How much jail time will I get?

What happens if a judge or jury finds me guilty of a crime? What is the most jail time I can get? On the other hand, what is the least amount of jail time I can get? These are the most common questions I hear in criminal cases.

The answer will depend on three things. First, it will depend on the range of punishment for the crime. Second, it will also depend on the facts of your case. Finally, the answer will depend on the judge or jury in your case.

As a result of these factors, figuring out how much jail time you will get is often one of the hardest questions for criminal defense lawyers to answer. For some cases, the answer will be straight forward. For example, a person facing a first-time DWI case with no accident and no injuries in Bexar County can get probation.

On the other hand, some cases are tougher to measure. This is true when a client has a rap sheet with lots of prior convictions. Or if he is on probation or parole. When this happens, then the person’s risk of jail time goes up.

Because the facts and judge or jury will vary in each case, we will focus on the range of punishment. We will list the jail terms for each type of misdemeanor in Texas. From there, we will list examples of each crime. And finally, we will show you how to use this information to get an idea of how much jail time to expect.

Texas Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanor punishment levels.

Texas Penal Code Sections.Classification of Misdemeanors in Texas.Jail Time Range.Fine Range.
Sec. 12.03(1) & 12.21(1)-(3)Class A Misdemeanor Texas.0 to 1 year in jail.

Both fine and jail time possible.
$0 to $4,000 fine.

12.03(2) & 12.22(1)-(3)Class B Misdemeanor Texas.0 to 180 days in jail.

Both fine and jail time possible.
$0 to $2,000 fine.
12.03(3) & 12.23Class C Misdemeanor Texas.No jail time.$0 to $500 fine.
Texas misdemeanors are classified into three categories. These categories are based on how minor or serious the crime.

The three categories are Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors. Further, Class A misdemeanors in Texas are the most serious offense. While Class C misdemeanors in Texas are the least serious offense.

Finally, deferred adjudication is possible for most misdemeanor crimes in Texas. More importantly, deferred adjudication is a special type of probation. The judge does not find you guilty, but places you on probation.

If you complete the probation, then in some cases, you can ask the judge to seal your record. This is called a petition for nondisclosure.

Similarly, if you receive pretrial diversion (PTD), then you will be able to erase or expunge your record. However, PTD offers are tougher to get.

Texas Felony punishment levels.

Tex. Penal Code Sec.Degree.Jail Time.Fine.
12.04(1) & 12.31Capital Felony.(1) Death penalty; or
(2) Life in prison.
12.04(2) & 12.32First Degree Felony.5 years to 99 years or life in prison.$0 to $10,000.00.
12.04(3) & 12.33Second Degree Felony.2 years to 20 years in prison.$0 to $10,000.00.
12.04(4) & 12.34Third Degree Felony.2 years to 10 years in prison.$0 to $10,000.00.
12.04(5) & 12.35State-Jail Felony.180 days to 2 years in State Jail.$0 to $10,000.00
Felonies are classified into the five categories listed above. Capital felonies are the most serious and state jail felonies are the least serious.

What are examples of felonies and misdemeanors in Texas?

First Degree Felonies in Texas:

  • Murder;
  • Aggravated Robbery;
  • Possession with intent to distribute 4-200 grams of meth; and
  • Theft-$300,000 or more

Second Degree Felonies in Texas:

  • Robbery;
  • Theft between $150,000. and $300,000;
  • Intoxication manslaughter; and
  • Possession of a controlled substance between 4-200 grams

Third Degree Felonies in Texas:

State Jail Felonies in Texas:

  • Driving a stolen car;
  • Possession less than gram of cocaine or meth;
  • Evading arrest using a car; and
  • DWI with a child passenger.

Class A Misdemeanors in Texas:

Class B Misdemeanors in Texas:

  • First-time DWI;
  • Boating while intoxicated (BWI); and
  • Shoplifting ($100.00 to $750.00).

What is 12.44a of the Texas Penal Code?

Tex. Pen. Code Sec. 12.44a lowers the jail time for a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor. For example, a person caught with less than a gram of meth can ask the prosecutor for a “12.44a” deal. If the prosecutor agrees, then the judge can give a lower jail term sentence than that for a state-jail felony. The end result is the person will get a felony on their record, but will only serve misdemeanor jail time.

Equally important, 12.44a gives the State and defense attorneys room to work out a deal. And it also results in less jail time for the client. But the key to a 12.44a deal is the prosecutor. They have to agree to a 12.44 punishment. They also have to ask the judge for a 12.44. Finally, the table below lists the 12.44 law.

Texas Penal Code Sec. 12.44 Punishment.

Tex. Penal Code Sec.Reduction of State Jail Felony Punishment to Misdemeanor Punishment.
12.44(a)A court may punish a defendant who is convicted of a state jail felony by imposing the confinement permissible as punishment for a Class A misdemeanor if, after considering the gravity and circumstances of the felony committed and the history, character, and rehabilitative needs of the defendant, the court finds that such punishment would best serve the ends of justice.
12.44(b)At the request of the prosecuting attorney, the court may authorize the prosecuting attorney to prosecute a state jail felony as a Class A misdemeanor. (Emphasis added.)
Tex. Penal Code 12.44 allows a defendant to serve misdemeanor jail time on a state jail felony. But this law has two requirements. First, the prosecutor must make the request. Second, the judge must go along with the request.

Jail Sentences in Texas.

Now that we know what the jail terms are for felonies and misdemeanors in Texas, we can talk about why they are important. Of major interest, the range of punishment tells you how deep the water is. And you need to know this before you decide to either fight your case or plead out.

At the same time, the range of punishment also puts limits on both judges and juries. To illustrate, if a prosecutor charges you with a class b misdemeanor in Texas, then the most jail time you can get is six (6) months in jail and a $2,000.00. fine.

If a judge or jury wants to give you one (1) year in jail and a $4,000.00 fine for a class b misdemeanor, then the law will not allow this. In other words, the range of punishment sets the outer limits of how much jail time you can get for a crime. And this bit of information can help you decide if you want to fold your cards and take a plea deal or go all in and fight your case.

Use Plea Talks to ask for lower Texas Felony and Misdemeanor Levels.

Another way to fight your case is ask the prosecutor to lower your Texas felony and misdemeanor punishment level. That is to say, ask the prosecutor to lower your charge by one or more offense levels. For example, if you are charged with a first-degree felony in Texas, ask the prosecutor to lower it to a second-degree felony. This will lower your possible jail sentence from 99 years in jail to 20 years in jail.

How do i find out the jail sentence for my case?

The easiest way to find your felony or misdemeanor offense level in Texas is to look online for the crime you are charged with. As an example, a first-time DWI is listed under Tex. Penal Code 49.04. That law states that a DWI is a “Class B misdemeanor” in Texas. You can also ask your attorney. He or she will tell you the range of punishment in your case.

At the same time, you can also look at your plea paperwork. There will be a paragraph or section that outlines your range of punishment. You attorney will also cover this information with you when he or she reviews the plea offer with you.

Finally, the most important thing to remember about Texas Felony and misdemeanor levels is that they only represent the worst case scenarios. In a majority of cases, judges do not give people max jail sentences. Far from it. In fact, in many cases, you can get either probation or a low jail term if you are guilty of a crime.

Defense Attorney Genaro R. Cortez.

Questions about your case? Call 210-733-7575 for a free case consult.