What Are The Different Degrees of Felonies In Texas?
Here at Southern Bail Bonds Dallas, we are often asked about the different degrees of felonies in Texas when speaking with our potential bail bond clients. Since often times, when we receive phone calls, it is the first encounter the caller has had with a bail bondsman and they aren’t sure how the process works.
Callers often want to know if bail bonds are available for felony offenses, what the felony offense is, and what the different felony degrees mean. Most of the time, when providing explanations, we start from the beginning and explain the entire bail process, which included explaining what the definition of bail is.
For those of you visiting this page, hopefully the information below will help to answer some of your questions.
Let’s start with the definition of “Bail” in Texas:
According to the Texas code, the definition of bail is as follows:
“Bail” is the security given by the accused that he will appear and answer before the proper court the accusation brought against him, and includes a bail bond or a personal bond. For additional information or further clarification please visit: Texas Criminal Code
If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime, the first thing you will most likely want to know is how to get out of jail as quickly as possible. Depending on the crime you or your loved has been charged with, the process to be followed for posting bail bonds is the same whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony offense. What may be different is the amount of the bond set by the judge or magistrate. For misdemeanor offenses bail is usually set at a lower amount, and sometimes a person could be released on a personal recognizance or PR bond. But, contrary to popular belief, there are high level misdemeanors that could result in a high bond amount as well. There is a widely held misconception that all misdemeanors are low-level charges. That is not the case at all! There are several misdemeanors, such as assault misdemeanors, that can require higher bond amounts and substantial jail time if convicted.
On the other hand, felony charges are more serious and bail is usually set at higher amounts than misdemeanor charges. Additionally, felony charges can necessitate other restrictions being placed on a defendant before he or she is released from custody. Some of those restrictions could include wearing an electronic monitoring device or ELM, being required to do random drug screenings, and more frequent check-ins with the courts.
Can A Defendant Get Bail Bonds For Felony Offenses?
Yes! You or your loved one can usually get bail bonds to help facilitate a release from jail to assist the defendant with getting back to their regular life while awaiting their day in court. Posting bail bonds allows defendants the opportunity to go back to work so they can help pay for their legal defense, and it also allows them the freedom to work with their attorney to gather potential evidence that could assist them in putting on the best defense possible, which could result in a successful day in court.
Let’s Talk Felony Offenses
In Texas, the Penal Code defines criminal offenses that are considered felonies. These are serious offenses and a conviction can result in a prison sentence of at least one year. Most felonies are categorized into different “degrees”, with higher degree felonies carrying a more severe consequence. State jail felonies, however are not categorized in degrees.
What’s The Difference Between A State Jail Felony and Other Felony Offenses?
First, let’s explain exactly what a state jail felony is. State jail felonies don’t follow the “degree” system like other felonies. Basically, a state jail felony is a state crime where the punishment is jail time of at least 180 days and no more than 2 years, and can have a fine no higher than $2000. Part of the punishment could also include some sort of community supervision.
You’ve probably heard somebody say “they got time off for good behavior.” Well, that option isn’t available for state jail felonies. Jail time for state jail felonies has to be served in full, which isn’t the case for individuals serving time in county jails or TDC where they may be released early, prior to completing their full sentence time. Of course, state jail felonies can also be reduced to misdemeanors which could possibly eliminate jail time altogether.
Examples of State Jail Felonies include but are not limited to:
• DWI with a child passenger,
• Theft of property assessed at $2,500 to $30,000,
• Check forgery
• Criminally negligent homicide
• Burglarizing a building
• Credit card abuse
• Cruelty to animals
• Improper visual or recording or photography
• Unauthorized use of a vehicle
• Threatening violence to coerce a minor to join a gang
• Possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance (this applies to certain illegal drugs)
• Fraudulent use or possessing identifying information
Now let’s talk about the different degrees of non-state jail felonies.
Third Degree Felonies:
Third degree felonies in Texas are considered more serious crimes than state jail felonies or misdemeanors. Punishment for third degree felonies in Texas can carry prison time of 2 to 10 years, a fine of up to $10,000 and community supervision.
Third degree felony crimes include, but are not limited to:
• Indecent exposure to a child,
• Third DWI,
• Deadly conduct with a firearm,
• Intoxication assault.
• Tampering with evidence
• Violating a protective order (3rd offense)
• Escape from felony custody
• Aggravated perjury (lying under oath in court)
• Bail jumping for a felony arrest
• Possession of a firearm by a felon
Second Degree Felonies:
A second degree felony in Texas is an even more serious crime than a third degree felony or state jail felony or misdemeanor. Second degree felonies carry a punishment from 2 to 20 years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000 along with the possible addition of community supervision.
Second degree felony crimes include, but are not limited to:
• Intoxication manslaughter,
• Sexual assault,
• Aggravated assault,
• Trafficking of persons
• Possession of 50 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana.
• Online solicitation of a minor
• Evading arrest involving death of another person
• Stalking (second offense)
• Improper educator-student relationship
• Indecent contact with a child
First Degree Felonies:
As you might imagine, based on the sequence above, first degree felonies are more serious than second degree felonies. However, they are not the most serious of the felony offenses. First degree felony offenses are punishable by 5 to 99 years, or life in prison. They can also carry a fine of up to $10,000 along with possible community supervision.
First degree felony crimes can include but are not limited to:
• Aggravated sexual assault of a child,
• Attempted capital murder,
• Aggravated robbery,
• Aggravated kidnapping,
• Arson of a residential building resulting in death,
• Trafficking persons below age 14
• Solicitation of capital murder
• Escaping from custody when serious bodily injury occurs,
• Causing serious bodily injury to elderly, disabled person or child,
• Burglarizing a habitation with intent to commit a felony
This brings us to the most serious of felony offenses in Texas. As you probably already know, capital felonies are the most serious criminal offenses. In Texas being convicted of a capital felony can mean the punishment imposed can be imprisonment for life or even death by lethal injection.
Capital felonies include the following crimes:
• Premeditated murder,
• Mass murders
• Jail inmates killing prison guards
• Murdering someone under the age of 15 years old
• Murdering a court judge
• Death resulting for aircraft hijacking
Persons convicted of capital felony offenses will go through a special court process. That process won’t be covered in this article, but there are several sites online that can provide additional information. Also, what needs to be understood (and also is not covered in this article) is the existence of Special Circumstances.
Some of the most common special circumstances a judge or magistrate might consider are:
• Is the defendant a first-time or repeat offender?
• Was the defendant the main offender or an accomplice?
• Did the defendant commit the crime under great personal stress or duress?
• Whether or not anyone was harmed, and if the crime was committed in a manner that was unlikely to result in someone being injured.
• Was the defendant particularly cruel to the victim or destructive
• Does the defendant appear to be remorseful?
• Is the person currently on probation or parole?
Many factors go into determining the charge and bail amount a defendant will receive. A judge or magistrate will look at the defendant’s prior criminal history, whether or not they are currently on parole or probation, ties to the community, do they pose a flight risk and whether or not their release will cause a danger to the public to name a few.
Additionally, a judge could require the defendant to be equipped with some sort of electronic monitoring. This could include either a leg or wrist monitor or ignition interlock device in their vehicle. There is also the possibility that a judge will determine that it is in the best interest of the public for the defendant to stay in custody until a disposition has been reached in relation to their case.
If you have additional questions about the bail bond process or are needing to get bail bonds posted for your loved one, Southern Bail Bonds Dallas is ready to help. Call us now at 214-372-2500 to speak to a knowledgeable bail agent. Most often we can process your bond over the phone without you having to make a trip into our office. We’re standing by!
NOTE: Southern Bail Bonds does not provide legal advice, and nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as legal advice. If you or a loved one are seeking legal advice, we encourage you to consult with a qualified attorney of your choice to get the information you need!