In Texas crimes are divided generally into two categories of felonies and misdemeanors, with felony crimes being the more serious crimes. From there felony crimes are categorized by the nature of the crime from State Jail Felonies all the way up to 1st Degree and Capital Felonies. A person’s past felony history can also affect the amount of punishment they may be facing. For someone accused of a felony in Texas they could be facing as little as 6 months in a State Jail Facility all the up to life in the Texas Department of Corrections, commonly referred to as the Pen. When facing a felony crime, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced criminal attorney. Read below for a discussion of felony crimes in more detail.
State Jail Felony:
A State Jail Felony is the lowest degree of felony in Texas. It carries a range of punishment of six months to two years in a State Jail Facility and up to a $5,000.00 fine. A State Jail Facility is a separate facility from the Pen and they are placed throughout Texas. Some common State Jail Felonies include:
Theft of the value $2500-$30,000
Theft under $2500 with 2 prior convictions
Burglary of a Motor Vehicle with two prior convictions
Drug Possession (this will be discussed in more detail later)
Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle
Credit Card Abuse
Driving While Intoxicated with a Child under 15
3rd Degree Felony:
A 3rd Degree felony carries a range of punishment of 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections and up to a $10,000.00 fine. Some common 3rd Degree Felonies include:
Driving While Intoxicated with 2 prior Convictions
Evading Arrest in a Vehicle
Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon
Injury to a Child
Assault of a Family Member by Strangulation
Assault of a Public Servant
2nd Degree Felony:
A 2nd Degree Felony carries a range of punishment of 2-20 years in the Texas Department of Corrections and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
Some common 2nd Degree Felonies include:
- Burglary of a Habitation
- Aggravated Assault
- Intoxication Manslaughter
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Assault of a Child
1st Degree Felony:
A 1st Degree Felony is the highest level of felony in Texas, with the exception of Capital Murder. It carries a range of 5 years to 99 years or life in the Texas Department of Corrections and up to a $10,000.00 fine. This category is reserved for the most serious crimes in Texas and includes:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
- Aggravated Robbery
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Aggravated Assault of a Public Servant
A person’s criminal history can also raise the degree of punishment for which they are charged. Below is an explanation of how someone’s past can be used against them:
State Jail Felony Enhancements:
If someone has previously been convicted of 2 State Jail Felonies and is now charged with a new State Jail Felony, their range of punishment can be enhanced to a 3rd Degree Felony. It is important to note that the person can be convicted of the two priors at the same time. For Example, if someone is charged with 2 separate credit card abuse cases, but gets convicted of both of them on the same day, then the next time they are charged with any State Jail Felony, it can be enhanced.
If someone has previously been convicted and sent to prison for a 3rd Degree or higher felony on two separate occasions and is now charged with a State Jail Felony, their range of punishment can be enhanced to a 2nd Degree Felony. (Getting sent to prison is commonly referred to as a pen trip). This means the person has to have been convicted and sent to prison once, commit a new crime and get convicted and sent to prison a 2nd time, and then commit a State Jail Felony.
A State Jail Felony can also be enhanced to a 3rd Degree Felony if a Deadly Weapon was used during the offense or if the person has previously been to prison for a 3(g) crime.
A Repeat Offender is someone who has been convicted and sent to prison for a 3rd Degree Felony or higher and has now been charged with another 3rd Degree Felony or higher. A Repeat Offender raises the punishment range by one degree, so if a Repeat Offender is presently charged with a 3rd Degree Felony, their range of punishment is enhanced one degree to a 2nd Degree. If the person is presently charged with a 1st Degree Felony, a Repeat Offender Enhancement raises the minimum punishment to 15 years with a maximum of 99 years or life.
A Habitual Offender is someone who has been convicted and sent to prison for a 3rd Degree or higher on two separate occasions and is now charged with a 3rd Degree or higher. This enhancement raises the person’s minimum punishment to 25 years with a maximum of 99 years or life.
See the Chart Below:
Current Charge: Priors: Present Range of Punishment:
State Jail Felony 2 prior State Jail Felonies 2- 10 years in TDC and up to 10k fine
- 3rd Degree Felony 1 prior Pen trip 2-20 years in TDC and up to 10k fine
- 2nd Degree Felony 1 prior Pen trip 5-99 years in TDC and up to 10k fine
- 1st Degree Felony 1 prior Pen trip 15-99 years in TDC and up to 10k fine
State Jail Felony 2 prior Pen trips 2-20 years in TDC and up to 10k fine
- 3rd Degree Felony 2 prior Pen trips 25-99 years in TDC
- 2nd Degree Felony 2 prior Pen trips 25-99 years in TDC
- 1st Degree Felony 2 prior Pen trips 25-99 years in TDC
Both Probation and Deferred Adjudication are available for most felony offenses. Probation can be offered by the State, or given by a judge or jury. Generally, in order to be eligible for Probation someone must have never been convicted of a felony before and their sentence must be 10 years or less. Deferred Adjudication can be offered by the State or given by the Judge. It is important to note that there are many exceptions to when a Judge or Jury can give Probation or Deferred Adjudication, and you should always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to know your eligibility. If you have further questions please contact our office for a free consultation
When someone is sent to prison in Texas it is possible for them to be released without serving their entire sentence. This is referred to as parole and is governed by the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles. When someone is eligible for parole depends on the crime they are charged with, which will be discussed below.
State Jail Felony Crimes:
Technically State Jail Felonies have no parole, and if someone is sentenced to a State Jail term they will have to serve every day of the sentence. However, recently the Texas Legislature has enacted a Diligent Participation Program where someone confined in a State Jail Facility may be able to discharge up to 20% of their sentence by diligently participating in an educational, vocational, treatment, or work program.
3rd Degree or higher Felony Crimes:
Texas Government Code sec 508.145 governs when someone is eligible to be released on parole. A few crimes carry specific parole guidelines, but generally someone’s parole eligibility is divided between 3(g) crimes and everything else. 3(g) is a nickname referring to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.12, sec 3(g). If someone is convicted of a crime in that section, their eligibility for parole will be handled differently than other crimes. This section includes crimes such as:
- Indecency with a Child
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Robbery
- Burglary of a Habitation with the intent to commit certain felonies
Someone convicted of a crime under this section will not be eligible for parole until they have served half of their sentence or 30 years, whichever is less. That person is also not eligible for good conduct time. So for example, if someone is sentenced to 20 years, they must serve at least 10 years, day for day, until they are eligible for parole.
For most other crimes, someone is eligible for parole once they have served one quarter of their sentence or 15 years, whichever is less. That person is eligible for good conduct time. So for example, if someone is sentenced to 20 years, they would be eligible for parole in 5 years, or maybe even earlier if they get awarded good conduct time.
Drug Crimes are unique in Texas in that they are governed by the Health and Safety Code. These crimes also carry very unique punishment ranges with many different enhancements. If you have been charged with a drug crime in Texas it is imperative you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The punishment range associated with drug crimes is based on the type of drug, and the weight of the drug. Most drugs that have been categorized as controlled substances are divided into one of 4 penalty groups in Texas and are weighed in grams. However, some drugs such as Marijuana and LSD have separate punishments.
Marijuana is weighed in ounces and the range of punishment is as follows:
- Possession of less than 2 ounces: Class B Misdemeanor
- Possession of 2-4 ounces: Class A Misdemeanor
- Possession of 4 ounces- 5 pounds: State Jail Felony
- Possession of 5 pounds to 50 pounds: 3rd Degree Felony
- Possession of 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds: 2nd Degree Felony
- Possession of over 2,000 pounds: 1st Degree Felony with a maximum fine of $50,000
The Texas Health and Safety Code has divided controlled substances into 4 different penalty groups. Drugs in Penalty Groups 1 and 2 carry different punishment ranges then the drugs in Penalty Groups 3 and 4. The list for each group is very long and can be found in the code, but read below for some of the more common drugs in each penalty group and the related punishments.
Penalty Group 1: This group includes drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and GHB. The range of punishment is as follows:
- Possession under one gram: State Jail Felony
- Possession 1- 4 grams: 3rd Degree Felony
- Possession 4-200 grams: 2nd Degree Felony
- Possession 200 grams-400 grams: 1st Degree Felony
- Possession over 400 grams: 10-99 in TDC with a maximum fine of $100,000
- Penalty Group 2: This group includes drugs such as ecstasy, amphetamine, synthetic marijuana, and psilocybin. The punishment range is as follows:
- Possession under one gram: State Jail Felony
- Possession 1-4 grams: 3rd Degree Felony
- Possession 4-400 grams: 2nd Degree Felony
- Possession over 400 grams: 1st Degree Felony with a maximum fine of $50,000.00
- Penalty Groups 3 and 4: This group includes drugs such as Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, steroids, and codeine cough syrup. The punishment range is as follows:
- Possession under 28 grams: Class A Misdemeanor
- Possession 28-200 grams: 3rd Degree Felony
- Possession 200-400 grams: 2nd Degree Felony
- Possession over 400 grams: 1st Degree Felony with maximum fine of $50,000
Many of the drug crimes can also be enhanced for a variety of reasons including:
- Possessing the drug in a Drug Free Zone
- Possessing with intent to deliver or delivering the drug
- Manufacturing the drug
- Using a deadly weapon while possessing the drug
If you or a love one have been charged with a drug crime, please contact our office for a free consultation.
Felony Crimes are the most serious offenses in Texas and anyone charged with a felony deserves the best possible representation. Please contact our office to see if we can help you.