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.
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.)
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).
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.
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:
Because a 12.44 allows a state jail felony in Fort Worth to be punished as a misdemeanor, it is crucial for anyone charged with an eligible offense to reach out to a lawyer for help.