State Jail Felonies in Texas

State jail felonies are a type of crime in Texas. As a felony, they belong to the most severe type of criminal offense. However, state jail felonies are the least severe of all felonies. The penalties of a conviction, though, are still significant. They can carry between 180 days and 2 years in prison. Fines can be as high as $10,000. Some state jail felonies can also be elevated into a third degree felony. These offenses carry more jail time. Other offenses can be lowered to a misdemeanor.

Examples of state jail felonies in Texas include:

  • criminally negligent homicide (Penal Code 19.05),
  • theft of between $2,500 and $30,000 (Penal Code 31.03), and
  • possession of between 4 ounces and 5 pounds of marijuana (Health and Safety Code 481.121).
man behind bars in texas
State jail felonies can carry between 180 days and 2 years in prison

1. What are state jail felonies?

State jail felonies are a type of crime. The most severe kinds of crimes in Texas are felonies. State jail felonies are the least severe type of felony.

Other felonies are:

All of these offenses carry higher penalties than state jail felonies.

Other, less severe offenses in Texas are:

  • misdemeanors, and
  • infractions.

Degreed felonies lead to jail time in the Texas Department of Corrections. State jail felonies, however, lead to jail time in the State Jail Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Jail time for a misdemeanor is served in county jail.

2. What are the penalties?

A conviction for a state jail felony carries the following penalties:

  • up to $10,000 in fines, and/or
  • between 180 days and 2 years in jail.

Unlike other felonies, there is no parole for state jail convictions. Inmates cannot shorten their sentence by getting good time credits. Instead, they have to rely on Diligent Participation Credits. These credits can shorten a jail sentence by 20 percent.

State jail felonies are still felonies. These convictions carry serious collateral consequences. People convicted of a state jail felony can still:

  • lose their right to vote,
  • be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm,
  • become ineligible for federal student loans and professional certification programs, and
  • have to disclose a prior felony offense to potential employers.

3. Can they be enhanced to a more severe offense?

State jail felonies can be enhanced in some circumstances. This means they can be treated as a more severe offense. The penalties of a conviction increase.

Certain aggravating factors can enhance a state jail felony into one in the third degree. These depend on the underlying offense. Examples include:

  • theft, if it is from a nonprofit (Penal Code 31.03(f)),
  • forgery, if the victim was elderly (Penal Code 32.21(e-2)), and
  • possession of lewd materials depicting a child, if the defendant has a prior offense (Penal Code 43.262(c)(1)).

State jail felonies can become third degree felonies if:

  • has 2 prior convictions for state jail felonies,1
  • a deadly weapon was used or shown during the offense or flight from it,2 or
  • the defendant has been convicted of a felony-level 3G offense, before.3

In these cases, the potential jail time will rise to between 2 and 10 years.

State jail felonies can also be elevated to second degree felonies if:

  • the defendant has 2 prior and separate convictions for degreed felonies,4 or
  • the current charge would be enhanced for using a deadly weapon or a prior 3G offense, and the defendant has 1 prior degreed felony conviction.5

These offenses would face a jail sentence of between 2 and 20 years.

attorney sidebar with judge
A state felony can be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor.

4. Can a state felony be reduced to a misdemeanor?

A state felony can be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. There are 2 ways for this to happen.

The judge can reduce the charges under Texas Penal Code 12.44(a). They can do this if they decide:

  • the offense was not particularly serious,
  • the defendant is not particularly dangerous, and
  • reducing the charges would be more just.

When judges reduce a state jail felony to misdemeanor, though, it is still listed on a felony on the defendant's criminal history. This triggers far more collateral consequences than if it were actually a misdemeanor.

The prosecutor can also ask for a reduced charge. This can happen under Texas Penal Code 12.44(b). If the judge agrees, it would drop the offense to a Class A misdemeanor. The conviction would also be listed as a misdemeanor on the defendant's criminal background.

If the charge is reduced, the penalties of a conviction diminish. Class A misdemeanors carry:

  • up to 1 year in county jail, or
  • 2 years of probation.

5. Is probation an option for state jail felonies?

Defendants facing state jail felony charges can be sentenced to probation, instead of jail time. Probation keeps a defendant out of jail. However, it puts strict conditions on their freedom, like:

  • paying restitution,
  • attending meetings with a parole officer,
  • regular alcohol or drug tests, and
  • avoiding another arrest.

6. What are some examples of state jail felonies in Texas?

The following criminal offenses are examples of state jail felonies:

  • driving under the influence with a child passenger (Penal Code 49.045),
  • credit card abuse (Penal Code 32.21),
  • burglary, when the building was not a residence (Penal Code 30.02),
  • attempted third degree felonies (Penal Code 15.01), and
  • any unclassified felony with an unspecified sentence.
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Legal References:

  1. Texas Penal Code § 12.425(a).

  2. Texas Penal Code § 12.35(c)(1).

  3. Texas Penal Code § 12.35(c)(2).

  4. Texas Penal Code § 12.425(b).

  5. Texas Penal Code § 12.425(c).

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