Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In May 2003, Cynthia Ann Robalin purchased a used Pontiac Trans Am from Caldwell Country Chevrolet Pontiac, an auto dealership in Burleson County. Robalin’s own credit was insufficient to obtain financing, so she offered her ex-husband Lance Robalin as co-borrower. In the primary borrower section of the dealership’s joint application for credit, Robalin supplied her address and home phone number claiming that they were Lance’s, provided his correct Social Security Number and employment information from his previous job, and gave his 2001 W-2 form to the dealership as proof of income. Robalin’s boyfriend Kevin Fox went with her to the dealership to pick up the vehicle. Fox signed Lance’s name to the credit application, and Robalin signed her own name. Fox also signed Lance’s name to an Application for Texas Certificate of Title and two other finance documents. When asked for identification, Fox did not provide any, claiming that he had left his wallet at work when Robalin picked him up. Fox promised the dealership’s finance manager that he would fax the information to him as soon as he got back to work. Two days after the car was taken from the dealership, Lance received a telephone call from the dealership asking him to finish the paperwork for the loan application. Until that phone conversation, he was not aware that the transaction had taken place. Lance reported the misuse of his identity to the auto dealership and to the local police department. Upon checking his credit report, Lance discovered that the report included several credit inquiries from auto dealerships in Texas. When the dealership employees contacted Robalin about the problems with the credit documents, Robalin returned the car to the dealership. Authorities later charged her with making a false statement to obtain property. In her defense at trial, Robalin testified that Lance had allowed her to use his name but that he was now denying it, because his current wife had gotten angry about his involvement. Robalin also contended that the car dealership was aware that Fox was not Lance and that dealership employees had suggested the misuse of Lance’s signature so that the sale of the car could take place immediately. A jury convicted Robalin of making a false statement to obtain property valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, a third-degree felony. The trial court assessed punishment at three years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Robalin contended that some evidence showed that the value of the car was less than $20,000 and that the jury should therefore have been charged on the lesser offense of false statement to obtain property or credit of $1,500 or more but less than $20,000, a state jail felony. On appeal, Robalin challenged the trial court’s refusal of her requested jury instruction on a lesser-included offense. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. An instruction on a lesser-included offense, the court stated, “should be included in the jury charge only if: 1. the requested charge is a lesser-included offense of the charged offense; and 2. there is some evidence that, if the defendant is guilty, she is guilty only of the lesser offense.” The first prong was met in this case, the court stated, because the only difference between the offense of which appellant was convicted and the charge that she requested from the trial court is the value of the property. Examining the second prong of the test, the court then sought to determine whether any evidence raised a fact issue that the value of the property obtained was less than $20,000. Robalin’s evidence indicates that she made a down payment for the car, and the court stated that it would deduct that amount from the ascertained value of the property for the purpose of determining what offenses applied to Robalin’s conduct. Thus, the court stated, the unpaid balance that Robalin owed on the car was $19,125.81, according to the retail contract. This evidence constitutes some evidence that the value of the car was under $20,000. The court held that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser offense, because there was some evidence in the record that the value of the property was under $20,000. The court then moved on to harm analysis. When a trial court improperly refuses a requested instruction on a lesser-included offense, such that the jury is left with the sole option of either convicting the defendant or acquitting him, a finding of harm is essentially automatic, the court found. The trial court sentenced Robalin to three years in prison, the court noted, but had it found her guilty of the lesser offense, she could have been in state jail for a maximum of two years. The court held that the trial court improperly denied Robalin a requested instruction on the lesser-included state jail felony offense. OPINION:Alcala, J.; Radack, C.J., and Alcala and Bland, J.J.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.