People are naturally worried about crime, especially violent crime. However, few people really know whether a city as large as Houston is experiencing a crime wave or not. And public perception matters. When people are afraid that crime is surging, they are more likely to demand that prosecutors get aggressive against criminals. Jurors might also be less likely to objectively review evidence.
Crime in Houston is Down…And Up
The good news is that crime has dropped over the past year—a 3% drop in homicides and 10% drop in violent crime, according to an article by the Associated Press. This should be good news.
However, at the same time, crime is definitely up compared to where it was before the pandemic hit in early 2020. At least, this is the situation with murder. For example, homicides in Harris County jumped dramatically from 2019 (pre-pandemic) to 2021—up by almost 60%. That is certainly a startling rise, and it is easy to see why people would notice it.
Although the homicide numbers have receded somewhat, they certainly haven’t put us back where we were in 2019 and in prior years. For this reason, we can say that murder in the state is both down and up.
The Court System Remains Backlogged
Another problem fueling perceptions of a crime wave is the backlog in our courts. This first emerged after Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017, which even flooded the Harris County courthouse. Many criminal courts were required to relocate. The pandemic only made things worse, with many courtrooms closed. Consequently, many people are not seeing suspects convicted and sentenced soon after their attacks.
Harris County has also enacted bail reform recently, which has resulted in the release of most people accused of misdemeanor offenses. Consequently, the public has come to associate this reform with a jump in crime.
How Perceptions about Crime Impact Defendants
If you’ve been accused of a Houston crime, you face an uphill climb to secure your freedom. In an atmosphere where the public suspects a crime wave is washing over the city, defendants shouldn’t expect too many breaks. Some prosecutors will aggressively charge—in fact, they might overcharge you. They might also be less eager to offer a plea deal, especially if you are facing charges for a violent crime.
Should your case go to trial, more jurors will be predisposed to vote against you, making it harder to secure an acquittal. The judge might also refuse to require a new trial even if the prosecutor committed misconduct.
Helpfully, a skilled criminal defense attorney can make a difference.
Tad Nelson is an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney
This is a tense time in our city. Even if crime is slowly going down, public perception matters a lot. Anyone facing criminal charges needs the best attorney possible in their corner. Contact Tad Nelson & Associates today. We can discuss your case, including whether you have possible defenses to raise. We can then get to work immediately defending you from these charges.