In the wake of the El Paso shooting, you may be wondering what happens if the shooter is found to have committed a hate crime under Texas law. The short answer is: Not Much.
Under Texas law, if a criminal defendant is found to have committed a hate crime, his or her punishment may be enhanced to the next higher offense level – unless he or she is convicted of a first degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor. (Tex.Pen.Code sec 12.47). In either of those cases, there is no punishment enhancement. Since the El Paso shooter has been charged with capital murder (a first degree felony), whether or not he is found to have committed a hate crime will have no effect on his punishment under Texas law. How ’bout them apples?
The problem is now more complicated since the Feds have charged the shooter with a hate crime. The Federal Hate Crime Statute (18 U.S.C. sec. 249) does not provide for the Death Penalty – only for a maximum of life imprisonment, and only in certain circumstances (18 U.S.C. sec. 249(b)(1).
In the end, it may turn out the El Paso shooter winds up with a life sentence under Federal law, rather than the Death Penalty, as sought by the State of Texas.
Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll have something more to say as the case develops.
If you ever find yourself charged with a crime of any kind, don’t go it alone. Seek help from an experienced criminal law attorney.
And remember: “If it ain’t written down, it don’t exist.”