Texas’s Felony Three-Strike Rule

Note to Texans convicted of a felony: three strikes and you’re out. Or possibly imprisoned for life.

That’s what the Texas sentencing laws say. In setting the punishment for felony offenses, Texas considers previous felony convictions. If you have two felony convictions, whether those convictions were for third-, second-, or first-degree felonies, and you are convicted of another felony—any felony—you face serious jail time.

Table of Contents:

  1. Strike One
  2. Strike Two
  3. Strike Three
  4. Other Important Elements

But let’s back up and examine Texas’s felony laws. The seriousness of felonies in Texas ranges from capital felonies (the most serious) to state jail felonies (the least serious).

  • Capital felonies are capital murder offenses (murders with certain aggravating circumstances).
  • First-degree felonies include murder, human trafficking resulting in death or when the person is under eighteen, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and continuous sexual abuse of a child.
  • Second-degree felonies include murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, burglary.
  • Third-degree felonies include kidnapping, smuggling of persons, and terroristic threats.
  • Other offenses may be charged as felonies, but those felonies are considered state jail felonies.
  • To see how the three strike rule works, you need to take the felony convictions one at a time.

    To learn how Spolin Law P.C. can handle your Writ of Habeas Corpus, call us at (866)-716-2805.

    Aaron Spolin

    Former prosecutor Aaron Spolin leads Spolin Law P.C., which handles Texas state and federal cases. Mr. Spolin has been on the winning side of hundreds of criminal cases.

    Strike One

    The first time you are convicted of a felony is your first “strike,” and you may be sentenced as follows:

  • Capital Felony: Death or imprisonment for life without parole
  • First-Degree Felony: Imprisonment for life or imprisonment for 5-99 years (with some exceptions mandating a longer minimum term)
  • Second-Degree Felony: Imprisonment for 2 – 20 years
  • Third-Degree Felony: Imprisonment for 2 – 10 years
  • State-Jail Felony: Imprisonment for 180 days – 2 years
  • Strike Two

    The second time you are convicted of a felony is your second “strike,” and the sentences bump up. If you have a conviction for one other felony (any felony except a state-jail felony) that has become final and are thereafter convicted of another felony, you may be sentenced as follows:

    2nd conviction is for a First-Degree Felony: Imprisonment for life or imprisonment for 15-99 years (increase of 10 years for minimum sentence).

    2nd conviction is for a Second-Degree Felony: Sentencing is the same as for first-degree felony: imprisonment for life or for 5-99 years (raises minimum from 2 to 5 years and increases maximum penalty from 20 to 99 years or potentially life in prison).

    2nd conviction is for a Third-Degree Felony: Sentencing is the same as for a second-degree felony: 2-20 years (increases maximum imprisonment by 10 years).

    2nd conviction is for a State-Jail Felony: Sentencing is the same as for a third-degree felony: 2-10 years (raising minimum sentence from 180 days to 2 years and increasing maximum from 2 to 10 years).

    The bump up in sentencing is significant. For example, if you were convicted of a third-degree felony and are subsequently convicted of a second-degree felony, you face the possibility of imprisonment for life or imprisonment from 5-99 years rather than the maximum sentence of 20 years, the sentence for committing one second-degree felony.

    1. Strike One
    2. Strike Two
    3. Strike Three
    4. Other Important Elements

    Strike Three

    The third time you are convicted of a felony is your third “strike,” and the sentence is drastically enhanced.

    If you have two prior felony convictions of any degree (except a state-jail felony) and you are subsequently convicted of another felony of any degree (other than a state-jail felony), you can be sentenced to imprisonment for life or for a period of 25-99 years.

    If you have two non-state-jail felonies and are convicted of a state-jail felony as your third strike, you will be sentenced as if you had committed a second-degree felony, raising the potential sentence from 180 days-2 years to 2-20 years. And that conviction is considered a felony conviction that may be used to enhance a later felony conviction, even a state-jail conviction.

    What is important to note is that the seriousness or degree of felony committed as the first, second, or third strike doesn’t matter. Once you reach three felony convictions, the enhanced sentencing terms apply, and if you are convicted of that third felony, the sentence ranges from life in prison or a term of 25-99 years. Thus, if you have, for example, been convicted of two third-degree felonies and are convicted of another third-degree felony, instead of being sentenced to 2-10 years’ imprisonment for the third felony, you could be sentenced to life in prison.

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    Contact a lawyer at Spolin Law P.C to see which arguments might apply to your case. We can be reached at (866)-716-2805.

    1. Strike One
    2. Strike Two
    3. Strike Three
    4. Other Important Elements

    Other Important Elements of the Three-Strike Law

    Convictions for felonies in other states count toward the three strikes in Texas.

    The punishment set out in the Texas three-strike statute is not advisory; sentencing must conform to the mandates of the statute. While a judge may have some discretion in setting a sentence for anywhere from 25-99 years or for life, that judge may not set a sentence at less than 25 years.

    The state may use the same prior felony conviction to enhance a sentence more than once. So even if your second felony conviction resulted in an enhanced sentence because of a prior felony conviction, both of those convictions may be used against you if you later commit a third felony. Or if a misdemeanor is enhanced to a felony because of prior misdemeanors, that “enhanced” felony counts as a “strike” and can be used to enhance a later felony sentence. Likewise, a prior felony conviction can be used to enhance each of the sentences for separate indictments tried simultaneously.

    The consequences for multiple felony convictions in Texas are severe and far-reaching. Only a few limiting factors exist: the convictions for the prior felonies must be “final,” and the state must provide some notice of an intent to enhance a sentence using the three-strike rule. If you have been convicted of a third felony, the time and bases for appeal are limited. Make sure you have an attorney with significant experience in criminal appeals to appeal your case for you.

    Spolin Law P.C.’s success rate is based on our strong desire to win each case we handle. Call us at (866)-716-2805, or reach out online to learn how we can handle your Texas or Federal Writ of Habeas Corpus.