Proving Every Element Of A Criminal Case “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt”
The burden of proof in any criminal prosecution is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means the state must prove the defendant’s guilt of all elements of the alleged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not enough to establish a “strong suspicion” or “probability” of guilt.
Texas Appeals Court Reduces Felony Conviction to Misdemeanor
A recent Texas appeals court decision, Goodrum v. State, helps to illustrate this concept. In this case, the appellate court held the evidence at trial failed to establish the defendant’s guilt of a felony charge beyond a reasonable doubt, although it simultaneously held the defendant was guilty of a lesser misdemeanor offense.
This particular case dealt with the offense of “hindering apprehension or prosecution.” The defendant was living in a rented trailer with a man named Kahler. Police obtained a warrant for Kahler’s arrest on felony burglary charges. Specifically, the police had probable cause to suspect Kahler had stolen some tools from a shed.
Local police went to the trailer to execute Kahler’s arrest warrant. When nobody answered the door, they pried the door. Once inside, the defendant entered the main living area and spoke to the officers. She told them she had been sleeping and did not hear them knocking.
The officers then searched the trailer and found Kahler “hiding in a small compartment” in [the defendant’s] closet where the water heater was located.” The officers proceeded to arrest Kahler. Prosecutors later charged the defendant with a felony charge of “hindering” Kahler’s apprehension.
Hindering apprehension is normally a Class A misdemeanor charge in Texas. It applies to situations where the defendant helps another person “conceal” themselves from the police to avoid arrest. But if the person being concealed is under arrest for a felony, then the hindering charge can be elevated to a third-degree felony.
In this case, a jury convicted the defendant on the felony charge. But the Court of Appeals said the evidence did not support such a verdict. Specifically, the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant “knew, when she was helping Kahler conceal himself, that Kahler was under arrest for, charged with, or convicted of a felony.” When the officers came to arrest Kahler that night, they did not immediately inform the defendant that they had a warrant for Kahler’s arrest or–more importantly–that he was under arrest for committing a felony. As such, the evidence only proved that the defendant committed the base misdemeanor offense of hindering apprehension.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Keith B. French Today
Sometimes a small detail can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and felony conviction. A qualified Pearland criminal defense attorney can review your case and help you formulate the best possible strategy for contesting the state’s charges. If you need to speak with a lawyer right away, contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, to schedule a consultation.