Criminal acts are classified as misdemeanors or felonies based on the nature of the offense. The state of Texas has issued mandates defining what sentencing options are permissible for first-time felony offenders under the Texas First Time Offender Felony Charge Act of 1996. This act mandates that, while a certain amount of flexibility is permitted in sentencing, judges may not exceed these guidelines.
Impact on First Time Drug Offenses
Under Texas state law, the maximum penalty for felony drug offenses consists of 10 to 99 years in the state penitentiary and fines of up to $100,000, depending on the nature of the offense. The Texas First Time Offender Felony Charge Act mandates that felony drug offenders may avoid the maximum sentence in cases where the suspect is a first-time drug offender and has no history of prior convictions within the state. In addition, the offender must comply with all alternative sentencing guidelines issued by the court, including participation in mandatory drug rehabilitation programs and counseling.
First-time offenders charged with an act of murder or intentional homicide are not eligible for sentence reduction under the Texas First Time Offender Felony Charge Act. In order to qualify for sentencing reduction as a first-time offender, the felony that the defendant is charged with must not be an act of violence or an act in which the threat of violence is otherwise implied.
Effect on Sentencing First-Time Sex Offenders
Like defendants charged with murder, offenders charged with first-time felony sex offenses do not qualify for reduced sentencing under the Texas First Time Offender Felony Charge Act . Defendants who are convicted of felony sex offenses against children under the age of 18 are required to register with their municipality as convicted sex offenders and are subject to sentences of 5 to 99 years in prison, depending on the nature of the offense and the age of the minor at the time the sexual offense occurred.
Felony DUI Offenses
Individuals charged with Driving under the Influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) in Texas may only be charged with felony DUI if the act is their third recorded offense. As a result, individuals who are charged with felony DUI do not qualify for first-time offender status as it relates to the Texas First Time Offender Felony Charge Act. The maximum sanction which may be applied to a defendant convicted of felony DUI is a two-to-ten-year sentence in a state penitentiary and fines of up to $4,000, in addition to applicable court costs.