For purposes of assigning sentences to each felony offense, many states divide felonies into subcategories. Others assign sentences on a crime-by-crime basis, and some use a hybrid approach. Felonies and Misdemeanors In all states, crimes are classified as either misdemeanors (less serious crimes) or felonies (more serious crimes). Felonies and misdemeanors differ in significant ways: Prison versus jail.
In general, felonies carry a potential sentence to state prison; misdemeanors, by contrast, involve possible incarceration in a county or local jail. Length of incarceration. In most states, misdemeanor sentences are not longer than one year, whereas felony sentences are longer. In states that have the death penalty, certain felonies can also result in a sentence of death. Ramifications post-conviction.
A person with a felony conviction may lose the right to vote and may also be barred from serving on a jury. Certain professional licenses may become off-limits, and convicted felons may find it difficult to obtain jobs and housing. By contrast, those with a misdemeanor conviction will not face such serious consequences. This article explains how states assign sentences to felonies. For information on how states do the same to misdemeanor crimes, see Misdemeanor Charges: Classes and Penalties.
How States Classify Felony Crimes For purposes of assigning sentences to each felony offense, many states divide felonies into subcategories. Others assign sentences on a crime-by-crime basis, and some use a hybrid approach, as explained below. To get more information in your state, jump ahead to felony classification laws by state. Subcategories of crimes: Classes and levels Within each of these two main groups, many states use subcategories, which again are based on the crime’s seriousness.
Each subcategory has its own sentence or sentence range. For example, Missouri classifies its felonies as Class A, B, C, D, or E crimes; and its misdemeanors as Class A, B, or C. Every statute defining a crime in Missouri identifies the crime by class; once you know the class, you can learn the possible sentence for that offense by referring to the law that sets the sentence for each class. States may use letter subcategories, as just explained; or they may use numbers (1, 2, and so on); and they may speak of “levels” instead of classes.
They may also avoid the terms “class” and “level,” and instead use descriptive phrases. Texas, for example, classifies some felonies as “state jail felonies” (other felonies are classed by degree; see “A hybrid approach,” below). No subcategories Some states, however, do not use subcategories. They simply assign a sentence to every misdemeanor and felony, crime-by-crime. For instance, in Massachusetts, the sentence for every felony and misdemeanor will appear in each crime’s statute defining the crime.
In California, each criminal statute states the sentence range that’s possible for that offense. A hybrid approach Some states adopt a hybrid approach, using subcategories for most offenses and, for some crimes, assigning the sentence in the statute defining the crime (these are known as “unclassified” offenses). For example, felonies in Pennsylvania are either first, second, third degree, or unclassified crimes.
To learn the sentence for a particular first degree crime, you would refer to the statute that states the sentence for all first degree offenses. But if the crime is identified as an unclassified crime, the sentence will be right in the statute defining the offense. The Kansas Grid Kansas has a unique sentencing scheme. Instead of classes or levels, or crime-by-crime designations, Kansas has a complicated grid that takes into account the severity of the particular crime and the criminal history of the defendant.
This means that a crime that did not involve heinous facts, committed by a first-time offender, will be punished less severely than the same offense committed in a brutal way by a repeat offender. Federal Felonies Congress has adopted a system for federal felony offenses that is similar to the grid used in Kansas. Each felony is assigned to one of 43 “offense levels.” And each defendant is placed in one of six “criminal history categories.
” The point at which these assignments intersect is the offender’s sentence range, contained in the federal sentencing guidelines. Judges use these guidelines as a starting point when imposing a sentence. For more about the federal system, see Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Felony Classes Defined Follow the links below to get general information on felony classes A, B, C, D, and E. Felony Classifications in Your State The chart below summarizes the approach of each state when it comes to organizing their felony crimes.
Click the link for any state to be taken to an in-depth article that explains the system for that state in detail. State Felony Classes Alabama A, B, or C Alaska A, B, or C Arizona 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 Arkansas Y, A, B, C, or D California By crime Colorado 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or unclassified Connecticut A, B, C, or D; or unclassified (by crime); different sentencing laws apply for crimes committed before July 1, 1981 Delaware A, B, C, D, E, F, or G D.
C. By crime Florida Capital or life felonies; or felonies of the first, second, or third degree Georgia By crime Hawaii A, B, or C; murder classed separately Idaho By crime Illinois X, 1, 2, 3, or 4; murder classed separately Indiana A, B, C, or D Iowa A, B, C, or D Kansas Grid system Kentucky A, B, C, or D Louisiana By crime Maine A, B, or C Maryland By crime Massachusetts By crime Michigan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H Minnesota By crime Mississippi By crime Missouri A, B, C, D, or E Montana By crime Nebraska Class I, IA, IB, IC, ID, II, III, IIIA, or IV Nevada A, B, C, D, or E New Hampshire A or B New Jersey Indictable offenses: first, second, third or fourth degree New Mexico Capital offenses, first, second, third, or fourth degree New York A-I, A-II, B, C, D, or E North Carolina A, B1, B2, C, D, E, F, G, H, or I North Dakota AA, A, B, or C Ohio First, second, third, fourth, or fifth degree Oklahoma By crime Oregon Unclassified (by crime), A, B, or C Pennsylvania First, second, third degree or unclassified (by crime) Rhode Island By crime South Carolina A, B, C, D, E, or F South Dakota Classes A, B,or C; and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 Tennessee A, B, C, D, or E Texas Capital felonies; first, second or third degree felonies; or state jail felonies Utah Capital felonies; first, second or third degree felonies Vermont By crime Virginia 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or by crime Washington A, B, or C West Virginia By crime Wisconsin A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or I Wyoming By crimeSee Also: Appliance Parts Orange County Ca
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Below are some basic guidelines and information on penalties for criminal charges in Texas. The laws are complicated, so please feel free to contact us for a consultation on your specific charges. We can help you understand what you are up against, and tell you how we can help you work through your legal problems. Laws & Penalties in Texas Criminal Courts As you prepare to fight felony or misdemeanor criminal charges in Texas, it’s important to know the possible penalties if you are convicted.
Sentencing can range from fines to probation to time in a Texas prison or county jail. Here, we’ll give you an overview of how sentencing works in Texas and what you can expect if you are convicted of a crime. You can also find information about specific offenses such as DWI, assault and drug possession in our directory of criminal charges. First, you should understand the difference between felony and misdemeanor criminal charges, which are defined by the Texas Penal Code.
Felony v. Misdemeanor Penalties for Criminal Charges in Texas A felony is a serious criminal offense for which you can be fined up to $10,000 and be sentenced to a state penitentiary for a period of between six months and life. You also may lose your right to vote, have a gun or obtain certain state occupational licenses. Felonies include aggravated assault, burglary and DWI, third offense. Felony Penalty Capital Death or life in prison without parole First-degree 5 to 99 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000 Second-degree 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000 Third-degree 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000 State jail 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or a fine of not more than$10,000 A misdemeanor is a less serious criminal offense for which you can be fined $4,000 or less and be sentenced to county jail for up to one year.
You do not lose any civil rights for a misdemeanor conviction. Misdemeanors include simple assault, theft and DWI, first or second offense. There are three classes of misdemeanor – A. B and C – and five categories of felony offenses. Misdemeanor Penalty Class A Not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than$4,000 Class B Not more than 180 days in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than$2,000 Class C A fine of not more than $500 As you can see, the penal code sets broad sentencing guidelines for each class and degree of criminal charge.
Exact sentences are generally up to the judge, with recommendations from the prosecutor and, in certain cases, from the jury. How Criminal Sentencing Works in Texas Courts The judge will typically settle on a sentence one of three ways: If the prosecution has a strong case, we may make a plea deal on your behalf, usually for a lesser crime with a sentencing recommendation. For example, your charge might be a second-degree felony, but the prosecutor would agree to drop it to a third-degree felony or even a misdemeanor and seek minimal prison time if you agree to enter a guilty plea to the lesser charge.
The judge can accept the deal, or refuse, in which case you can withdraw your guilty plea. In cases that go to trial, the jury can make sentencing recommendations, which the judge must follow. You have the right to choose before trial whether you want the jury to decide the punishment if you are convicted. Before jurors decide, we will have a chance to present character witnesses and mitigating evidence on your behalf.
Or, in the absence of a plea agreement or jury recommendation, the judge may impose sentencing himself. The judge will order a pre-sentence investigation which details your criminal and social history, the facts of the crime and the state’s recommended community supervision plan. We will also have a chance to add comments to the report arguing for leniency. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires that the sentence be handed out in your presence, so the judge will set a sentencing hearing for that purpose.
Will I have to go to jail on my criminal charges? Frankly, the sentence for a conviction will depend on your previous record, the details of the case and the judge making the decision. We will always seek the least possible sentence, whether in making a plea deal or arguing the case before the judge during sentencing hearings. In many cases, probation is an option, especially if it is your first conviction.
Probation, or community supervision, is the suspension of your county jail or Texas prison sentence on the understanding that you meet certain requirements set by the court. Typically, you will have to report to a community supervision officer on a regular basis, hold a steady job, pay fines and restitution and allow regular inspections of your home. Community supervision sentences can run up to two years for misdemeanors and up to 10 years for felonies.
If you meet all the conditions, you may be eligible to apply for early release from probation after serving at least one-third of the term. You may not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence if your original prison sentence is more than 10 years, if you have previously been convicted of a felony, or if you are convicted of a violent offense such as capital murder, indecency with a child or aggravated robbery, known as 3g offenses for the section of the Code where they are listed.
For serious or repeat felonies, you almost certainly will have to spend some time in county jail or a Texas prison. The sentences can be cumulative, meaning when one ends, the next one begins, or concurrent, meaning you would serve all of the sentences at the same time. You will receive credit for any time spent in jail awaiting trial. Confinement could be as simple as house arrest or weekends in jail, or as difficult as a long-term sentence in a medium-security or maximum-security Texas prison.
For county jail and state prison sentences, you earn time toward an early release with good behavior. You also can apply for parole after serving at least one-quarter of your sentence on most criminal charges. Whatever the case, we will work with you to make sure you don’t face conviction and sentencing on criminal charges in Texas without a fight, and we will make sure you understand the stakes every step of the way.