Degrees of Felonies and the Consequences

In Texas, a felony is a crime that’s punishable by more than a year in jail. With few exceptions, a prison sentence is served in the Institutional Division/State Jail Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Texas felonies are divided into five classes. The Texas legislature determines what distinguishes a crime from a felony. Criminal law is continually amended in Texas. New crimes are added, deleted, or changed. What is now a misdemeanor may be considered a felony charge in the future by the state.

Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today, if you are facing felony charges. Time is not on your side and the legal assistance of an experienced attorney may make all of the difference in your case.

For instance, a law “Evading Arrest in a Vehicle” was once considered a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. In 2011, the Texas legislature determined the crime was more serious. The offense was considered a third-degree felony, with prison time of two to 10 years and a maximum $10,000 fine for a first offense.

It’s important to realize that if you’re accused of a misdemeanor crime now, you’re locked into the law as it stands now. That’s known as the Texas ex post facto clause. In other words, the criminal can’t be asked to face harsher punishments even though his or her actions were considered a misdemeanor crime now. Extended sentences or new penalties won’t apply in that case under Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution.

Various Degrees of Felonies

The state of Texas uses four categories to classify felonies. Each felony class is weighted according to seriousness and the prior offenses committed by the convict:

  • Capital felonies, Texas Penal Code § 12.31, considered the most severe type, also warrant the most severe punishments. A person who commits a capital felony in Texas faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole. In a capital felony case, the prosecution informs the jury about whether the death penalty is being sought. If the prosecution isn’t seeking the death penalty, the jury is informed that it considers a life in prison sentence as mandatory.
  • Those convicted of first-degree felonies, Texas Penal Code § 12.32, face punishments of life in prison and prison sentences between five years to a maximum 99-year prison term in Texas. The individual charged with a first-degree felony also faces a maximum $10,000 fine (or higher in certain drug cases). Probation or deferred adjudication may be possible in some cases.
  • Those accused of second-degree felonies, Texas Penal Code § 12.33, face imprisonment sentences of two years to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Parole eligibility occurs after the convict serves a minimum number of years, depending on the specific crime type.
  • A third-degree felony, Texas Penal Code § 12.34, is punishable by a two-year minimum and a maximum 10-year state jail sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine. According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the convict either used a deadly weapon or committed another crime. Probation or deferred adjudication may be possible. To learn more about specific punishments that apply to third-degree felony crimes, contact an experienced lawyer now.
  • A state jail felony, Texas Penal Code § 12.35, involves theft of property valued at no less than $1,500 and no more than $20,000, or credit or debit card abuse. Parole doesn’t apply to state jail felonies.

Examples of Felony Crimes in Texas

The Texas Penal Code is rich and complex. Variations and specific exceptions are used to classify criminal behavior. If you have been charged with a felony or federal crime in Texas, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney now. This is an extremely serious matter.

An example of a capital felony is capital murder. Although capital murder and first-degree murder crimes are similar, the difference is based on case-specific circumstances. The state must prove that the defendant committed the crime, and that the killing with done “intentionally,” with premeditation, and with “reckless disregard” for life.

Examples of a first-degree felony include: 1) aggravated kidnapping; 2) aggravated sexual assault; 3) aggravated robbery; 4) attempt of capital murder; 5) burglary [of a habitation] with intent to commission or commit a felony; 6) murder; 7) solicitation of a capital murder; 8) escape from custody in which a serious bodily injury results; 9) human trafficking of individuals 13 years or less; 10) arson of a habitation; and 11) aggravated assault of a public servant or peace officer.

Examples of a second-degree felony include: 1) arson; 2) bribery; 3) aggravated assault; 4) bigamy; 5) evading arrest (including death of another person); 6) contact considered indecent with a child; 7) robbery; 8) manslaughter; 9) improper relations between teacher-educator and student; 9) intoxication manslaughter; 10) possession of between 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds of marijuana; 11) sexual assault; 12) stalking (second offense); and 13) human trafficking (any age).

Examples of a third-degree felony include: 1) deadly action with a firearm; 2) aggravated perjury; 3) stalking; 4) escape from a felony custody; 5) possession of firearm by a known felon; 6) bail jumping (felony arrest); 7) indecent exposure (child); 8) intoxication assault; 9) retaliation; 10) third offense DWI; 11) third offense (violation protective order); 12) evidence tampering; and 13) stalking.

Examples of a state jail felony include: 1) burglarizing a building; 2) coerce minor (join gang by threatening violence); 3) credit card or debit card abuse; 4) animal cruelty; 5) criminally-negligent homicide; 6) DWI (child passenger); 7) evade arrest (vehicle); 8) false report or alarm; 9) check forgery; 10) child custody interference; 11) criminal nonsupport; 12) fraudulent use/possession identifying information; 13) unauthorized vehicle use; 14) drug possession (>one gram of controlled substance); and 15) improper visual or photography recording.

How Felonies Are Handled

A capital felony case is handled in district court with an automatic appeal of the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

A first-degree felony, second-degree felony, third-degree felony, or state jail felony is handled in district court.

Best Course of Action if Charged with a Felony Crime in Texas

If you’re charged with any class of felony crime in Texas, you need an attorney for felony charges. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to give yourself every possible legal advantage.

The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp has defended first, second, and third-degree felony crime charges. Before Mr. Sharp went into private practice, he was the Assistant District Attorney for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. He understands what clients face from prosecutors who want a conviction.

Keep in mind:

  • People who are arrested on a felony charge are sometimes wrongly accused. A criminal defense attorney is a critically important element in clearing your name.
  • Other people realize they made an awful decision. A criminal defense attorney can help you to address the problem and minimize the social, financial, and relationship impact on your life.

The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp fights to protect clients’ rights in the criminal justice system. Call for your free initial case evaluation now.

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