12.44(a) vs. 12.44(b) in Texas (2019)

jail time for a first time DWI

What is a 12.44 reduction and am I eligible for one?

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, you may have been told to ask for a “12.44,” which refers to section 12.44 of the Texas Penal Code and allows state jail felonies to be punished as misdemeanors.

What is a state jail felony?

In 1993, the Texas legislature created a new category of offenses: state jail felonies. State jail felony offenses are generally low level property or drug crimes, which are punishable by confinement in a state jail facility for a period of six months to two years.

State jails are low-risk facilities that are operated at lower costs than state prisons, which house inmates convicted of first, second or third degree felonies. Unlike time served in county jail or prison, a state jail sentence must be served day-for-day. An inmate cannot earn good conduct time or parole in a state jail facility, which is why defendants charged with a state jail felony often seek a reduction in punishment through 12.44(a) or 12.44 (b.)

What is a 12.44(a)?

Sec. 12.44 REDUCTION OF STATE JAIL FELONY PUNISHMENT TO MISDEMEANOR PUNISHMENT.
(a)
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.

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Under 12.44(a), a state jail felony can be punished as a misdemeanor and does not require the prosecution’s consent. The reduction does result in a felony conviction, but instead of doing six months to two years in a state jail facility, the defendant will instead face up to a year in county jail (where good time credit may be offered) or two years of community supervision (probation).

What is a 12.44(b)?

Sec. 12.44 REDUCTION OF STATE JAIL FELONY PUNISHMENT TO MISDEMEANOR PUNISHMENT.
(b)
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.

While 12.44(b) has the same two possible sentences as 12.44(a), it does not result in a felony conviction. A conviction under 12.44(b) is a misdemeanor conviction, which makes it very appealing to defendants. An offense that is prosecuted under 12.44(b) also cannot later be used to enhance other felony offenses. But unlike 12.44(a), an offense can only be prosecuted under 12.44(b) with the consent of the prosecution.

What’s the difference between 12.44(a) and 12.44(b) in Texas?

Both  12.44(a) and 12.44(b) mean misdemeanor punishment for a state jail felony, but (a) will result in a felony conviction, while (b) will result in a misdemeanor conviction. This chart breaks down a couple of other key differences:

What is a 12.44 reduction in Texas?

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese
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