By: Mark Diaz
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What are Restrictions on Convicted Felons in Texas?
Texas has some of the toughest criminal laws of all US states, so you can expect that the implications of a conviction for any offense will be harsh. Felonies, the most serious of the types of crimes, most definitely carry significant restrictions. The Texas penal code establishes three categories of misdemeanor offenses, as well as five degrees of felonies. All crimes are assigned to a category, and there is even a “catch-all” class: Any statute that defines a felony without specifying a category will automatically be designated a state jail felony. Additional provisions of the code lay out the punishment, including the period of incarceration and fines.
However, to truly understand the restrictions on convicted felons in Texas, it is also important to learn about the consequences aside from a criminal sentence. These are the implications that follow you after serving your sentence. They are severe, and as such, your focus on defending felony charges and assessing strategies to avoid the harshest effects is imperative. Retaining a Galveston County felony criminal defense attorney puts you in the best position to fight the allegations; a summary of the restrictions (as detailed below) after a felony conviction will demonstrate this point.
Restrictions on Your Freedoms Due To Felony Conviction
One of the most profound effects for someone convicted of a felony is being incarcerated. With one exception described below, all Texas felonies are punishable by at least one year in prison. These correctional facilities are very different from jails, which house individuals awaiting trial and those convicted of misdemeanor offenses. Prison is long-term, with higher levels of security due to the fact that many inmates have been convicted of serious felonies.
Texas has multiple levels of felony crimes, and the punishment ranges are as follows:
- State Jail Felony is the exception mentioned above regarding incarceration, as a conviction carries no less than 180 days and up to 2 years in a state jail.
- A Third-Degree Felony is punishable by no less than 2 and up to 10 years of incarceration.
- For a conviction on Second-Degree Felony, you face no less than 2 and up to 20 years in prison.
- If convicted of a First-Degree Felony, you could be sentenced to life in prison or 5 to 99 years imprisonment depending on the charges.
- When a person is convicted of a Capital Felony, such as capital murder, the prosecutor has the option to seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
As you can see, Texas laws include a wide range of prison time after a felony conviction. The judge has some discretion in setting the details of a sentence, though some crimes require mandatory minimums. Other factors that may impact imprisonment include but are not limited to your criminal history, aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and use of a firearm in the commission of the crime.
Implications for Your Finances From Felony Conviction
Though the financial side of a Texas felony conviction may not seem as serious as imprisonment, you might be surprised by how costs add up.
- Fines: For a conviction of most felonies, the maximum fine is $10,000.
- Court Costs: Certain expenses related to a criminal case have nothing to do with punishment, but the defendant will still be responsible for paying them. These fees are related to processing, such as:
- Amounts when a defendant is convicted or placed on community supervision
- Costs for participating in special programs
- Fees for release on bond
- Costs paid to officers who serve arrests warrants
- Jury fees
- Restitution: In cases where a victim suffered financial losses because of the defendant’s criminal activity, the court will likely order reimbursement or restitution. Restitution is compensation to the victim, so it is separate from fines and court costs. Keep in mind that interest does accrue on unpaid amounts.
Collateral Consequences of Felony Convictions
There are multiple implications that impact your life after a conviction, and these are separate from the fines, court costs, and felony prison time. These collateral consequences are established by Texas criminal statutes, administrative regulations, and state court rules – and their counterparts at the federal level.
Collateral consequences are a product of two factors, starting with the fact that you have a felony conviction on your permanent criminal record. The details of your case will turn up on any background check. The second consideration is the various circumstances under which you may need to disclose your criminal record. In most situations, you will be required to provide statements under oath or otherwise swear that the information is true and correct.
When convicted of a felony in Texas, some of the collateral consequences may include:
- Termination from employment and difficulties finding a job
- Revocation or suspension of a professional license
- Revocation or suspension of a license you hold for your business
- Disqualification from running for elected office
- Loss of voting rights
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation
- Disqualification from holding a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
- Ineligible for government benefits, including nutritional assistance programs, public housing
- Being required to register as a sex offender
- Not eligible for certain loans, including student loans
- Implications for your Second Amendment rights
Also, keep in mind that a felony conviction has consequences if you are arrested in the future, for either a misdemeanor or felony. Your criminal history is important when it comes to sentencing, so a prior felony conviction could mean higher fines but more importantly, a long prison term. Your history could also impact whether a judge will allow you to be released on bond pending your trial date, as well as the bail amount.
Defending Felony Charges in Texas
Knowing the harsh implications ranging from incarceration to economic implications to collateral consequences, a solid defense strategy is critical. Things may seem grim when you are arrested for a felony, but police only need probable cause to arrest you. The burden for the government is much higher for a conviction in a criminal case, in which the prosecutor needs to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your Texas felony criminal defense attorney may also pursue other defense options and strategies depending on the details of your case. Examples include:
- Unlawful search and seizure by police, which requires all illegally obtained evidence to be tossed out of court
- Lack of intent or knowledge, when these factors are an essential element of the offense
- Self-defense or defense of others
- Expiration of the statute of limitations for a particular crime;
- Entrapment by law enforcement officers
What to do if Arrested on Felony Charges
Your first priority after being charged with a felony should be consulting with a Texas felony criminal defense attorney. Talking to a lawyer is one of the basic rights read to you in the familiar Miranda warnings, so take advantage of this opportunity right away. In addition, during the encounter with police and thereafter, some tips include:
- Do not resist arrest, make verbal threats, or get physical with officers. You will make your situation worse and likely end up facing additional charges.
- Never make statements to law enforcement, such as saying you are innocent, blaming someone else, or explaining your actions. Your constitutional protections include the right to remain silent and you should exercise them.
- Do not answer questions asked by police for the same reason. You could inadvertently say something that could be used against you in court. The less you say, the less likely you are to give the government something to use against you later.
- When you appear in court, be respectful to the judge and all court officers.
Options for Post-Conviction Relief
It is worthwhile to note that some restrictions on convicted felons in Texas can be avoided through post-conviction options. You may qualify to have your record expunged, but eligibility for this remedy is limited. If you were already convicted, you will likely not qualify for an expunction unless you first receive a pardon from the Texas Governor or President of the United States. Those who are successful with the expunction process have the records of a felony conviction deleted and removed from their record, so you do not have to disclose the details and they will not show up in a background check.
Contact a Galveston County Felony Criminal Defense Attorney ASAP
It is helpful to review some background information on the restrictions of convicted felons in Texas, but a knowledgeable lawyer can provide customized legal advice. Besides incarceration and fines, the collateral consequences can have a profound impact on your life.
Our Galveston County felony defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates are prepared to explore possible defenses to felony charges, but we are also committed to pursuing all strategies to achieve a favorable outcome. To learn more about how criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz can assist with your case, please call 409-515-6170 to set up a free consultation.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.