In Texas, felonies are crimes punishable by terms that must be served in state prison or state jail. Felonies in Texas are designated as capital felonies; first, second, or third degree felonies; or state jail felonies. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.04 (2019).)
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.
In Texas, capital felonies are punishable by death or life without parole. If the prosecutor chooses not to seek the death penalty, then a capital felony is punishable by life imprisonment. Murder is an example of a capital felony. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.31 (2019).)
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 (2019).)
Under Texas law, second degree felonies are punishable by two to 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. For example, selling between five and 50 pounds of marijuana is a second degree felony. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.33 (2019).)
A third degree felony is punishable by two to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Promoting prostitution (or “pimping”), for instance, is a third degree felony. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.34 (2019).)
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.
For example, a conviction for theft is a state jail felony if the thing stolen is:
Under Texas law, a judge must punish a defendant convicted of a state jail felony to a third degree felony term if:
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.04, 12.35 (2019).)
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.
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.