Texas Penal Code §12.44 allows judges to punish felony convictions with misdemeanor jail time, or with the agreement of the DA, reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor.
What is Penal Code 12.44a?
Texas Penal Code §12.44a allows a judge to punish a defendant who is convicted of a state jail felony with the permissible punishments for a Class A misdemeanor.
Texas Penal Code §12.44a reads:
“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.”
Suppose the judge determines that, based on the circumstances of the offense and the defendant’s background, a lower punishment would better serve justice. In that case, Penal Code 12.44a allows the judge to send the defendant to a county jail, where misdemeanor offenders are sentenced, instead of sending them to a state jail facility.
A state jail facility is a prison for people who are convicted of state jail felonies, which are more serious than misdemeanor offenses but less serious than felonies of the third degree.
How does 12.44a work?
If a judge agrees to a 12.44a, you will serve your sentence at the county jail with misdemeanor offenders. However, even though 12.44a allows you to receive misdemeanor punishments, the conviction will still be a felony. You’ll have a state jail felony conviction on your record, but you’ll be punished like it was a Class A misdemeanor.
Additionally, the prosecutor does not have to agree to a sentence reduction under 12.44a. The judge can decide to grant a 12.44a at sentencing, regardless of whether the prosecutor has offered it as part of a plea bargain. However, judges rarely grant a 12.44a in situations where the prosecutor opposes it.
What are the advantages of reducing a felony to a misdemeanor?
While a 12.44a allows you to be punished like a misdemeanor, it does not reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor. It will still be a felony.
Some of the disadvantages of having a felony conviction on your record include:
- You lose your right to own a gun.
- You lose your right to vote.
- You cannot serve on a jury.
- You are ineligible for expunction.
- You are not eligible to receive probation from a jury if you are convicted of a subsequent felony.
However, Texas Penal Code §12.44b allows you to reduce a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor conviction. Not only will the punishment be reduced, but the conviction will show on your record as a misdemeanor. This will help you avoid the disadvantages of a felony conviction and help you maintain your gun and voting rights. However, unlike a 12.44a, a 12.44b requires the approval of the prosecutor on your case.
Is it hard to have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor?
Depending on the circumstances of your offense, your criminal background, and the prosecuting attorney assigned to your case, it can be challenging to have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor through a 12.44b, or even have your punishment reduced through a 12.44a.
The best way to secure at 12.44 is to work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Prosecutor approval is necessary for a 12.44b, and judges will seldom approve a 12.44a if the prosecutor does not agree to it. When deciding whether to offer a 12.44, prosecutors usually review the facts and circumstances of your case, your criminal record, and the type of crime you are charged with.
Each individual prosecutor will evaluate cases differently, so which prosecutor is assigned to your case may also impact whether or not you can receive a 12.44. However, generally speaking, people with a limited criminal record have a better chance of receiving a 12.44, as do people accused of non-violent felonies such as drug possession.
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