When your child gets arrested, you may hear about different “sanction levels.” That is because the State of Texas has made an effort to make sure juveniles face consequences that are uniform across the state. Judges are given a lot of “wiggle room” in determining punishment for different offenses, but these sanction levels provide a good reference for how other children in similar circumstances are punished. Most judges in Texas are focused not only on punishment, but also on making sure your child gets the services that he or she needs to ensure that delinquent behavior doesn’t happen again. Each sanction level is listed under Texas Family Code Chapter 59.
Sanction level one is the lowest sanction, usually given to those juveniles with runaway and truancy issues. Sanction level one may require counseling for these offenses.
Sanction level two usually corresponds to certain Class A and Class B Misdemeanors (theft up to $1500/shoplifting, criminal mischief, and possession of marijuana, for example). This level puts the juvenile in Deferred Prosecution for 3-6 months. The deferred prosecution program is essentially where a juvenile is placed on probation in exchange for a dismissal of the case, as long as they do everything they are supposed to while on probation.
Sanction level three is used for more serious misdemeanors (those involving weapons), state jail felonies (burglary of a building, injury to a child, elderly or disabled person), and third degree felonies involving large amounts of marijuana, criminal mischief, or theft over $1500. The recommended sanction at this level is formal probation for 6 months or more.
The fourth sanction level includes second degree felonies like arson, burglary of a home, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and possession of dangerous drugs. Sanction level four supervision calls for 3-12 months in an extra-intensive probation, followed by regular probation.
Sanction level five is for arson with injuries, serious injury to a child, aggravated robbery or aggravated sexual assault. This level involves 6-12 months in a “highly structured secure correctional facility,” after which the juvenile may go on standard probation.
Sanction level six is reserved for first degree felonies involving a weapon. In this situation, the juvenile could be sent to the Texas Youth Commission, a juvenile correctional facility, for 9-24 months.
The highest sanction level—Sanction Level 7—are for the worst offenses in the Texas Juvenile Justice System. This sanction level may include 1-10 years in the Texas Youth Commission, including the possibility of being transferred to the adult criminal justice system. Alternatively, a judge or a jury may impose probation for up to 10 years.
Additionally, sanction levels two through seven may all include restitution for damages occurring as a result of the child’s actions, if any. As I mentioned above, each child’s case will be viewed with an eye toward what will work best for him or her, but these are the sanction guidelines as they appear in the Texas Family Code.