What’s the difference between a felony and misdemeanor? How long do misdemeanors stay on your record? These are just two of the many questions people have about misdemeanors in Texas and we’re here to help. This blog post will cover everything you need to know.
What Is a Misdemeanor? How Is It Different from a Felony?
There are three levels of crimes under Texas law: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are crimes that are not serious enough to require arresting a person and do not end in jail time. Examples include disturbing the peace with loud music at a party, jaywalking across a street, and motor vehicle violations like running a stop sign. Infractions are only punishable with monetary fines.
A misdemeanor is the next level of criminal charge. Most misdemeanors are punishable with fines, and some include jail time. Combinations of monetary fines and jail time are also possible, and attorneys will often plead for one or the other based on the client’s best interests. With misdemeanors, there are limits on the fines, which will not exceed $4,000 for a misdemeanor, and limits on jail time, which will not exceed one year for a misdemeanor. Also, any incarceration for a misdemeanor will be local, either in the county jail or under house arrest, rather than in the Texas state penitentiary.
Finally, felonies are serious crimes that require imprisonment by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in a state penitentiary if the perpetrator is found guilty. Imprisonment is greater than one year for conviction of a felony and can range as high as life without parole or even the death penalty.
Common Misdemeanor Classes (and What They Mean)
Focusing on misdemeanors, there are three “classes” of misdemeanor charges in Texas, known as Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors.
Class A Misdemeanors, the most serious of the three classes, can result in a fine of up to $4,000 and one year in county jail if the accused is found guilty of committing the misdemeanor. For a Class B Misdemeanor, the perpetrator may have to pay a fine of up to $2,000 and may be jailed in the county jail for 180 days. Finally, a Class C Misdemeanor can be accompanied by fines of up to $500, without any jail time required.
A Texas court assigning a sentence to someone convicted of a misdemeanor will consider certain circumstances, including whether the individual is a repeat offender, whether the crime was motivated by bias or prejudice, and whether drugs were involved. These considerations can potentially increase or decrease the jail time and penalty amount faced by the perpetrator of the misdemeanor.
Examples of Misdemeanors
A few common examples of misdemeanors in Texas include:
- Petty theft, or theft of low-value property
- First offense DWIs
- Disorderly conduct offenses
- Drug crimes involving small quantities
- Some traffic offenses
- Writing bad checks
- Criminal trespass
- Leaving a child in an automobile unattended
- Public intoxication
- Weapons possession offenses involving less dangerous weapons
In addition, if the perpetrator is under 21 years of age, possessing tobacco or alcohol is also considered a misdemeanor.
Do Misdemeanors in Texas Ever Go Away?
In Texas, it is possible to have a misdemeanor removed from your record, though the process should be handled by a competent attorney familiar with the paperwork and procedure. Check out our other blog post to learn how long a misdemeanor and other types of crimes stay on your record.
In Texas, a Class C Misdemeanor may be removed from a person’s record or “expunged” 180 days after the date of the person’s arrest. Class A and Class B misdemeanors may be expunged after one year from the date of the arrest.
To be successfully expunged, the person arrested must also be acquitted, have their charges dismissed, or be pardoned by the governor after being found guilty. Nevertheless, many individuals who have been arrested and had one of these successful resolutions to their criminal proceedings find it beneficial to have their records expunged—especially when it comes to renting an apartment, applying for employment, or seeking credit.
Also, minors who were arrested for a crime may seek to expunge their record once they turn 18, even if they were convicted of the crime.
On the other hand, if an adult was convicted, they may petition the court for an “order of nondisclosure.” Such a petition involves additional steps such as participating in a community supervision, various court-mandated programs, or seeking mental health or substance abuse counseling.
Partnering with an Appeals Attorney for Your Misdemeanor Conviction
When trying to figure out how to deal with a misdemeanor charge, you will need lawyers with specific experience with misdemeanors in Texas and who have the knowledge and resources to help you. Contact attorneys Seth Kretzer and James Volberding today to discuss your concerns!