Different Types of Crimes
There are five different types of sentences or crimes in Texas which can affect when an offender becomes eligible for parole.
The first is what we will call, for the purposes of this article, just a regular crime. This conviction will not have any enhancements of any kind, does not involve violence, and has a sentence for a specific amount of time. The majority of convictions in Texas which do not result in probation have sentences like this.
For these regular crime sentences, the offender is eligible for parole when the number of actual days served plus their good time credits equal to ¼ or 25% of their sentence. So, for instance, if someone is convicted of the burglary of a building and receives a four year sentence, and assuming they get a 2 for 1 good time credit, then after they have served about 3 ½ months (including time served in the county jail) they become eligible for parole. It does not mean they will be given parole, it just means they are eligible to apply for parole. Many people become eligible for parole while they are sitting in County Jail waiting for their turn to be shipped to a state prison facility. Back in the days when the Texas prisons were overcrowded it was not unusual for people to be Paroled In Absentia (PIA) and released from the county jail without ever being sent to a Texas prison facility. However, now it seems as though the trend is to ship people to the prison for processing before they are actually granted the parole and released.
3G or Aggravated Offenses
The second types of sentences are those which are referred to as “3G offenses”, we have another article on this website explaining in detail what that means. The designation of “3G” was named after an old provision of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure which stated a person who committed certain violent or otherwise aggravated offenses, or displayed a weapon during the commission of the crime, had to serve at least one half (50%) of their actual sentence before they were even eligible to be considered for parole. This 50% of the sentence has to be done “flat time” or “day for day” with no allowance for good time credit to be applied. As an example, if a person was convicted of murder and received a twenty year sentence, then they would not be eligible to be considered for parole until they had actually served ten calendar years.
The laws and rules concerning how much time must be served under a sentence of “life” has changed over the years. In some cases life was considered to be forty years, in other cases 35 years, and at one point someone sentenced to life had to serve forty years before they were eligible for parole. To determine which applies requires a thorough review of the file, the actual sentencing documents, and the laws in place at all pertinent times.
Life Without Parole
This is a new possibility for juries and one which is done as an alternative to a death sentence. “Life without parole” means just that, if someone is assessed this sentence they will never be eligible for parole unless the sentence is somehow changed or new laws are enacted. Interestingly, this alternative to a sentence of death has been repeatedly proposed in most legislative sessions for years but it was always opposed by the Texas District Attorney’s offices and organizations and only became a possibility recently.
The final category of sentences is that of death, assessed in Capital Murder cases. Of course, as you can guess, there is no possibility of parole from this sentence. The only hope someone with a Death Sentence has is that their case and/or sentence will be changed somehow by appeal.
As you can see, a regular crime can carry a possibility of parole after only one quarter of the sentence is completed but, in reality, it is less than that since good time credits are used in this calculation.
Conviction of a 3G offense means at least one half of the actual sentence will be served, day for day and with no consideration of good time credit, before the offender become eligible for parole.
The possibility of parole on a life sentence can vary considerably depending on the facts and the time of the events. On a sentence of Life Without Parole or a Death Sentence, there is no possibility of parole.
If a parole is possible, then it is important that the offender begin preparing for it as soon as possible. The strategy outlined in our book, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet, has proven to be very effective in allowing people to successfully prepare and present a Texas Parole Packet without the expense of hiring a Texas parole lawyer.