We hear it, see it and read it in communications media nearly every day. The perpetrators of crime are sentenced to lengthy incarcerations for their crimes and possibly fined large sums as restitution.

The bleeding-heart mantra has been and continues to be that the judicial system is entirely too harsh in its judgment and sentencing guidelines.

I firmly disagree, as do most decent, law-abiding members of our community — at least those with whom I associate.

A person who chooses a life of crime rather than applying his or her efforts toward being a law-abiding, productive member of society deserves no mercy from the courts who sit in judgment or the peers who comprise the panel charged with determining innocence or guilt.

These are the “three-time” losers for whom Texas lawmakers have included the “three strikes, you’re out” remedy in the Texas statutes. Criminals convicted of three or more felony crimes may be sentenced to life in prison upon conviction of the third crime.

I’m not addressing the first-time offender, who, through lenient judicial process, may choose to alter his or her behavior to walk the straight and narrow. Those offenders deserve a second chance.

It’s entirely possible that a scrape with the law and the reality of consequences for illegal activity might be the catalyst that changes the course of the first-time offender.

Regardless of whether a crime was committed by a first-time offender, or a seasoned criminal, every crime has a victim. Comparatively little is written or broadcast regarding the plight of the victims of crime. Who speaks for them?

In Bell County, the voices are the district attorney and Crime Victims’ Coordinator, whose mission is to assist all victims of violent crime by advising them of their rights, compensation benefits, making resource referrals and helping victims to understand the judicial system and process.

Most law enforcement departments from municipal level to state level have a crime victims’ coordinator who, as an additional duty to his or her primary function, provides assistance to victims of violent crime.

Additionally, the courts have the authority to assess monetary restitution penalties against convicted criminals, to compensate their victims. This penalty is often assessed in Bell County.

Tobacco sales to minors

The sale of tobacco products to minor children may not seem like a big deal to some, particularly to those minors who choose to smoke or chew, with or without parental permission.

From a legal standpoint, using tobacco products by minor children is a violation of numerous Texas laws, including the Health and Safety Code.

In this provision of the The H&S Code, tobacco possession, purchase consumption or receipt of tobacco products by a person under 18 years of age is punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.

Additionally, under certain circumstances, the driver’s license of the offender may be suspended or denied for a period not to exceed 180 days.

Those who choose to vend tobacco products to minors are greedy enablers. Any owner or employee of a retail establishment who sells a tobacco product to a minor is criminally responsible for their actions. This is prosecutable as a Class C misdemeanor. Repeated violations may result in considerably harsher penalties for the violator.

From a medical standpoint, tobacco use beginning at a young age is just plain stupid. Using tobacco products at any age is a verified invitation to cancer, vascular and heart disease and a plethora of other medical maladies in all stages of life.

Retailers, beware. State and local authorities will legally use underage decoys to attempt to purchase tobacco and alcohol products in an effort to identify retailers and employees who violate state laws. They do this under strict supervision and with legal sanction.

Do yourself and your employer a great favor. First, check IDs as required by law and be mindful of falsified identification documents. They are usually easy to spot.

A 14-year-old offering identification as an 18-year-old is fairly obvious, not only by appearance, but by other indicators such as attitude, manner of speech and behavior.

A note to minors who use tobacco products: Smoking does not make you look older and more mature. It makes you look foolish. It is destroying your vital organs and marring your physical appearance.

Don’t start. If you use tobacco, stop! By smoking, you are not favorably impressing anyone. If your friends are impressed by your smoking, they are as foolish as you.

John Vander WERFF is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, with a decade in city and county law enforcement and 20 years with state police.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a Copperas Cove resident.​

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