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Texas Criminal Law

Texas law describes hundreds of different offenses throughout various codes. All of these offenses are subject to limitations provided by the United States and Texas Constitutions. The Texas legislature must pass a law before you can be convicted of it, and not every law that passes the legislature meets constitutional requirements. In this section of the website, we attempt to describe many of the various laws passed by the Texas legislature.

In addition to describing different crimes, Texas law codifies many other important criminal law topics, including criminal procedure, appeals and civil filings related to criminal cases. Some important examples are record-clearing laws (for expunctions, nondisclosures, record sealing and clemency), sex offender registration and deregistration, driver’s license laws, probation laws and extradition laws.

Texas Criminal Offenses

Texas criminal law is found primarily in the set of state laws called the Texas Penal Code. The penal code is divided into 11 Titles, grouping crimes into categories such as “Offenses against Property” and “Offenses against the Person.” We have many articles about these offenses with detailed information that may be helpful to your criminal case.

However, not all Texas criminal offenses are found in many other Texas codes, including the Texas Transportation Code (unsurprisingly, this contains most of the Texas traffic offenses), the Texas Health and Safety Code (containing drug offenses, among others), the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code and the Texas Civil Code.

If you are interested in a particular offense, find it by clicking on a group above or go to our All Texas Offenses page to see a list of all Texas crimes.

Other Criminal Law Topics

Criminal Appeals & Writs of Habeas Corpus

Criminal Appeals and Writs of Habeas Corpus are two different types of post-conviction relief, so they are only available if you have already been convicted of a crime. But just because you have been convicted does not mean that justice has been done. When a conviction is unfair, the result is unjust. When the law is incorrectly applied or the law itself is unconstitutional, you deserve to have your rights defended in an appellate court.

Sometimes the law may have been applied unconstitutionally to you in your individual case. Whatever may have happened, our criminal appeals practice examines the circumstances and the law in you case and seeks to correct any injustice that may have resulted from a flaw in the Texas criminal justice system. Learn more about Appeals & Writs of Habeas Corpus

Record Sealing: Expunctions, Expungement, Orders of Nondisclosure & Judicial Clemency

The most powerful way to clear an adult’s record is through an expunction, but it is only available if you were never convicted and you never plead guilty (or no contest) to the offense. There are several exceptions to this rule, however. If none of the exceptions apply and you still want to clear your record, you may be eligible for an Order of Non-disclosure if you successfully completed a deferred adjudication probation. If you are not eligible for this either, then you may be eligible for Judicial Clemency, but this does not exactly remove an arrest from your record.

Driver’s Licenses

Driver’s License law is handled almost exclusively in the Texas Transportation Code. However, Texas uses driver’s license suspensions as a penalty for various criminal convictions and civil infractions. For instance, you license can get suspended for a DWI conviction or for failing to pay a liability judgment. If your license is suspended, you may be able to get an Occupational Driver’s License in order to keep you driving. Additionally, there are various ways you may be able to contest a driver’s license suspension.

Probation and Probation Violations

Most Texas offenses are eligible for a sentence to be probated. Either a judge or jury may probate a sentence, in which case the person must serve a period of “community supervision” (usually much longer than the jail sentence) successfully in order to stay out of jail or prison.

In addition to understanding whether you may be eligible for probation, it is also important to understand how probation works, how probation violations are litigated and the differences between straight probation and deferred adjudication probation.

Federal Criminal Law

Federal criminal law is complex and, in any respects, a more challenging area than state criminal law. There are no run-of-the-mill cases in federal court. Federal criminal cases can involve anything from fighting over sentencing guidelines to battling powerful federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, ATF, DEA, DHS and Secret Service.

A couple topics of interest:

Range of Punishment and grades of Felonies and Misdemeanors

“How much time can I get for…” is probably the most common question we get as criminal defense attorneys. The first thing to remember is that you can’t get ANY time unless you’re convicted. If you have not been convicted yet, the first thing to do is to call an attorney.

Once a guilty verdict has been obtained, then a court must order a judgment of punishment. Texas criminal laws put various minimum and maximum time limits on how each offense can be punished. These are broadly based on the type of misdemeanor or felony. In addition, there are many different ways in which a punishment migh be enhanced. Learn more about the range of punishment in Texas law and about the grades of felonies and misdemeanors

Sex Offender Deregistration (Early Termination)

Many sex crimes require a convicted person to “register” on the sex offender registry and comply with the many different requirements of being on the registry. However, under new Texas law, some people may be able to deregister after a certain amount of time has passed. Not all sex crimes are as serious as others. A 15 year old who is convicted of Sexual Performance of a Minor for taking a picture of her 13 year old brother kissing a neighbor is not always a scary person who should be required to register for the rest of her life. There are many other people on the registry that are similarly non-threatening, and a bloated sex offender registry makes the registry itself less useful. Learn more about sex offender deregistration and early termination

Published by Criminal Defense Attorney on and last modified