5 Classifications of Texas Felonies
The Texas Penal Code divides felony crimes into classes and prescribes sentencing guidelines. If the punishment for a felony conviction includes incarceration, the sentence will be served in a state jail or prison. Misdemeanor sentences are served in local or county jails. While any criminal conviction can jeopardize the future of a defendant, the lifelong effects of a felony conviction are especially difficult to overcome.
If Texas law does not specify a felony class for a particular crime, the alleged criminal violation will usually be designated as a state jail felony. Nevertheless, most felony crimes fall into one of the following classes:
State Jail Felony
A state jail felony is punishable by between six months and two years in jail and a fine of no more than $10,000. Many DWI offenses are charged as state jail felonies. A state jail felony can be enhanced to a third degree felony if the defendant was previously convicted of a felony or the crime involved a deadly weapon.
Third Degree Felony
A third degree felony conviction is punishable by a prison sentence of between two and 10 years and a fine of no more than $10,000. Many drug offenses are prosecuted as third degree felonies.
Second Degree Felony
The punishment for a second degree felony is a prison sentence of between two and 20 years and a fine of no more than $10,000. Certain domestic violence crimes are prosecuted as second degree felonies.
First Degree Felony
A first degree felony conviction is punishable by life imprisonment or a prison sentence of between five and 99 years. The defendant can also be assessed a fine of no more than $10,000. Sexual assault against a minor child is one example of a first degree felony.
A capital felony conviction can result in a sentence of death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Murder is often prosecuted as a capital offense. The prosecutor has the discretion to seek life imprisonment in a capital felony case if the offender was a juvenile when the crime was committed.
Statute of Limitations
The state of Texas is required to prosecute many crimes before a prescribed statute of limitations has expired. The judge may be obligated to dismiss the case in the event that the statute of limitations has expired. The statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged crime was committed. Major crimes have longer statutes of limitations, and serious crimes like murder are not subject to a statute of limitations.
A felony conviction can impose severe restrictions on the future of a criminal defendant. Not only does it become more difficult to obtain suitable housing and employment, an offender can lose the right to vote, seek public office or own a firearm.