the prosecutor has presented his evidence against you and all of your arguments and facts have been presented for your case, the case will be deliberated by the jury. However, the judge will provide the jury with instructions before they head off to discuss your innocence or guilt on the crime’s essential elements.
Defense and prosecuting attorneys can submit requests for jury instructions; if the judge approves them, then the jury must adhere to them when they are making their decision.
How to get a Lesser Included Offense To the Jury: There is a specific instruction that is necessary for a lesser included offense to ensure that it is considered as an option; otherwise, the jury just considers the crime that the official charges describe.
A defendant, in general, does have the right for jury instructions to be given on lesser included offenses when the evidence reasonably allows the jury to find her or him guilty of the lesser office – and not guilty of the greater charge.
It has been held by Texas courts that anything greater than a “scintilla” of evidence can be sufficient for including the jury instruction for lesser included offenses. If the judge declines to have the instruction included, there can be grounds for an appeal, since refusing the jury to consider the lesser offense is harmful to the defendant’s case.