There are a couple of different things that you have to immediately address. First, everybody gets their information from television. Television programs are written in New York or California. Most of the time, you are hearing phrases and words from one of those two states.
You hear Man One, Murder Two, all these different languages that try and designate whether or not you’re intending to do this or not intending to do this. Did you harm someone? Did you have some sort of previous mental state planning it?
Those are different words that different states use. In Texas, we make it simple because, we believe we trust our juries. In Texas, we have three degrees of felony: first-degree felony, second, and third. First-degree being the most serious.
Let’s talk murder. If you kill someone in Texas and you meant to do it, it is murder. The punishment range for that is from five to 99 years or life for any first-degree felony. A second-degree felony is manslaughter. If you kill someone, but you did it in a reckless manner that was a clear disregard for human life, you’re talking about manslaughter.
Notice we’re not talking about Man One, Man Two; we’re not talking Murder One, Murder Two. It’s either you killed them and you meant to, or you didn’t mean to, but gosh, what you did was really stupid. Then below that is criminally negligent homicide, which is actually a state jail felony or a fourth-degree felony.
In Texas, you break it up into a different layers, and it is very straightforward. As a criminal defense attorney in Frisco, Texas, you have to understand which of these layers apply and then what we do going forward. You have first-degree felony which is anywhere from five to 99 years or life. Believe it or not, on certain first-degree felonies, you can get probation. A second-degree felony is two years in prison to 20 years in prison and possibly depending on the charge, probation. A third-degree felony is two years to 10 years in prison, and you can also get probation.
On each of those depending on the charges, there are a couple of charges that I’m sure you would understand you are never eligible for probation. Below that, there is a state jail felony which is a little bit different; it is kind of a hybrid. You have enough offense that it is serious enough to consider you a convicted felon, but they punish you on a day-to-day basis. If you get from 180 days up to two years in jail, you are looking at doing those days no parole. You do those days, you get out, and you would be done.
Below that are the misdemeanors. There is a class-A, B, and C. Class-A is the most serious which is anywhere from zero to a year in jail, class-B is zero to six months in jail, and class-C is no jail time but up to a $500 fine. Class-C is something like a speeding ticket or a public intoxication ticket, things like that. Class-B is mostly going to be your marijuana cases, things like that. Then class-A is going to be very serious misdemeanors where you’re talking about harming another person. Assault family violence is a classic class-A misdemeanor. DUI is generally a class-B misdemeanor, which is why most people get probation, but then you can serve up to six months in jail on a DUI.
You have all these different layers, but they set the punishment ranges wide. On television you hear, he is going to get Man Two, and he will serve 10 to 20. In Texas, we don’t do that. You’re either a second-degree felony where you have a punishment range of two to 20 years, and the jury decides what is fair. Or you have a first-degree felony, and it is murder. You get as little as five years or as much as 99 or life.
We set these punishment ranges up to fit whatever offense you have committed, but we set the offenses up in a way where it is clear cut. If you killed them and you mean to, it is this. If you didn’t, but you did these things, it is this. That is true of most of the crimes in Texas; they are designed to fit into this range. Then we let juries decide what you do next. What do you do with them?
Quite honestly, that is why you need a good lawyer. It is not a question of negotiating the best deal that you can get; it is a question of approaching every single case with, how am going to tell this to a jury, so that we are closer to five years than we are 99? How am I going to tell this to a jury so they will allow my client to have his sentence suspended and be placed on probation instead of getting 20 years in prison? How am I going to explain what happened in a way where what my client did was wrong, but again, am I eloquent enough to get 12 people to say not prison if you ran someone over and harmed them? That is why you need the kind of lawyer that can speak out, speak for you, and speak in a way where when he is talking, you are nodding your head; you understand it.
Speak to an Experienced Frisco Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, you should immediately reach out to a local Frisco criminal defense attorney. Philip D. Ray is an experienced criminal attorney and former prosecutor who will provide you with a skilled and aggressive defense. Call The Law Offices of Philip D. Ray today at (469) 588-6770 for a consultation.