In Texas, felonies are crimes punishable by terms that must be served in state prison or state jail. Less serious crimes (misdemeanors) are punishable by up to one year in local or county jail.
For more information on misdemeanors in Texas, see Texas Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Felonies in Texas are designated as capital felonies; first, second or third degree felonies; or state jail felonies. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.04.)
In Texas, capital felonies are punishable by death or life without parole. Murder is an example of a capital felony.
If the defendant was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed and the prosecutor chooses not to seek the death penalty, then a capital felony is punishable by life imprisonment.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.31.)
First Degree Felony
A conviction for a first degree felony can result in life imprisonment or five to 99 years’ imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Sexual assault against a child is a first degree felony in Texas.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.32.)
For more information on sex crimes and penalties in Texas, see Texas Sexual Battery Laws.
Second Degree Felony
Under Texas law, second degree felonies are punishable by two to 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. Causing serious injury to a family member is a second degree felony.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.33.)
For more information on domestic abuse, see Texas Domestic Violence Laws.
Third Degree Felony
A third degree felony is punishable by two to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. For example, possession of five to 50 pounds of marijuana is a third degree felony.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.34.)
For more information on crimes involving marijuana, see Texas Marijuana Laws.
State Jail Felony
In Texas, state jail felonies are punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
If lawmakers identify a crime as a felony but fail to designate it as a particular kind of felony or set a specific sentence, then the felony is a state jail felony.
A judge must punish a defendant convicted of a state jail felony to a third degree felony term if:
- the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime, or
- the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.04, 12.35.)
For example, a conviction for theft is a state jail felony if the thing stolen is:
- a firearm
- livestock worth up to $20,000, or
- property (other than livestock) worth between $1,500 and $20,000.
For more information on theft penalties, see Texas Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations are time limits during which the state must begin criminal prosecution or the defendant can have the case dismissed. Statutes of limitations begin to “run” when the crime is committed. Usually, more serious crimes have longer statutes of limitations and the most serious crimes, such as murder, have no statute of limitations.
For more information, see Texas Criminal Statute of Limitations.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
A felony conviction can have extremely serious consequences. In addition to time in state prison or jail and a substantial fine, a felony conviction can result in loss of the right to vote or hold public office. It can be difficult to obtain or keep a job or a professional license if you have a felony conviction. If you are charged with a felony, the best way to avoid a conviction is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney will be able to tell you what to expect in court and how to best protect your rights.