Sentencing is a criminal case means the punishment for the illegal conduct. In Texas, there are three main ways of being sentenced. First, a plea bargain may be agreed upon where the defendant agrees to a sentence recommendation in exchange for a plea of guilty on some charges, all of the charges, or reduced charges. The judge may accept the plea and sentence the defendant to the terms of the agreement (of if refused, the defendant may withdraw the plea and start again in plea bargaining, or pursue other options such as trial).
Second, after trial, the judge or sometimes Jury can impose sentencing after a presentation of character witnesses and potentially mitigating evidence on the defendant’s behalf. Often on the more serious charges, a Judge may order a pre-sentence investigation detailing a defendant’s social and criminal history, the facts of the current offence, and any probation issues.
Alternatives to Jail may be home confinement, community service, or Community Supervision and Probation, meaning the jail sentence is suspended or put on hold, allowing an individual to hold a steady job, pays fines or restitution, and remain free of jail while probation workers supervise daily life.
A basic outline of punishments for sentencing is as follows:
- Class A: No more than one year in the county jail and/or no more than $4,000 fines.
- Class B: No more than 180 days in the county jail and/or no more than $2,000 fines.
- Class C: No more than $500 fines.
- Capital: Death or life in prison without parole.
- 1st Degree: Between 5 and 99 years in state prison and/or no more than $10,000 fines.
- 2nd Degree: Between 2 and 20 years in state prison and/or no more than $10,000 fines.
- 3rd Degree: Between 2 and 10 years in state prison and/or no more than $10,000 fines.
- State Jail: Between 180 days and 2 years in state prison and/or no more than $10,000 fines.
There are also Enhancements that can increase the sentencing and punishment range based on offenses, factors, or the person's prior record.