Texas Class B Range of Punishment

For a class B misdemeanor in Texas the range of punishment is up to 180 days in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. ROPs are the legislatures way of telling us exactly how outraged they are at particular conduct. They are in no way reflective of the harm caused to society or the victim.

Can you think of a reason that any person should serve 180 days in jail for-
DWI 1st?
Possession of marijuana?
Obstructing a Roadway?
Evading arrest (on foot)?
Theft $50-$500?

Really, think hard and try to come up with a scenario that a person should rot in jail six months for a joint or for bad driving? Worse, many county sentences are day for day. That’s right if you are a felon serving time in TDC you can make parole and collect good time credit. County jail inmates? Not so much. It’s up to each individual sheriff to set the ground rules. Kaufman, for example, offers no good time credit (even for trustee who spend all day working for the county for free).

After seven years of practicing law I’ve never seen a class B misdemeanor case that deserved 6 months in jail. It just hasn’t come up. What I have seen is defendants scared to go to trial because of the possiblity (however remote) of getting a huge county sentence.

The range of punishment is often used as a trial threat (implicit or explicit). That is, proseuctors may threaten to ask for some draconian pyscho punishment if you take the case to trial (it’s one reason to consider jury punishment in the right case). If you have a judge who regularly doles out long sentences (your defense lawyer should have at least a working knowledge of a judge’s sentencing habits) it can persuade the innocent to plead guilty for some “great” plea offer.

Texas could go a long way towards saving our broken justice system by lowering all punishment ranges. Why 180 days? Why not a 90 day max? Or 60 days?

There is a huge spread of punishment ranges between class c (tickets) and class b cases. Only legislative posturing and voter apathy can explain the obtuse inanity. In Texas A class c misdemeanor (traffic ticket) carries no jail time and a max fine of $500. Commit a crime that’s a little bit worse than that, and you could spend a whole NFL season behind bars. Tuff? Sure. Smart? Not so much.

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