Almost two years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hard to imagine that this is where we would end up. In mid-March of 2020, much of the United States was forced indoors by a dangerous and virtually unknown virus. At the time, all we knew was that the virus caused severe symptoms sending thousands of people to the hospital. Hundreds of thousands of people contracted the virus, with a large portion of those people ending up in the hospital on ventilators, fighting for their lives. At that time, it was impossible to imagine that we would be here, a handful of variants and several effective vaccines and treatments later. While we have made excellent progress over the past few years to control and limit the effects of the pandemic, other serious consequences have arisen. Over the past two years, violent crime has risen at an astounding rate. Scientists, psychologists, and criminal justice experts have studied this increase over the past two years to determine the cause and effects of COVID-19. Experts have identified which crimes have increased, what factors related to the pandemic have contributed to the increase in those crimes, and what the data means for the future.
Experienced Texas Criminal Defense Team
If you have been charged with a violent crime, it can be challenging to know where to start. In many of these cases, law enforcement and prosecutors will do their best to obtain a conviction. Against those odds, it can feel discouraging and even hopeless. It is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty in these moments. No matter what any other party may believe in these proceedings, your rights and interests are important and protected under the law. To safeguard your rights in these proceedings, you must hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the tactics used by law enforcement and prosecutors to obtain convictions and diminish your rights. The Hampton Law Firm professionals have extensive experience representing clients in their criminal cases and are ready to represent you. To learn more or schedule your free initial case consultation, call us at (817) 826-9885 or visit our website today.
Pandemic Crimes Study
The Council on Criminal Justice studied increases in crime across the United States from the beginning of the pandemic to March 2021. The Council on Criminal Justice’s mission is to help others understand criminal justice policy and work toward solutions to enhance overall safety and justice. The Council is nonpartisan, consisting of members with different political backgrounds and philosophies.
The study takes a broad look at various classifications of crimes. Researchers chose 32 cities in the United States and measured the monthly crime rates for ten types of crimes involving violence, property, and drugs. Because the Council’s cities had different populations and locations, the number and types of crimes committed varied. For example, the largest city monitored was New York, with 8.42 million residents; The smallest city was Norfolk, Virginia, with 245,000 residents. Researchers found the crime data on the cities’ police department online portals. Still, because crimes are charged differently in other areas of the country, the Council notes that the data they found are subject to change, with differences in crime classifications across the cities they studied.
Crimes And The COVID-19 Pandemic
You commit homicide if you intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence cause someone’s death. In Texas, there are several kinds of homicide: capital homicide, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Each of these homicide classifications has different elements that the prosecution must prove to obtain a conviction. Depending on the charge and conviction, the penalties may vary as well. The most severe kind of homicide is capital murder. You may be charged with capital murder if you kill someone while committing another crime or kill another person under the age of 10. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a conviction for capital murder could result in the death penalty.
The homicide statistics study took a snapshot from January 2017 to March 21, 2021. Out of the 32 cities studied, only 24 had any homicide data. At the beginning of 2017, the average homicide rate in a population of 100,000 was about 3. However, by early 2020, rates had increased substantially, becoming as high as almost five and a half murders per 100,000 population. In 2019, 659 homicides were reported. In 2020, that number jumped to 790, a 24% increase. By 2021, the number of homicides increased from 790 to 983, a 24% increase. The report notes that while the pandemic increases reached double digits, they were well below historical highs.
Texas defines assault in three different ways. The first happens when you knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly cause bodily harm to someone else. You can also be charged with assault if you intentionally or knowingly threaten someone with immediate bodily injury. Finally, you may also be charged with assault if you purposefully or knowingly have physical contact with another person when you know the other person would consider the contact offensive. Depending on the facts, you could be charged with varying penalties depending on factors like how you committed the assault and if you have been convicted of assault before.
Assault charges in Texas may be charged as aggravated assault if the offense results in serious harm to the other person. The assault might be “aggravated” if you used a weapon to harm another person. Texas also charges aggravated assault if you caused serious injury to the other person, used a deadly weapon during the assault, or assaulted law enforcement or vulnerable individuals like children or the elderly. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you could face charges of either misdemeanor or felony assault. Misdemeanor assaults are generally assaults that only threaten harm or result in minor injury and carry penalties of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. However, with felony aggravated assault, you could face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.
Pandemic-Related Aggravated Assault Statistics
The increase in aggravated assaults was not quite as significant as for homicides. The average weekly aggravated assault rate was highest in the late spring and summer months and declined during the fall and winter. The trend followed similarly with homicides, where the aggravated assault rate peaked around the early summer of 2020 and dropped over the fall and winter months into early 2021. A total of 1,260 aggravated assault incidents were reported in early 2020, increasing 7% from the same period in 2020.
As discussed above, assault is defined and charged in different ways. However, assault is a crime in which you knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly harm or threaten to harm another person. The type of assault charged depends on the severity of the injury and whether dangerous items or weapons were used to commit the crime. In the context of the study, gun assaults in Texas would be considered aggravated assaults. If charged and convicted with aggravated assault, you could face almost two decades in prison and pay fines up to $20,000. This portion of the study focused on gun assault, specifically due to the harm guns can cause when used to commit assaults.
Gun Assault Statistics
Out of the 32 cities that the study monitored, only 15 had available data regarding gun assaults. As with the previous crimes, incidents peaked in summer 2020 and dropped through the winter months into early 2021. That said, the number of gun assaults in early 2021 was 22% higher than at the same point in 2020. The difference between 2020 and 2021 was an increase of 1,407 more assaults.
Texas charges domestic violence under elements like assault. Instances of domestic violence can either be considered misdemeanors or felonies, depending on how they are committed. Domestic violence differs from regular assault in that it is an assault against family members, loved ones, those you are dating, or those living in the same household with you. Just as with simple and aggravated assault, the penalties you face are determined by the nature and severity of the crime. For example, for an assault committed without a dangerous weapon, the penalty will likely be a misdemeanor with penalties similar to other simple assaults. With an aggravated assault, you would still face the same penalties if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused or threatened harm aided by a dangerous weapon. The fact that you assaulted a family member, partner, or person living in your home does not change the outcome.
Pandemic Domestic Violence Statistics
The study was only able to find data from 11 out of the 32 cities for domestic violence. There appeared to be a similar pattern in the limited data, with more domestic violence incidents in the late spring and summer months, declining in the late fall and winter months, entering the following year. The statistics from 2020 to 2021 indicated a decrease in cases from 2020 to the same time in 2021. The rate was about 4% lower, representing 347 fewer domestic violence incidents in early 2021 versus early 2020. The researchers cautioned that the limited data they could find in the small portion of available cities might not provide an accurate picture of domestic violence during the pandemic. However, in the companion study focused on the pandemic and domestic violence, researchers found that there was an overall increase of 1,330 incidents—a difference of 9.7% from the same periods in 2019—in domestic violence calls per day in the 14 cities during the first five weeks after states and towns established social distancing measures in 2020. The report also suggests that these calls initially increased before shelter-in-place orders and school closures took effect.
Motor Vehicle Theft
In Texas, motor vehicle thefts are charged as “unauthorized use of a vehicle.” The charge is broad and covers other vehicles like boats or airplanes. You commit unauthorized use of a vehicle if you intentionally or knowingly operate another person’s boat, airplane, or motor-propelled vehicle without the owner’s permission. A conviction for a motor vehicle theft charge is a state jail felony. Under Texas law, those convicted of unauthorized use of a vehicle could face six months to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Motor Vehicle Theft Statistics In The Pandemic
The motor vehicle theft portion of the study examines trends from the beginning of 2017 until the study’s conclusion in March 2021. From January of 2017 until around April 2020, there appeared to be no measurable trend to suggest an increase in motor vehicle thefts at that time. However, after the start of the pandemic, motor vehicle thefts increased substantially. By the beginning of 2021, motor vehicle thefts had increased by 7,195—an increase of 28%–versus the same time in 2020.
Pandemic-Related Crime Increase Causes
There is no one factor to blame for the increases in crime during the pandemic. The measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were unprecedented, the first of this kind in a century. The researchers suggest that the rises in crime might come from situational changes caused by the pandemic and specific events—like the protests in Minneapolis and across the country following George Floyd’s murder—as some factors that might have contributed to those increases. While these are some factors to consider, further study is required to determine the underlying causes of pandemic increases in crime.
Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney In Texas
Dealing with criminal charges can be incredibly difficult. From the complicated legal proceedings to tactics from the opposing party, it can be hard to handle all on your own. If you have been charged with a crime, the first and most important step is hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. An effective criminal defense attorney knows the criminal justice system and the tactics used by opposing parties and can help you navigate them to achieve the best result for you. Throughout these proceedings, you must remember that your rights and interests are valid and protected. The criminal defense lawyers at The Hampton Law Firm are well-informed, skilled, and experienced at representing those accused in Texas. The Hampton Law Firm will fight for you to protect your rights and interests during your case. To learn more or schedule your free initial case consultation, call us at (817) 826-9885 or visit us at our website.
“Research in Brief: Domestic Violence Calls for Service,” National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, August 18, 2020
“Impact Report: COVID-19 and Crime,” National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, May 21, 2021