Texas Penalties for Misdemeanors and Felonies

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 What Type of Crimes Can Result in a Penalty in Texas?

In Texas, crimes range from minor offenses, like traffic violations, to more serious crimes, such as homicide. Depending on the severity, these crimes can result in penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.

What Is a Misdemeanor?

In the Texas criminal justice system, offenses are generally categorized into two main groups: felonies and misdemeanors. While both are criminal offenses, they differ mainly in their severity and the potential penalties upon conviction.

Misdemeanors are considered lesser offenses compared to felonies but still have significant consequences.

Characteristics of Misdemeanors

  • Duration of Incarceration: Misdemeanor convictions can result in jail time, but the length is usually much shorter than that of felonies. In Texas, misdemeanors can be punishable by up to one year in county jail, as opposed to felonies that can result in longer prison sentences.
  • Fines: Misdemeanors often carry fines. The amount varies depending on the misdemeanor class but is generally lower than the potential fines associated with felonies.
  • Probation: Those convicted of misdemeanors might be sentenced to probation instead of or in addition to jail time. This might require regular check-ins with a probation officer, mandatory drug testing, community service, or attending educational programs.
  • Restitution: In some cases, a person convicted of a misdemeanor might be required to pay restitution, or compensation, to a victim.
  • Criminal Record: Conviction of a misdemeanor will result in a criminal record, which can affect employment opportunities, housing applications, and other areas of life.
  • Collateral Consequences: Beyond direct penalties, those with misdemeanor convictions might face other effects, like losing a professional license or being barred from certain jobs.
  • Classes of Misdemeanors: In Texas, misdemeanors are categorized into three classes based on their severity – Classes A, B, and C. Each class has its own range of penalties. For example, Class A is the most severe misdemeanor class, with the highest potential jail time and fines, while Class C is the least severe.

Comparison with Felonies

Felonies are more severe criminal offenses that carry heavier criminal punishments. They can result in imprisonment in a state prison, much larger fines, and longer probation or parole periods. The consequences of a felony conviction extend beyond the legal penalties; they can affect voting rights, gun ownership rights, and more.

In essence, while misdemeanors are lesser offenses than felonies, they are by no means trivial. A conviction can carry lasting consequences, making it essential to understand the charges and potential repercussions fully.

How Are Misdemeanors Categorized in Texas?

Misdemeanors in Texas are categorized into three classes:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: Most severe, with the highest fines and longest jail times.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: More severe than Class C, less severe than Class A.
  • Class C Misdemeanor: Least severe, with the lowest fines and jail times, or none at all.

What Are Some Common Examples of Misdemeanors?

Here are examples for each class of misdemeanors in Texas.

Class A Misdemeanor

  • Assault causing bodily injury;
  • Resisting arrest;
  • Perjury;
  • Cruelty to animals;
  • Theft of property valued at $750 to $2,500;
  • Violation of a protective order;
  • Promoting gambling; and
  • Jumping bail for a misdemeanor offense.

Class B Misdemeanor

  • Criminal trespass;
  • Making a terroristic threat;
  • Riot;
  • Harassment by phone;
  • Prostitution;
  • Indecent exposure;
  • Possession of “abusable glue or aerosol paint” with intent to inhale;
  • False report to a police officer or law enforcement agency; and
  • Silent or abusive 911 calls.

Class C Misdemeanor

  • Leaving a child in a vehicle;
  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Failure to attend school;
  • Issuance of a bad check (under certain conditions);
  • Assault without bodily injury;
  • Possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle;
  • Simple gambling;
  • Sale of cigarettes or tobacco products to a minor; and
  • Failure to display driver’s license upon the request of a law officer.

Keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Texas law covers a vast array of potential offenses, and the circumstances surrounding each case can influence its classification.

What Is a Felony?

A felony is considered one of the most serious types of criminal offenses in the U.S. legal system. Felonies encompass a range of crimes, from violent offenses like murder to non-violent crimes such as white-collar offenses or certain drug possession charges. The distinguishing factor that makes a crime a felony is the severity of the punishment.

Characteristics and Consequences of Felonies

  • Duration of Incarceration: Felony convictions often result in long prison sentences, potentially extending to life imprisonment or, in some states and for certain crimes, the death penalty. Felonies are usually punishable by more than one year in a state or federal prison, as opposed to county jails, which often house misdemeanor offenders.
  • Fines: Convictions for felony offenses can carry heavy fines, often much higher than those associated with misdemeanors. The exact amount can depend on the nature and class of the felony.
  • Probation or Parole: Some felony offenders might be released on parole after serving part of their sentences, or they could receive probation instead of jail time. These options come with strict conditions, and violations can lead to incarceration.
  • Loss of Rights: Felons often lose certain civil rights, at least temporarily. This can include the right to vote, the right to bear arms, and the right to serve on a jury. Some states restore these rights after a felon has completed their sentence or after a certain period.
  • Employment and Housing: A felony conviction can significantly impact a person’s ability to find employment or housing. Many employers conduct background checks and may be hesitant to hire someone with a felony record. Similarly, housing applications might be denied because of a past felony.
  • Professional Licensing: Felonies can impact one’s ability to obtain or retain professional and occupational licenses, such as licenses to practice law, medicine, or other professions. This can severely limit career opportunities in certain fields.
  • Criminal Record: A felony conviction will permanently remain on a person’s criminal record unless it’s expunged or sealed, which is difficult and not always possible for felony convictions.
  • Enhanced Penalties: Individuals with prior felony convictions may face enhanced penalties if they are convicted of subsequent crimes. This means that a repeat offender could receive a more severe punishment than someone without a prior felony conviction.

What Are the Different Felony Classes in Texas?

Texas classifies felonies into five categories:

  • Capital Felony;
  • First-Degree Felony;
  • Second-Degree Felony;
  • Third-Degree Felony; and
  • State Jail Felony.

What Are Some Common Examples of Felony Crimes?

Here are examples for each class of felonies in Texas.

Capital Felony

  • Treason;
  • Espionage;
  • Terrorism resulting in death;
  • Killing a law enforcement official or firefighter in the line of duty;
  • Killing more than one person during a single criminal act.

First-Degree Felony

  • Aggravated kidnapping;
  • Attempted capital murder;
  • Aggravated sexual assault of a child;
  • Trafficking of persons under the age of 14;
  • Burglary with the intent to commit another felony; and
  • Arson causing death.

Second-Degree Felony

  • Manslaughter;
  • Robbery;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Arson without causing death;
  • Trafficking of persons above the age of 14 but under 18;
  • Bigamy; and
  • Indecency with a child by contact.

Third-Degree Felony

  • Escape from felony custody;
  • Promoting prostitution;
  • Stalking (on a second occurrence);
  • Tampering with evidence;
  • Violation of certain court orders or conditions of bond in a family violence, child abuse or neglect, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking case;
  • Jumping bail for a felony offense; and
  • Deadly conduct by discharging a firearm.

State Jail Felony

  • Theft of property valued at $2,500 to $30,000;
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle;
  • Burglary of a building (that is not a habitation);
  • Forgery;
  • Fraudulent possession or use of identification;
  • Cruelty to livestock animals;
  • Check forgery; and
  • Repeated DWI offenses under specific conditions.

Remember, the specific details and circumstances surrounding a crime can influence its classification. Texas law is expansive, and the aforementioned is not an exhaustive list. Whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony, it’s essential to have legal representation to navigate the complexities of the Texas sentencing guidelines.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Case?

Facing criminal charges in Texas can have serious repercussions. Contact a Texas criminal lawyer through LegalMatch to ensure your rights are protected and get advice on your case. A qualified attorney can provide you with representation and guide you through the legal process from start to finish.

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