How much jail time will I get?

This is the most common question clients ask me. And it is also the hardest question to answer. This is because several factors can raise or lower the jail time in any case. They include:

  1. The facts of the case;
  2. Harm to the victim or society;
  3. Attitudes of the judge and prosecutor; and
  4. The client’s history and criminal record.

Nonetheless, defense attorneys can give clients a range of jail time. This range includes the most jail time a client can get. And it includes the lowest jail time a client can get. In sum, these are the ranges of punishment for each case.

Additionally, the law breaks up these punishment ranges into two groups. They are felonies and misdemeanors. Finally, the tables below show these felony and misdemeanor levels.

Texas misdemeanor punishment levels.

Texas Penal Code Sections.Classification of Misdemeanors.Jail Time Range.Fine Range.
Sec. 12.03(1) & 12.21(1)-(3)Class A Misdemeanor.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.0 to 180 days in jail.

Both fine and jail time possible.
$0 to $2,000 fine.
12.03(3) & 12.23Class C Misdemeanor.No jail time.$0 to $500 fine.
Texas misdemeanors are classified according to the relative seriousness of the offense into three categories. The three categories are Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors. Further, Class A misdemeanors are the most serious offense. While Class B misdemeanors are the least serious offense.

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:

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

Second Degree Felonies:

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

Third Degree Felonies:

State Jail Felonies:

  • 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:

Class B Misdemeanors:

  • 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 than that for a state-jail felony. The end result is the person will get a felony on their record, but will do 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.

San Antonio Criminal Defense.

To recap, the amount of jail time is the biggest question in any case. But it is also important to remember that the jail time levels listed above give a client the best and worst case outcomes in a case. Stated differently, these ranges tell a client how deep the water is. It does not mean they will sink all the way to the bottom.

In fact, most clients never get the top jail time allowed by law. Most clients get far less than that–and many of them get probation. Finally, these levels only come into play if the client pleads guilty or is found guilty.

Defense Attorney Genaro R. Cortez.

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