Basics: Texas Sentencing Scheme

 Posted on October 04, 2007 in Uncategorized

In Texas, there are three basic classes of misdemeanor and five basic degrees of felony.

The basic classes of misdemeanor:ClassIncarcerationFineCN/AUp to $500B0d – 180d in county jailUp to $2,000A0d – 1y in county jailUp to $4,000

County jail sentences are served subject to the county sheriff's good time calculations. In Harris County, a person will likely serve half of his county jail sentence.

The basic degrees of felony:DegreeIncarcerationFineState Jail Felony180d – 2y in state jailUp to $10,0003rd Degree2y – 10y in prison2nd Degree2y – 20y in prison1st Degree5y – 99y or life in prisonUp to $10,000CapitalLife without parole, or deathN/A

There are also offenses that fall outside this scheme. Notable examples are major drug offenses under the Texas Health and Safety Code, and offenses under the Texas Transportation Code (failure to stop and give information, failure to stop and render aid).

State jail sentences are served day-for-day, with no parole. Prison sentences (other than life without parole, or LWOP) are subject to the parole law, which provides that a person serving a "non-agg" sentence, one not described in section 3g of Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, will be eligible for parole when his calendar time plus good time equal one-fourth of his sentence. Good time is approximately equal to calendar time, so a person serving a non-agg sentence will be eligible for parole when he has served about an eighth of his sentence. "Eligible for parole" does not mean "paroled", though.

A person serving an "agg" or "3g" sentence will be eligible for parole when his calendar time equals one-half of his sentence. 3g offenses are:

  1. Murder;

  2. Indecency with a child;

  3. Aggravated kidnapping;

  4. Aggravated sexual assault;

  5. Aggravated robbery;

  6. Sexual Assault;

  7. First-degree felony injury to a child;

  8. Sexual performance by a child; and

  9. Any offense in which there is an affirmative finding that a deadly weapon was used or exhibited during the commission of the crime or immediate flight therefrom.

Without a jury's probation recommendation, a judge can't probate a prison sentence for any of those 3g offenses. She can, however, defer adjudication (effectively putting the defendant on probation) for any first-time offense except:

  1. DWI;

  2. Continuing sexual abuse of a young child; and

  3. Some aggravated sexual assault of a child cases.

A jury can recommend probation for most offenses if it sets a sentence less than 10 years and if the defendant has filed a sworn motion for probation (averring that he has never been convicted of a felony nor on felony probation). The jury can't recommend probation for someone convicted of murder, a sex offense against a child younger than 14, or first-degree felony injury to a child.

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