Second Degree Felonies in Texas

Second degree felonies are a type of serious crime in Texas. Convictions for second-degree felony offenses carry a minimum of 2 years in jail. The prison sentence can last as long as 20 years. Fines of up to $10,000 are also possible. Offenses can be elevated to first degree felonies in some cases. These carry harsher penalties.

Examples of second-degree felonies include:

  • manslaughter (Penal Code 19.04),
  • aggravated assault (Penal Code 22.02), and
  • robbery (Penal Code 29.02).
man being arrested in texas
Convictions for second degree felony offenses carry a minimum of 2 years in jail

1. What are second degree felonies in Texas?

Second degree felonies are a type of crime. They are a class of felony, which is a more severe type of crime than a misdemeanor.

Second degree felonies are mid-range felonies. More severe offenses are classified as:

  • capital felonies, or
  • first degree felonies.

Less severe offenses are classified as either:

  • third degree felonies, or
  • state jail felonies.

2. What are the penalties?

Convictions for second degree felonies come with the following penalties:

  • between 2 and 20 years in prison, and/or
  • up to $10,000 in fines.

However, some factors can turn a second degree felony into one in the first degree. These can drastically increase the penalties of a conviction.

There are also collateral consequences of a conviction. These are different from the jail time and fines that come from a judge's sentence. They can be even more difficult to overcome, though. They include:

  • being stripped of the right to own or even possess a firearm,
  • losing the right to vote,
  • being shut out of professions that forbid convicted felons, and
  • having a prior felony conviction on the defendant's criminal background.

This last collateral consequence does not end. Felony convictions are not eligible for expungement. Anyone who conducts a background check will find the prior offense. This includes landlords, banks, and potential employers. People who have been convicted for a second degree felony often have trouble getting a stable job. Employers tend to hire other job applicants with a clean criminal history. This can create financial problems after being released from jail.

3. Can second degree felonies be enhanced to first degree felonies?

In some cases, second degree felonies are treated like those in the first degree. This will raise the potential jail sentence that would come with a conviction. Second degree felonies that get enhanced face jail sentences of between 5 years and life in prison.

Second degree felonies can be enhanced in drug cases if the volume was high. Violent crimes can also be enhanced into first degree felonies if the victim was in a protected class. For example:

  • manufacturing or delivering drugs (Health and Safety Code 481.1121) gets enhanced if it happens in a drug-free zone,
  • intoxicated manslaughter (Penal Code 49.08) becomes a first degree felony if the victim is a police officer, and
  • thefts of $150,000 to $300,000 (Penal Code 31.03(f)) become first degree felonies if the property was taken from a nonprofit.

A second degree felony can also be enhanced if the defendant has ever been convicted of a degreed felony, before.1

4. Are convictions eligible for probation?

Probation can be an option for some people who have been convicted of a second degree felony.

Rather than send defendants to jail, judges can put them on probation, instead. People on probation have to obey the terms of their probation. The details of their probation depend on the conviction. They often include:

  • paying restitution to the victims,
  • meeting with a parole officer regularly,
  • taking and passing drug or alcohol tests,
  • performing community service, and
  • maintaining steady employment.

Some second degree felonies are ineligible for probation. These are:

  • offenses that end with a jail sentence of 10 years or longer, and
  • certain crimes known as 3G offenses.

3G offenses used to be listed in Section 42.12(3)(g) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. They have since been moved to Article 42A.054, but have retained their name. Defendants convicted of a 3G offense cannot receive probation in lieu of jail time. 3G offenses include:

  • burglary,
  • aggravated robbery,
  • murder,
  • sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, and
  • human trafficking.

Probation in Texas is also known as community supervision. It is different from parole. Parole requires defendants to have already served some of their jail sentence. Inmates who have served one-quarter of their sentence in jail can be eligible for parole. Probation, on the other hand, is issued before any time has been served, at all.

5. What are some examples?

The following criminal offenses are examples of second degree felonies in Texas:

  • aggravated kidnapping (Penal Code 20.04),
  • aggravated assault (Penal Code 22.02),
  • murder committed in the heat of passion (Penal Code 19.02(d)),
  • arson (Penal Code 28.02),
  • theft of between $150,000 and $300,000 (Penal Code 31.03), and
  • attempted first degree felonies (Penal Code 15.01).
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Legal References:

  1. Texas Penal Code § 12.42(b).

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