You know, someone comes up to me and says, "So, what if a friend of mine was caught stealing a walrus from the zoo? What's he looking at, punishment-wise?"
I say: "A friend?"
And he says: "Sure. A friend. Why would I want a walrus?"
Then we figure out how much the walrus is worth and I give him an answer. (Assuming the walrus is not carrying a wad of counterfeit dollars, a bag of cocaine, or an AK-47, the Internet tells me it's about $14,000 on the black market. Like some guy in Minneapolis has one up his sleeve or tucked inside his raincoat.)
Anyway, I only deal with felonies, so let's start with those. In Texas, we have four levels of felony:
- First degree
- Second degree
- Third degree
- State jail
- A spell in the state jail of between six months (the min) and two years (the max);
- A jail term (per 1., above) that is probated for up to five years;
- A spell in the county jail from one day to 12 months. This one is achieved through a special provision of Texas law that gives you a felony conviction, but allows for county jail time.
Well thanks for asking.
The difference is that if you are sent to the state jail for, say, one year, then you will do every day of that year--no credit for good time, no parole. It's day-for-day, as we say.
County jail, though, is not. A year sentence in the county jail usually ends up being six months of time served, as you get a two-for-one credit if you behave. In fact, if you become a trustee (for example, this) you can get three-for-one credit. A year sentence thus becomes either six or four months. You can see why defense lawyers and their clients angle for number 3., above.
So what crimes are state jail felonies? Here's a few of the most common SJFs that we see:
- possession of a controlled substance in an amount of less than one gram (e.g., cocaine, meth, crack, heroin, but not marijuana);
- theft of property worth between $1,500 and $20,000 (e.g, a walrus);
- burglary of a building (as opposed to a habitation);
- driving while intoxicated, with a passenger under the age of 15;
- evading arrest in a vehicle (only if it's your first time, though!).
When I get to know you better, or when enough people beg nicely, I'll tell you a story about a prostitution trial I had a few years back. Crazy days.