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How are crimes classified in Texas and what are the sentencing guidelines for these crimes?

By James

In Texas, the term “crime” covers a wide spectrum of illegal activities; how these activities are classified and punished by the law depends on a variety of factors including the nature of the crime, the perpetrators criminal history etc. The purpose of this article is to help you understand how crimes are classified in the state of Texas by level and type.

Texas State Jail Felonies

In Texas, a state jail felony is a crime for which the punishment is jail time of at least 180 days, but not more than 2 years, and a fine which cannot exceed $2,000. The punishment can also include community supervision. Jail time for Texas state jail felonies must be served in full. If you are familiar with the term “time off for good behavior,” then you should know that the principal does not apply in these cases as in the state of Texas, early release for these types of crimes is not allowed. However, some state jail felonies can be lowered to misdemeanors with no jail time as per the Texas Penal Code.

State jail felonies include the following crimes:

  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) with a person who is 17 years old or younger
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance (such as illegal narcotics)
  • Burglarizing a building
  • Forging a check
  • Using a vehicle to evade arrest
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle
  • Theft of items valued from $15,000 to $20,000
  • Threatening violence to coerce a minor to join a gang
  • Credit card abuse
  • Cruelty to animals
  • False alarm or false report
  • Criminal nonsupport
  • Improper visual recording or photography
  • Interfering with child custody

Texas Third Degree Felonies

Third degree felonies are a more serious charge than state jail felonies. Punishment for these charges includes prison time of 2 to 10 years, a fine of no more than $10,000 and possible community supervision.

Third degree felony charges can be handed out for crimes such as:

  • Elder abuse
  • Assault and battery
  • Drug possession
  • A third DUI or DWI offense
  • Child molestation
  • Arson
  • Unlawful transmission of pornography
  • Embezzlement
  • Aggravated perjury
  • Possessing a firearm as a felony
  • Deadly conduct with a firearm
  • Indecent exposure to a child

Texas Second Degree Felonies

Second degree felonies are even more serious than third degree felonies and punishments for crimes under this classification are punishable by 2 to 20 years of prison time, a maximum fine of $10,000 as well as community supervision in certain cases.

Second degree felony punishments can be handed out for crimes such as:

  • Manslaughter
  • Possessing 50 to 2000 pounds of marijuana
  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Sexual Assault
  • Robbery
  • Intoxication manslaughter
  • Online solicitation of a minor under 14 years
  • Indecent contact with a child
  • Improper student-educator relationships
  • Second stalking offense
  • Evading arrest involving the death of another person
  • Human trafficking

Texas First Degree Felonies

First degree felonies are the most severe offenses with harsher punishments than second or third degree felonies. Punishment includes 5 to 99 years or life in prison as well as a fine of up to $10,000 along with possible community supervision.

Crimes that are classified as first degree felonies in Texas include:

  • Murder
  • Solicitation of capital murder
  • Attempted capital murder
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Aggravated assault of a public servant
  • Escaping from custody when serious bodily injury is involved
  • Burglarizing a habitation with the intend to commit a felony
  • Causing serious bodily injury to a disabled person, senior citizen or child
  • Arson of a habitation
  • Trafficking persons below the age of 14 years

Texas Misdemeanors

Texas laws classify less serious offenses as misdemeanors. These are classified into Class A, Class B or Class C misdemeanors with Class A being the most serious and most severely punished out of the three. However, persons convicted of misdemeanors do not lose any civil rights.

Class C Misdemeanors

These are the lowest level of criminal offense in the state of Texas and can include a fine of no more than $500 and no jail time. Persons accused of Class C misdemeanors still have the right to a trial, which can be held in Municipal Court or Justice of the Peace Court.

Penalties for Class C misdemeanors can be handed out for offenses such as:

  • Issuing a “hot” or bad check for under $20
  • Petty theft or shoplifting of items valued at less than $50
  • Use of laser pointers
  • Leaving a child alone inside a vehicle
  • Gambling
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Public intoxication
  • Possession of alcohol or tobacco as a minor
  • DUI as a minor
  • Possessing alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle
  • Simple assault
  • Bail jumping
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia

Class B Misdemeanors

Texas law can punish class B misdemeanors with up to 180 days in a county jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,000 and possibly 2 to 3 years of probation. It is possible for first time offenders to receive “deferred adjudication,” which means that if the defendant agrees to a plea deal of guilty or no contest, the case will be dismissed after probation is completed successfully. In these cases, the defendant will have no criminal record once the case is dismissed.

Penalties for Class B misdemeanors can be handed out for:

  • DWI
  • Indecent exposure
  • Prostitution
  • Possessing 2 ounces or less of marijuana
  • Blank calls to 911
  • Making a false report to the police
  • Presenting a fraudulent degree
  • Rioting
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Making terroristic threats

Class A Misdemeanors

Being charged with a Class A misdemeanor in Texas is considered the worst form of misdemeanor. Possible penalties include up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. Alternatively, the offender may be required to serve probation / community service.

Penalties for Class A misdemeanors can be handed out for crimes such as:

  • Gambling
  • Jumping bail for a misdemeanor offense
  • Escaping from misdemeanor custody
  • Resisting arrest
  • Evading arrest on foot
  • Carrying a weapon unlawfully
  • Obscenity
  • Animal cruelty

If you are facing a criminal charge in Texas for any crime, whether minor or serious, you need to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer right away.

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