Third Degree Felonies in Texas

Third degree felonies are a type of crime. In Texas, they are the second-least severe type of felony. However, they are still more serious than any misdemeanor. A conviction for a third degree felony carries between 2 and 10 years in jail. It also carries a fine of up to $10,000. Some of them can even be elevated into second degree felonies. If that happens, the penalties increase even higher.

Some examples of third degree felonies in Texas include:

  • kidnapping (Penal Code 20.03),
  • theft of more than $30,000 but less than $150,000 (Penal Code 31.03), and
  • tampering with physical evidence (Penal Code 37.09).
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A conviction for a third degree felony carries between 2 and 10 years in jail

1. What are third degree felonies in Texas?

Third degree felonies are a type of criminal offense. They are a type of felony.

All felonies are more severe than either infractions or misdemeanors. Third degree felonies carry higher penalties than state jail felonies. However, they are not as serious as:

2. What are the penalties of a conviction?

A conviction for a third degree felony in Texas carries the following penalties:

  • between 2 and 10 years in jail, and
  • a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition to jail time and a steep fine, there are also collateral consequences of a conviction. These can make life difficult even after the jail sentence is done. Depending on the conviction, the collateral consequences can include:

  • loss of the right to vote,
  • a prohibition against owning or possessing firearms,
  • being ineligible for certain professional certifications,
  • ineligibility to receive federal student loans,
  • restraining order requirements, and
  • the costs of having a criminal history.

The repercussions of a criminal history are wide-reaching. Anyone from landlords to banks can judge someone for having committed a prior felony offense. It can become more difficult to get a job or apartment. The financial hardships of a criminal record can be significant.

These penalties can be higher if the charge gets enhanced to a second degree felony.

3. When can they be enhanced to a second degree felony?

Third degree felonies can be enhanced to second degree felonies in some circumstances.

The enhancement can only happen if certain factors are met. Drug cases are usually enhanced if there was a high volume of contraband. Violent crimes are often enhanced if the victims were from protected classes. Examples of third degree felonies that can be enhanced are:

  • theft of between $30,000 and $150,000, if the victim was a nonprofit organization (Penal Code 31.03(f)),
  • forgery, if the victim was an elderly person (Penal Code 32.21(e-2)), and
  • unlawful possession of a firearm, if it happens in a weapon-free school zone (Penal Code 46.11).

If the defendant has a prior degreed felony conviction, a third degree felony charge gets enhanced to a second degree felony.[1]

If an offense is enhanced, the penalties become more severe. Rather than between 2 and 10 years in jail, a conviction would come with between 2 and 20 years in jail.

4. Is probation an option?

Probation is an option for people convicted of a third degree felony. In Texas, this is also known as community supervision. It is different from parole, which requires there to be time served in jail.

Judges can sentence defendants who have been found guilty of a crime to probation rather than to jail. Probation is a stringent set of rules that probationers have to obey. If they fail to obey any one of them, probation can be revoked and they can be sent to jail.

The particular requirements of probation depend on the offense. They usually include:

  • paying restitution to the victims of the crime,
  • community service,
  • not getting arrested,
  • passing drug or alcohol tests, and
  • making regular meetings with a probation officer.

Judges cannot sentence a defendant to probation for so-called 3G offenses. These are crimes listed in the Code of Criminal Procedure at Article 42A.054. They used to be listed at Section 42.12(3)(g), giving them their name. 3G offenses include:

  • drug offenses that happen in a school zone,
  • indecency with a child, and
  • sexual assault.

A jury can still sentence defendants in 3G offenses to probation. However, the judge cannot. This means that plea deals involving a 3G offense cannot use straight probation.

5. What are some examples?

The following crimes are examples of third degree felonies in Texas:

  • intoxication assault (Penal Code 49.07),
  • possession of between 5 and 50 pounds of marijuana (Health and Safety Code 481.121(b)(4)),
  • indecency with a child (Penal Code 21.11),
  • child abandonment (Penal Code 22.041), and
  • attempted second degree felonies (Penal Code 15.01).
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Legal References:

  1. Texas Penal Code 12.42(a).

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