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Felony In Texas
Felony crimes can be defined as the most serious criminal offenses. In terms of sentencing, felony crimes attract a jail term of 180 days to life imprisonment. The fines can range from several thousand dollars to $10,000. Other additional punishments include community supervision. Felony crimes attract the harshest sentencing in the U.S. criminal justice system.
In Texas, felony crimes are divided into levels based on the nature of offense and severity of punishment acceptable in that specific case.
Types of Texas Felony
- State Jail Felony
State jail felony can be defined as a crime punishable with a jail time/sentence of 6 months (180 days) to two years. Fines for state jail felony can’t exceed $2,000. Punishment can also include community supervision.
It’s worth noting that principles like “time off” for good behavior don’t apply to state jail felonies. Persons convicted of state jail felonies must serve full time, which is unlike county jail or Texas Department of Corrections, where inmates can be released early. However, state jail felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors that don’t have jail terms under the Texas Penal Code 12.44. Individuals who hire seasoned attorneys increase their chances of getting less severe punishments with no prison sentences and hefty fines.
Crimes that qualify as state jail felonies in Texas include, but aren’t limited to: Criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated (DWI with a minor passenger), forging a check, burglarizing a building, possession of certain illegal drugs), unauthorized use of a car/vehicle, using a vehicle/car to evade arrest, theft (of items valued at $1,500 – $20,000), cruelty to animals, criminal nonsupport, credit card abuse, false report/false alarm, Coercing a minor/s to join a gang by threatening violence, identity fraud (possessing/using another person’s ID information fraudulently), improper photography or visual recording and failing to follow child custody guidelines.
- Third-degree felony
A third-degree felony is more serious than a misdemeanor and state jail felony in Texas. Third-degree felony attracts prison sentences varying from 2-10 years and fines not exceeding $10,000. Other punishments, like community supervision may also apply.
Crimes that qualify as third-degree felony in Texas include, but aren’t limited to third-offense DWI, intoxication assault, indecent exposure to minors, stalking, tampering with evidence, possessing a firearm (as a felony), jumping bail (in a felony arrest), lying under oath (aggravated perjury), violating protective orders (third offense), deadly conduct (with a firearm) and escaping from custody.
- Second-degree felony
A second-degree felony is a more severe charge than all other charges above (than misdemeanors, third-degree, and state jail felonies). Second-degree felonies attract 2-20 years in jail and fines not exceeding $10,000. Other punishments may also apply i.e., community supervision.
Crimes that qualify as second-degree felony in Texas include, but aren’t limited to human trafficking, online solicitation of minors (under 14 years), indecent contact with minors, improper educator-student relationships, manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, arson, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, marijuana possession (50-2,000 pounds), bribery, stalking (as a second offense), bigamy (being married to two or more people) and evading arrest involving the death of another individual.
- First-degree felony
A first-degree felony is the second-most serious crime in Texas, with a punishment of 5 – 99 years and fines not exceeding $100,000. Some first-degree felonies attract life in prison alongside other punishments like community supervision.
Crimes that qualify as first-degree felony in Texas include, but aren’t limited to: aggravated robbery, aggravated assault (against public servants), aggravated sexual assault against minors, aggravated kidnapping, attempted or solicitation of capital murder, escaping from custody (and causing serious bodily injuries), trafficking minors (persons below age 14), arson (of a habitation and causing death), burglarizing a habitation (with the intention of committing a felony) and causing serious bodily injury/harm to a child, senior citizen or disabled person.
- Capital Felony
A capital felony is the worst criminal offense in Texas. Convictions attract the harshest sentences – death or life imprisonment.
Crimes that qualify as capital felony in Texas include, but aren’t limited to: Capital premeditated murder, treason, espionage, genocide, death (caused by aircraft hijacking) and murder coupled with unique circumstances such as multiple or intentional murder linked to another crime). Murdering a police officer or committing murder as a repeat offense also qualifies as a capital felony.
Texas Felony Under Special Sentencing Circumstances
The above information offers a basic overview of how certain felonies are categorized and punished. It’s worth noting that mitigated sentencing may apply in some cases resulting in different punishments compared to those specified above.
For example, a teenager charged for prank calling 911 (a Class B misdemeanor) in typical circumstances, can get a lesser punishment/sentence if it’s the first criminal offense and other
circumstances apply i.e., they were pressured by friends to make the prank call, and they seem remorseful for prank calling after realizing the seriousness of such an offense. In such a circumstance, a judge can waive county prison time and simply impose a fine as punishment.
There are many factors considered by judges when reconsidering punishment. If a defendant commits the offense the first time, they may get a lesser jail and/or fine punishment. Judges are harsher on repeat offenders. Judges are also lenient on accomplices and harsher on main offenders. In case of a capital felony, an accomplice may escape life imprisonment or death and instead receive a 5-99-year sentence depending on many factors i.e., remorsefulness.
Defendants who commit crimes under duress or great personal stress may also be considered for lesser punishment than what is applicable normally. Felony crimes where no one is injured or crimes committed purposely to avoid harm to anyone may attract lesser punishments than normal.
Defendants who are particularly destructive or cruel to their victim/s are bound to get the most severe punishments. Lastly, it also matters if a defendant appears genuinely remorseful or sorry in the eyes of a judge. Defendants who convince judges of their remorsefulness tend to get less severe punishments.
Should you hire a lawyer/attorney to represent you if you are charged with a felony in Texas?
While felonies are serious crimes, a seasoned Fort Worth Felony Lawyer can help you fight charges resulting in a case dismissal, shorter sentence and/or lower fines.