How does Texas classify crimes? What are the sentencing guidelines for felonies vs. misdemeanors?
In Texas, charges for crimes and their punishments can vary widely, depending on the nature of the crime, history of the defendant and other circumstances of the case. In the article below, veteran Houston criminal defense lawyer Neal Davis helps you understand how crimes are classified in Texas by level and type. Contact our law firm for a free consultation if you would like more information about your specific case.
Texas State Jail Felony
First, you should know the meaning of a “state jail felony.” That’s a Texas crime for which punishment is jail time of at least 180 days and no more than two years, and a fine which cannot surpass $2,000. Punishment also may include community supervision.
Perhaps you’ve heard of “time off for good behavior.” That principle does not apply with state jail felonies, whose jail time must be served in full - unlike in a county jail or the Texas Department of Corrections, for which inmates may be released early.
On the other hand, some state jail felonies may be lowered to misdemeanors with no jail time under Texas Penal Code Sec. 12.44. The Neal Davis Law Firm has succeeded in reducing charges in many such cases.
Types of State Jail Felonies in Texas
Under the Texas Penal Code, some kinds of Texas state jail felonies include DWI (driving while intoxicated) with a child passenger, criminally negligent homicide, possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance (certain illegal drugs) and burglarizing a building.
Other state jail felonies can include forging a check, using a vehicle to evade arrest, unauthorized use of a vehicle and theft of items valued from $1,500 to $20,000.
Still more state jail felonies include:
- Threatening violence to coerce a minor to join a gang
- Credit card abuse
- Criminal nonsupport
- Cruelty to animals
- False alarm or false report
- Possessing or fraudulently using someone’s identifying information
- Improper visual recording or photography
- Interfering with child custody
Texas Third Degree Felony
Third degree felonies in Texas are a more serious charge than state jail felonies. Punishment involves prison time of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Community supervision also may be involved.
Types of Third Degree Felonies in Texas
Types of Texas third degree felonies include intoxication assault, a third offense of DWI, indecent exposure to a child, tampering with evidence and aggravated perjury (lying under oath in court).
Other third degree felonies are stalking, jumping bail for a felony arrest, possessing a firearm as a felon, a third offense of violating a protective order, retaliation, escape from felony custody and deadly conduct with a firearm.
Texas Second Degree Felony
Second degree felonies in Texas are a more serious charge than third degree felonies. Punishment can range from 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000, with the chance of community supervision.
Types of Second Degree Felonies in Texas
Some types of Texas second degree felonies include manslaughter, possessing 50 to 2,000 pounds ofmarijuana, arson, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery and intoxication manslaughter.
Still more kinds of Texas second degree felonies are online solicitation of a minor under 14 years of age, indecent contact with a child, improper educator-student relationship, bigamy, a second offense for stalking, bribery, evading arrest involving death of another person and trafficking of persons.
Texas First Degree Felony
First degree felonies in Texas are more severe than second or third degree felonies. Punishment involves 5 to 99 years or life in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000, along with possible community supervision.
Types of First Degree Felonies in Texas
Among the types of Texas first degree felonies are murder, solicitation of capital murder, attempted capital murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault of a public servant.
Still more kinds of first degree felonies in Texas are escaping from custody when serious bodily injury is involved, burglarizing a habitation with the intent to commit a felony, causing a serious bodily injury to a disabled person, senior citizen or child, trafficking persons below age 14 and arson of a habitation.
Less serious criminal offenses in Texas are classified as misdemeanors. These can be class A, class B or class C misdemeanors, with class A misdemeanors being the worst. Persons convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas do not lose any civil rights.
Texas Class C Misdemeanors
In Texas, class C misdemeanors are the lowest level of criminal offense. They can include a fine of no more than $500 and no jail time. But you still have a right to a trial, which can be held in Municipal Court or Justice of the Peace Court.
Types of class C misdemeanors include most traffic tickets, issuing a “hot” or bad check for under $20, petty theft or shoplifting of items valued at less than $50, use of laser pointers, leaving a child alone inside a vehicle, gambling, disorderly conduct and public intoxication.
Other Texas class C misdemeanors include issuing a bad check, possessing alcohol or tobacco as a minor, driving under the influence as a minor, possessing alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle, simple assault, bail jumping and possessing drug paraphernalia.
Texas Class B Misdemeanors
Class B misdemeanors in Texas can involve up to 180 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000, as well as two years of community supervision (probation) or three years with an extension.
First-time offenders may receive “deferred adjudication.” This means that, before a trial, the defendant agrees to a plea deal by pleading “guilty” or “no contest,” and after a period of probation is completed successfully, the case is dismissed and the person has no criminal conviction.
Kinds of Texas class B misdemeanors include DWI, indecent exposure, prostitution, possessing 2 ounces or less of marijuana, silent calls to emergency number 911 and false reports to police.
Still more types of class B misdemeanors in Texas include presenting a fraudulent degree, riot, criminal trespass, harassment and making a terroristic threat.
Texas Class A Misdemeanors
In Texas, a class A Misdemeanor is the worst form of misdemeanor and can involve punishment of up to a year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000, or up to two years of community supervision (probation) or three years with an extension. Deferred adjudication (see above) also is an option.
Some types of Texas class A misdemeanors are perjury (lying under oath in court), burglarizing a motor vehicle, burglarizing a coin-operated machine, a second offense for DWI, assault with bodily injury, public lewdness and possessing 2 to 4 ounces of marijuana.
Still more kinds of class A misdemeanors in Texas are promotion of gambling, jumping bail for a misdemeanor offense, escaping from misdemeanor custody, resisting arrest, evading arrest on foot, carrying a weapon unlawfully, being cruel to animals and obscenity.
Such misdemeanors also can include theft of a check, interfering with a 911 call, violating a protective order and obscenity.
Our Houston Criminal Defense Law Firm is Ready to Help
Regardless of your criminal charge, experienced Houston criminal defense attorney Neal Davis is prepared to help if your case is in Harris County, Fort Bend County or Montgomery County. Contact our firm today and get a free legal review of your case.