Are you facing possible criminal charges and trying to figure out what the charges are and what they mean? If you’ve received a citation or formal charge, it’s important to understand what the charges mean. A misdemeanor vs. felony in Texas can mean very different consequences, depending on the charge.
For judges and prosecuting attorneys, these types of distinctions are clearly defined. However, for individuals facing these charges for the first time, these different charges may not be so clear.
Read on to learn more about misdemeanor vs. felony charges in Texas and what they can mean if you’re facing one of these types of charges.
What Are Misdemeanors?
Crime in Texas and other states throughout the US are broken into categories or classes for charges.
A misdemeanor is one classification of a crime. It is typically a less severe crime than one classified as a felony.
In most cases, when a person gets charged with a misdemeanor, they face a punishment that could include up to a year in jail and fines for their actions.
Some misdemeanor charges may also come with probation or community service requirements too.
What Is a Felony?
A felony charge is a more serious charge than a misdemeanor charge and often means jail time of longer than one year.
Like a misdemeanor charge, a felony charge has different classifications based on the seriousness of the crime, although all felony crimes are serious ones.
In the criminal justice system, felony charges are handled more rigorously than misdemeanor charges because of the seriousness of the crime.
A person charged with a felony will need legal representation to protect their rights and attempt to fight the charges.
Misdemeanor In Texas
Misdemeanor charges in Texas, like in other places, are less severe charges than felonies. However, they are still serious and can come with significant consequences.
In Texas, if you’re charged with a misdemeanor charge, it will be from one of three classes of charges. Texas has Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors, and Class C misdemeanors.
While misdemeanor charges might be less significant, it’s still important to have legal representation. One of the things your legal team might be able to do for you is to negotiate a less severe class of misdemeanor charge on your behalf.
A Class A misdemeanor is the most severe misdemeanor charge a person could get in Texas. This is the closest charge to an actual felony charge.
A Class A misdemeanor can also come as a result of repeatedly breaking the same law over and over.
Some examples of Class A misdemeanors include:
- Assault with bodily injury
- DWI Second Offense
- Possession of marijuana (2-4 oz.)
When charged with a Class A misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in county jail. A crime that merited longer jail time would likely be charged as a felony.
In addition to jail time, you could face a fine of up to $4,000.
The specific amount of jail time and fines will likely be based on your record and negotiated between the prosecutor, your attorney, and the presiding judge.
A Class B misdemeanor is a middle-level misdemeanor charge in Texas. Your attorney might be able to negotiate a Class A charge down to a Class B charge to lessen your consequences.
Some examples of Class B misdemeanor charges might include:
- Criminal Trespassing
- DWI First Offense
- Possession of marijuana, less than 2 ounces
A person charged with a Class B misdemeanor could face up to 180 days in jail; time varies based on the specifics of the charge and your criminal record.
You would also face fines of up to $2,000.
A Class C misdemeanor is the least severe of the misdemeanor charges in Texas. A person who’s done something wrong might be charged this way if the crime is minor and they have no other criminal activity on their record.
Some examples of Class A misdemeanor charges might include:
- Public intoxication
- DUI as minor
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
The good news for a Class A misdemeanor charge is that you won’t face jail time despite the charge going on your record. You will face up to a $500 fine as a consequence of a conviction of a Class C misdemeanor.
Felony In Texas
A felony charge in Texas is a more severe charge than a misdemeanor charge. It will come with more significant consequences if convicted.
Texas breaks a felony charge into degrees. There are five categories of possible felony charges. The more severe the crime, the more severe the charges and consequences that come with it.
Let’s take a closer look at the different degrees of felony charges in Texas and what comes with those charges.
State Jail Felony
While all felony charges are serious, a state jail felony charge is the least severe degree of a felony charge in Texas.
Crimes that are charged as a state jail felony might include:
- DWI with a child passenger in the vehicle
- Possession of a controlled substance, less than one gram
If convicted of a state jail felony, you can expect both jail time and a fine. Jail time could range from 180 days up to two years. The fines will range from any amount of up to $10,000.
Third Degree Felony
The next most severe felony charge is a third-degree felony.
Crimes that are charged as a third-degree felonies might include:
- DWI third offense
- Possession of a firearm as a felon
- Assault with intoxication
Depending on the crime and criminal background of the accused, a third-degree felony can come with two years to ten years in jail time. This charge can also come with a fine of up to $10,000.
Second Degree Felony
A second-degree felony charge will be for an even more severe crime. Second-degree felony charges are for crimes that include:
- Aggravated assault
- Possession of marijuana (50 to 20,000 pounds)
- Intoxication leading to manslaughter
Like a third-degree felony charge, a second-degree felony charge can include jail time starting at two years, yet it can also go up to 20 years. This charge can also come with a fine of up to $10,000.
First Degree Felony
A first-degree felony charge typically involves crimes involving violence, injury, or death. First-degree felony charges would be for crimes including:
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated robbery
Because of the violent nature of these types of crimes, they will also come with more severe punishments. The jail time for a first-degree felony will start at five years but can extend to 99 years.
This charge can also come with a fine of up to $10,000.
A capital felony is the most severe of the felony charges. If charged with a capital felony, it is typically because of capital murder.
While there is no fine associated with this charge, it comes with life in prison as a punishment if convicted.
It’s worth noting that many criminals will commit multiple crimes simultaneously. They can also be charged with multiple charges at different degrees, depending on the situation.
An accused person could even be charged with both a felony and a misdemeanor charge simultaneously. This can mean a combination of years of jail time and fines if convicted on multiple charges.
Consequences Resulting from a Felony Record
Anyone facing a felony in Texas needs to understand the implications.
In addition to the consequences of jail time and fines if convicted, it also means you have a criminal record.
Once convicted of a felony, it can become more challenging to:
- Find a job
- Secure housing
- Obtain any kind of loan
- Get a professional license
You can also face these same challenges if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor.
Felony convictions also mean you lose the right to vote and the right to legally own a firearm.
Understanding the Distinctions Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges
The differences between misdemeanor and felony charges are directly connected to the severity of the crime committed. Charges can also get more significant if the crime is a second or third offense for the same thing.
Of course, this also means the severity of punishment also is greater for felony charges than misdemeanor ones too.
Finding the Right Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you love is facing a criminal charge, it can feel scary and overwhelming. It might feel like you don’t have options and the case is a done deal.
You should always hire a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate charges and the legal system. Fair, quality representation is important for protecting your rights while attempting to fight your charges.
Know the Difference, Misdemeanor vs. Felony
Understanding a misdemeanor vs. felony charge is important if you or someone you love has been arrested. The charge can impact how the case will move through the criminal justice system and the potential consequences of the case.
If you’re facing a criminal charge, we can help. Contact us today so we can get started working on your case.