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Am I eligible for a 12.44 Reduction?

Trey Porter

December 13, 2018 • 3 min read

Section 12.44 of the Texas Penal Code (12.44 reduction) allows defendants charged with a State Jail Felony to receive a Misdemeanor punishment.

What are Texas State Jail Felonies?

  • Burglary of a building
  • Coercing a minor to join a gang by threatening violence
  • Credit card abuse
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Criminal nonsupport
  • Cruelty to animals
  • DWI with child passenger
  • Evading arrest in a vehicle
  • False alarm or report
  • Forgery of a check
  • Fraudulent use/possession of identification
  • White collar fraud getting a hard money loan
  • Improper photography or visual recording
  • Interference of child custody
  • Possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance
  • Theft of something valued between $1,500 and $20,000
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle

What is the Punishment Range for a State Jail Felony?

The punishment range for a State Jail Felony is 180 days to two years in the State Jail Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and up to a $10,000 fine. Texas created this lower level felony to address the overcrowding in prisons caused by extensive prosecution of drug-related crimes.

Inmates cannot earn good time or parole in a state jail facility, which is why most seek a reduction in punishment through 12.44(a) or 12.44(b).

What is a 12.44 Reduction of a State Jail Felony to a Misdemeanor?

Section 12.44 (a) of the Texas Penal Code provides that 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.

Under 12.44(a), instead of sending someone to prison, a criminal court can sentence a defendant charged with a State Jail Felony to county jail, where Misdemeanor offenders are sentenced.

Reduction under 12.44(a) does not require the prosecuting attorney to agree. This means the judge can decide to do this at sentencing, and it’s not limited to only plea bargains.

Unfortunately, even if the punishment is reduced, a State Jail Felony punished under 12.44(a) is still a Felony conviction, which means:

  • You are not eligible for an expunction
  • You are not eligible for probation from a jury if charged with a subsequent felony;
  • You cannot own or possess a firearm; and
  • You are prohibited from voting and jury service.

However, instead of serving six months to two years in a State Jail facility (day-for-day), you can be sentenced to:

  • Up to one year in county jail receiving whatever “good time credit” the sheriff running allows (in Bexar County, this is typically 2-for-1 and sometimes 3-for-1), or;
  • Two years of probation.

12.44(b) of the Texas Penal Code provides that “at the request of the prosecuting attorney, the court may authorize the prosecuting attorney to prosecute a state jail felony as a Class A misdemeanor.”

This option keeps a felony conviction off your record and requires the prosecutor to agree to the reduction. The prosecutor can request (through plea bargain or at sentencing) that the judge reduce a State Jail Felony to a Class A Misdemeanor. While 12.44(b) has the same two possible sentences, it does not result in a felony conviction.

A conviction under 12.44(b) is a Misdemeanor conviction. An offense that is prosecuted under 12.44(b) cannot later be used to enhance other felony offenses.

Do I Qualify for a 12.44 Reduction?

Criminal defense is not a DIY endeavor. If you or a loved one has been charged with a State Jail Felony, it is critical to hire an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer today. Prosecutors are not handing out 12.44 reductions to every defendant in the courtroom. Don’t hope for the best. Get the best. Contact Trey Porter Law today for a Free Confidential Consultation.

Contact Trey Porter Law

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