• Ahson Wali

An overview of Texas criminal law

Texas divides criminal offenses into several categories. Felonies are the most serious and can range from crimes punishable by death to crimes punishable by confinement in prison or jail. Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies but may also result in confinement to jail. Infractions are the least serious and are usually only punishable by a fine. Then there are juvenile criminal offenses that affect young people between the ages of 10-17 and can range in severity based on the charges, the age of the offender, and the offender's history.


Capital felonies, as mentioned above, are crimes punishable by death. They include crimes such as murder.

First degree felonies are punishable by life imprisonment, or 5 to 99 years in prison, depending on the type of charge. A first degree felony can also result in a fine up to $10,000.


Second degree felonies are punishable by a sentence ranging from 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.


Penalties for a state jail felony range from 180 days to 2 years in a state jail as well as a fine of up to $10,000.


Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies but can still have a substantial impact on a person. Misdemeanors range from the most serious Class A to the least serious Class C.


A Class A misdemeanor carries up to one year in the county jail and a potential fine of up to $4,000.


A Class B misdemeanor carries up to up to 180 days jail and a potential fine of up to $2,000.

For a Class C misdemeanor there is no jail, but a fine of up to $500 may be imposed.


Infractions are the least severe offenses under Texas law. They do not carry jail time and are punishable with a fine in most instances. Infractions include traffic violations such as speeding.


Then there are juvenile offenses that can range in severity of consequences and punishment. A person between the ages of 10-17 may be charged with a juvenile criminal offense. A child between the age of 17 and 18 may be tried as a juvenile if it is found, or alleged, that the child engaged in delinquent conduct, or conduct indicating a need for supervision, as a result of acts committed before becoming 17 years of age.


In some instances, the prosecutor may choose to petition the juvenile court to waive its jurisdiction and try the child as an adult. A court can waive its jurisdiction and transfer the child to an adult criminal court if certain legal conditions exist.


Punishments for juvenile criminal offenses vary based upon the type of crime charged, the age of the offender, and the offender's past history. Generally, the types of punishments a juvenile may expect to receive include probation, deferred adjudication, and/or a commitment to incarceration with the Texas Youth Commission.


Since the purpose of the juvenile justice system in Texas is rehabilitation, it is usually better for the offender to be charged as a juvenile.

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