State Jail Felony 12.44 reductions
When our clients have been jailed on felonies, they’ll often ask about ‘12.44b motions.’ Some say ‘12.44a,’ some say ‘misdemeanor reduction.’ But they almost always ask because they’ve heard about it in jail like it’s the Holy Grail.
When is a 12.44 reduction available?First, a 12.44 reduction is only available for State Jail Felonies. This is the lowest grade of felony. So for many felony offenses, a 12.44 reduction won't even be possible. Second, it's not an automatic thing. Just because you HAVE a State Jail Felony doesn't mean that you automatically can get your case knocked down to a misdemeanor. Whether you get a reduction depends on the facts of your case, the severity of the conduct, your criminal history, and often even the judge and or prosecutor handling your case. So you're not entitled to a reduction just because you are charged with a State Jail Felony.
What are the different types of 12.44 reductions?There are two separate parts of 12.44. There is 12.44a, which provides for a State Jail Felony to be PUNISHED as a misdemeanor: "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." Note that the decision as to whether to use 12.44a is left to the court. And the court's decision is to be based on the factors listed above. If your case is reduced via 12.44a, you get punished as if it was a Class A misdemeanor, but you still have a felony. The second part of this section is 12.44b, which provides for a State Jail Felony to be PROSECUTED as a misdemeanor: "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." Notice that 12.44b is used at the prosecutor's request and with the judge's approval. If your case gets reduced via 12.44b, your felony is TURNED INTO a misdemeanor. So, let's be clear on the difference. 12.44b is clearly a better result for a criminal defendant. It turns a felony into a misdemeanor. 12.44a only allows a felony to be punished AS IF it was a misdemeanor. In both types of reduction, your sentence will be within the range of punishment that is provided for a Class A misdemeanor. But in a 12.44b reduction, the case itself becomes a misdemeanor. With 12.44a, it stays a felony. That is a BIG difference.
What is the bottom line difference in punishment from a 12.44 reduction?State Jail Felony: Confinement in a state jail for any term of not more than two years or less than 180 days. In addition to confinement, a fine not to exceed $10,000. Class A misdemeanor: A fine not to exceed $4,000; Confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year; Or both such fine and confinement. A Class A is much better. You can see that for State Jail Felonies any jail sentence must be at least 180 days and as long as two years, while for a Class A misdemeanor the sentence can be zero to 180 days. Also, State Jail sentences are served day for day (no reduction) in a State Jail facility whereas Class A misdemeanors are served (at the rate of three to one in Dallas County) in the County Jail. So if your case can be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor or punished as a Class A misdemeanor, it opens up options for the prosecutor or judge to give substantially less severe punishment.
How do I get a 12.44 reduction?Both of these outcomes will usually be the product of the attorney's negotiation on your behalf. The attorney can first seek a 12.44b reduction from the prosecutor. If the prosecutor will not agree, the attorney can then seek a 12.44a from the judge. Or, the judge may even offer the reduction without being asked. Either way, if you get one of these reductions, it can leave you much better off than taking a plea bargain without one.