In Texas, criminal charges are typically split into two categories: misdemeanor and felony. Felony charges are the more serious of the two, and will carry stiffer penalties. Felony crimes often involve violence or high degrees of property loss.
Felony criminal charges are much more likely to result in imprisonment. In addition, when compared to misdemeanor level penalties, fines for felonies are much higher. Any imprisonment will also be in a state penitentiary, rather than a county jail. Felony charges should always be taken seriously, as the most serious felonies can be met with the death penalty.
- 1. Texas Felonies
- 2. Sentencing Enhancements And Considerations
- 3. Common Examples Of Felony Crimes
Felony crimes in Texas are punishable by fines and imprisonment. Typically, jail time for felony crimes exceeds limits seen in misdemeanor crimes. In addition, even low level felony charges carry hefty fines. Punishments for felonies in Texas include:
- Fines: Fines for felony crimes will not exceed $10,000
- Imprisonment: Any imprisonment for felony cases will be assigned to a state prison, and sentences can include life in prison.
- It is possible that a judge may assign a defendant both fines and imprisonment during sentencing.
Much like misdemeanor charges, felony charges in Texas are split into several classes. Each degree of felony ascends in level of severity of punishment for the offense, starting with a "State Jail Felony." Levels of felony charges include:1
- State Jail Felony: A State Jail Felony is the lowest degree of a felony charge, and involves incarceration in a state jail, rather than a state prison. A conviction at this level can include jail time between 180 days and 2 years, and fines up to $10,000. Crimes classified as felonies, but not assigned a degree or sentencing guideline are considered State Jail Felonies.
- Third Degree Felony: Third Degree Felony charges can be met with a period of imprisonment between 2 through 10 years in a state prison. In addition, fines may be imposed up to $10,000.
- Second Degree Felony: Crimes classified as Second Degree Felonies are punishable by 2 through 20 years in a state prison, along with fines up to $10,000.
- First Degree Felony: First Degree Felony convictions can result in sentencing of either life in prison, or incarceration for a period of time between 5 to 99 years. Like all lower degrees, defendants may also be assigned fines up to $10,000.
- Capital Felony: Capital Felonies are the highest level of felony charges, and the highest level of criminal charges in Texas. Capital felonies can be met with capital punishment (the death penalty), or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
At times, certain criminal charges may carry sentencing enhancements that can increase penalties or impose new minimums. At times, certain crimes may be elevated from one felony level to another, if applicable. State jail felonies will be elevated to third degree felonies for repeat offenses, or if the defendant used a deadly weapon, including firearms, when committing the crime.2
Felony criminal charges are reserved for much more serious offenses. There are some offenses that start at the misdemeanor level, but will move to the felony level if a high degree of property loss occurs, or serious injury is caused to a person. Some common examples of felony crimes in Texas include:
- Certain instances of domestic violence
- Certain instances of sexual assault
- Drug offenses involving large quantities of controlled substances
- Theft involving high-valued property
Some crimes involving sexual violence may automatically be elevated to the level of a felony, even if the charges were at a misdemeanor level to begin with, depending on the victim. Felony level charges should always be taken seriously, as even at the lowest level, incarceration is always a possibility.
- Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.04, 12.31, 12.32, 12.33, 12.34, 12.35
- Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.35