Felonies in Texas Criminal Law

man being led to jail for a felony
Felonies are the most severe type of criminal offense in Texas.

In Texas, crimes that are felonies are more serious than misdemeanors. Convictions for felonies carry higher fines. They also involve longer jail sentences.

There are 5 types of felonies in Texas. From most to least severe, they are:

1. What is a felony?

A felony is a type of crime. Crimes are felonies if they can carry more than a year in jail.

Felonies are the most severe type of criminal offense in Texas. They are typically reserved for violent criminal conduct. Non-violent felonies usually involve lots of property damage or theft.

Other offenses can be either a:

  • misdemeanor, or
  • infraction.

Misdemeanors cannot be punished with more than a year of jail time. Infractions are enforced with a ticket.

Felonies are classified into 5 different types. Each carries its own set of penalties:

Type of felony

Jail time


Capital felony

Life imprisonment or the death penalty


First degree felony

5 to 99 years or life imprisonment

Up to $10,000

Second degree felony

2 to 20 years

Up to $10,000

Third degree felony

2 to 10 years

Up to $10,000

State jail felony

180 days to 2 years

Up to $10,000

2. What are capital felonies?

Capital felonies are the most severe type of felony in Texas. If convicted of a capital felony, defendants can be executed. If the prosecutor does not seek the death penalty, they can face life in jail. If the defendant is 18 or over, that sentence is without the possibility of parole.1

Examples of capital felonies in Texas include:

  • Capital murder (Penal Code 19.03), and
  • Capital felony murder (Penal Code 19.03(a)(2)).

3. What are first degree felonies?

First degree felonies are the second-most severe type of crime in Texas. Convictions carry up to life imprisonment. The mandatory minimum is 5 years in jail. Judges can also sentence the defendant to pay up to $10,000 in fines.2

Examples of first degree felonies include:

  • Aggravated robbery (Penal Code 29.03),
  • Arson causing death (Penal Code 28.02), and
  • Attempted murder (Penal Code 19.03).

4. What are second degree felonies?

Convictions for second degree felonies carry between 2 and 20 years in jail. They can also lead to a fine of up to $10,000.3

Examples of second degree felonies in Texas are:

  • Manslaughter (Penal Code 19.04),
  • Aggravated assault (Penal Code 22.02),
  • Robbery (Penal Code 29.02), and
  • Arson (Penal Code 28.02).

5. What are third degree felonies?

Third degree felonies are the second-least severe type of felony in Texas. Convictions carry up to 10 years in jail. The mandatory minimum is 2 years. Judges can also sentence defendants to pay a fine of up to $10,000.4

Examples of third degree felonies include:

  • Indecent exposure to a child (Penal Code 21.11),
  • Tampering with evidence (Penal Code 37.09),
  • Deadly conduct with a firearm (Penal Code 22.05), and
  • Stalking (Penal Code 42.072).

6. What are state jail felonies?

State jail felonies are the least severe type of felony in Texas. Jail sentences can be as low as 180 days – around half of a year. They can be as high as 2 years. Fines can still go up to $10,000.5

Examples of state jail felonies include:

  • Check forgery (Penal Code 32.21(d)),
  • Theft of between $2,500 and $30,000 (Penal Code 31.03),
  • Child endangerment DWI (Penal Code 49.045), and
  • Any criminal statute listed as a felony but does not specify which degree.

State jail felonies are treated as third degree felonies if the defendant:

  • has certain prior convictions,6
  • used a deadly weapon during the commission of the crime,7 or
  • has already been convicted of 2 state jail felonies in the past.8

State jail felonies can also be treated as Class A misdemeanors. Judges have the discretion to reduce jail sentences of a state jail felony to up to 1 year.9

Some misdemeanors can also be treated as state jail felonies if the defendant has a criminal history. A person may be able to get a felony probation sentence and avoid jail altogether.

7. What are the collateral consequences of a felony?

A felony conviction comes with collateral consequences, as well. These are penalties of a conviction, aside from jail time and fines. They can include:

  • losing the right to vote,
  • losing the right to carry a firearm or own weapons,
  • being blocked from certain professions, and
  • getting stripped of, or denied access to, professional certifications.
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Legal References:

  1. Texas Penal Code § 12.31.

  2. Texas Penal Code § 12.32.

  3. Texas Penal Code § 12.33.

  4. Texas Penal Code § 12.34.

  5. Texas Penal Code § 12.35.

  6. Texas Penal Code § 12.35(c)(2).

  7. Texas Penal Code § 12.35(c)(1).

  8. Texas Penal Code § 12.425.

  9. Texas Penal Code § 12.44.

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