Appealing an Illegal Sentence

Jail sentences are not something a person wants to experience. Now imagine if you received a sentence that went above and beyond the maximum legal sentence for your crime. This is the issue that people face when they receive an illegal sentence under Texas Law. The Dallas Court of Appeals recently dealt with this issue in WHITE v. STATE.

In the White case, Mr. White allegedly assaulted a tow truck driver who attempted to tow Mr. White’s vehicle. The tow truck driver claimed that Mr. White repeatedly slapped him at gunpoint and threatened him multiple times. Mr. White disputed this claim, stating that he had a minor dispute with the driver but did not harm or threaten him in any way. The jury heard all of the evidence and decided that Mr. White did indeed threaten the tow truck driver, however; no evidence of a gun existed. At this point, Mr. White was charged with the Class C Misdemeanor of “assault by threat” instead of the original charge of “assault with a deadly weapon.” Mr. White was sentenced to one year in jail, probation for one year, and a $250 fine. This punishment is the punishment for the crime of assault with a deadly weapon, not assault by threat. On review, the State decided to bring an issue relating to an illegal sentencing relating to the excessive punishment given by the jury.

What Constitutes an Illegal Sentence?

Under Texas law, the State has the ability to appeal any sentence if the sentence is deemed illegal. The legislature does not specify what constitutes an illegal sentence, but case law makes it clear that an illegal sentence is a sentence where the punishment goes above and beyond what is required in the Texas statute. In this case, Mr. White was charged with assault by threat that carries a maximum of a $500 fine. The trial court sentenced Mr. White to a year in jail, one year of probation, and a $250 fine. This punishment far exceeded the punishment for a Class C Misdemeanor under Texas law. The purpose of this legal mechanism is to ensure that criminal defendants are only punished to the extent allowed under Texas law. Situations like Mr. White’s excessive punishment create added difficulties for defendants. In the White case, the Court overturned the illegal sentence and sent the case back to the trial level for proper sentencing.

If you believe you have an issue with an illegal sentence, call Guest and Gray Law Firm’s defense team today. Guest and Gray Law Firm is a full service civil and criminal defense law firm serving the entire DFW Metroplex including Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall and surrounding counties. Our main office is in Forney, Texas where we have served the community since 1967. We also have office locations in Rockwall and Kaufman, Texas. Our team of lawyers is ready to help with any concern you might have involving an illegal sentence.

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