Updated: September 2, 2021; Original Post: April 26, 2018
Texas law categorizes crimes as misdemeanors or felonies, then breaks each of those categories up into various levels of charges. Felonies alone are divided into six different levels. If you or a loved one is facing a felony charge in Texas, it is critical to know what you are up against. What is the range of punishment? What are the possible outcomes to your felony case? Can you avoid prison time or prison time? Is there a chance something can be done early in the process to minimize the chance of becoming a convicted felon?
In this post, we will detail the different possible felony charges that you can find yourself up against in Texas, as well as the associated penalties.
State Jail Felony
- State jail sentence of 180 days to 2 years
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Theft of property valued between $1,500 and $20,000
- Theft of a firearm
- Abuse of debit or credit cards
- Possession of less than one gram of a Schedule 1 drug
A state jail felony is the default charge for crimes identified as felonies but without specific designations. In other words, it is the lowest level felony charge in Texas and is seen as the less serious type of felony crime. One big difference between a State Jail Felony and a higher-level felony is that if someone is convicted and sentenced to a state jail felony sentence, they must serve their time in a state jail facility, as opposed to a facility of the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC).
If an individual is charged with a state jail felony, it can be punished as a third-degree felony if a previous TDC felony conviction exists, if two or more state jail felony convictions with a prison sentence exist, or if a deadly weapon was used during the commission of the crime.
Third Degree Felony
- Prison sentence of 2 to 10 years
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Theft of property valued between $30,000 and $150,000
- Drive-by shooting with no injuries
- Possession of 5 to 50 pounds of marijuana
- Possession of at least 1 and up to 4 grams of a Schedule 1 drug
- Assault of a Public Servant
Second Degree Felony
- Prison sentence of 2 to 20 years
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Theft of property valued between $150,000 and $300,000
- Aggravated assault
- Burglary of a Habitation
- Reckless injury to a child
- Serious Bodily Injury to a family member
- Possession of at least 4 and up to 200 grams of a Schedule 1 drug
First Degree Felony
- Prison sentence of 5 to 99 years or a life sentence
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Theft of property valued at $300,000 or more
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated Robbery
- Sexual assault of a child
- Possession of over 2,000 pounds of marijuana
- Possession of at least 200 and up to 400 grams of a Schedule 1 drug
- Prison sentence of life without parole or execution
- Capital murder
All capital felony cases automatically appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Juveniles convicted of capital felonies may serve life sentences if the prosecutor does not seek the death penalty.
Other Important Things to Know about Felonies in Texas
Normally a conviction on a repeat felony will result in penalties for the next highest category. For example, a previous conviction for a second-degree felony will result in penalties for a first-degree felony. A judge can enforce a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for a repeat first degree felony. It is also possible to receive a minimum sentence of 25 years up to life in prison on a first-degree felony if you have two prior felony convictions with penitentiary time.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations begins when the crime is committed and extends to the length of time set by the courts. What is that length? It varies depending on the offense, but normally felony crimes have longer statutes of limitations than misdemeanor offenses. There is no statute of limitations for a murder charge.
What Should I Do If I Am Facing A Felony Charge In Texas?
First, you need to contact an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney that has a proven track record of dealing with felony cases in Texas. Your criminal attorney can gain immediate access to your police reports, videos and any other evidence that exists. The best criminal lawyers make it a practice to get input from the clients and discover what is accurate and inaccurate in the police reports.
It is critical that you are invested in your criminal defense. The more questions you ask your criminal lawyer, the more your criminal attorney can piece together the most effective criminal defense. After assessing your evidence, your lawyer can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the case and prepare a packet of evidence to potentially present to the grand jury.
What Is A Grand Jury? A Grand Jury is a group of citizens that listen to evidence and determine if probable cause exists for a criminal case. Many times, the prosecutor will present a one-sided point of view regarding the evidence unless an aggressive criminal defense attorney determines the weaknesses of the case and submits a grand jury packet of evidence for consideration.
At the Grand Jury, there are 3 options:
- The Grand Jury could keep the criminal case as a felony. This would lead to the case being set on the normal felony docket schedule with negotiations taking place every 30 – 60 days.
- The Grand Jury could lower the felony charges to a misdemeanor charge. By lowering the felony to a misdemeanor, the case will now be reassigned to a misdemeanor court and your criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a possible dismissal or exercise your right to a jury trial.
- The Grand Jury could reject your case through a NO BILL. A No Bill is the equivalent of a dismissal or rejection of your felony charges. If your criminal defense attorney can get your felony charge no billed by the grand jury, you will be eligible to have your arrest and charges expunged from your criminal record.
What Happens At Court On A Felony Case?
If your felony case clears the grand jury as a felony charge, you will be required to attend a series of court dates to negotiate your case. If your case has been categorized as a high-risk offender case, you may be required to report to community supervision on a monthly basis.
Depending upon the seriousness of the felony case, you could be required to provide monthly drug tests, submit to GPS monitoring, be limited to having no contact with the alleged victim or be issued a protective order prohibiting contact with the alleged victim.
If you retain a criminal defense attorney to investigate your felony bond conditions, you may be able to have some of them removed or limited.
If your felony case is out of Tarrant County, Texas, the court system will require you to attend multiple court settings. Each court setting is designed to give the prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney the opportunity to negotiate the case and attempt to come to a resolution. If both sides are unable to reach an agreement, the case will be set on a trial docket?
If your felony is set for a jury trial, what happens? The typical felony jury trial setting in Tarrant County, Texas may have anywhere from 10 – 40 cases on the docket. Usually, only a single trial will occur during a typical week and the priority is given to the oldest criminal cases and those defendants that are in jail. As a result, even if your case is set for a jury trial, it may take up to 1 year for your felony case to proceed to trial. During this time, circumstances could change that may allow your criminal attorney to negotiate a more favorable result not requiring a trial.
What Happens If You Are A Convicted Of A Felony?
Being convicted of a felony in Texas has dire consequences. If you are convicted of a felony, you lose many of your constitutional rights. Convicted felons are not permitted to possess or purchase a firearm. In fact, if a convicted felon is found to be in possession of a firearm, they could be charged with the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. This is a 3rd degree felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Additionally, if you are convicted of a felony, you lose the right to vote in Texas. Losing the right to vote limits your ability to have a say in who runs your city, your state, and your country. This is a right you want to retain!
Finally, being convicted of a felony crime limits your potential for future employment. Almost every employer in Texas has a strict policy that they are not interested in hiring convicted felons. Yes, you may be able to obtain employment at a gas station, fast food restaurant or janitorial position but many higher paying jobs limit opportunities to those who have a clean criminal record.
How Do You Get A Felony Charge Off Your Record?
To remove a felony arrest and charge from your criminal record, you must first get your case dismissed. To be eligible for an expunction, your felony case must have been resolved by either:
- A Dismissal of all charges
- Felony case dropped to a Class C Misdemeanor deferred disposition
- No Bill by a Grand Jury
If your case was resolved in one of the ways listed above, your criminal defense attorney can petition the court to have all arrest records, police records and court records permanently destroyed. In essence, the law will allow you to deny the arrest ever took place and all agencies and employers would have no record of the case ever existing.
If you received a deferred adjudication for your felony charge, you must complete all terms and conditions of your probation to be eligible for a non-disclosure. A felony non-disclosure allows you to seal your arrest and court records. Although the police, district attorney and state licensing agencies would be able to see your arrest records, all private employers would not be able to see your records. This option provides you the opportunity to gain employment while denying the arrest and charge ever took place.
Legal Assistance for Felony Charges in Texas
As mentioned above, a felony conviction can result in long lasting consequences, other than paying a fine or being incarcerated. If convicted, you can lose voting rights and the right to own firearms. You may have difficulty finding work or obtaining professional licenses. A felony conviction can also have a negative impact on your credit and your ability to secure loans.
Since the consequences are serious, you need a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney to help you fight your charges. Call today for your free, no-obligation case review. We will work hard to protect your rights and your reputation.
Perhaps the most important decision you will make when fighting your felony case is who to retain as your criminal lawyer. At the Fulgham Law Firm, we have a team of 5 Former Prosecutors with over 80+ years of criminal law experience that stand ready to assist you with your felony charges. Being former prosecutors, our criminal defense lawyers know what the prosecutor is thinking and can anticipate their next move. We would be happy to provide an explanation of your options and see if our firm can help you put this felony charge behind you.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.