When facing criminal charges, it is important to understand how charges are classified and the relation to potential punishment. In Texas, as in other states, the primary criminal charge classifications are misdemeanor and felony. Dallas criminal defense attorney Jeff King makes it his business to aggressively defend clients facing misdemeanor and felony claims in Texas and understands the impact that a conviction of either can have.
Definition of felony in Texas
In Texas, a felony is a crime serious enough that it is punishable by more than one year of incarceration. In most cases, the sentence is served in prison through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Felonies are divided into five classes:
- Capital Felony
- First Degree Felony
- Second Degree Felony
- Third Degree Felony
- State Jail Felony
The Texas lawmakers determine what crimes are punishable as felonies but the categories are not set in stone. A crime might change from a misdemeanor to a penalty based on decisions by the state legislature, and the degree charged can depend on the severity of the allegations and negotiations between your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor.
The penalty for felonies rises as the category increases. A state jail felony, for example, is punishable by between 180 days and two years in state jail plus a fine of no more than $10,000. At the other end of the scale, a capital felony carries a penalty of death or life in prison (with or without parole, depending on factors in the case).
Definition of misdemeanor in Texas
Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, punishable by up to one year in jail. Like felonies, they vary in severity and are divided into classes:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
At the bottom of the scale, a Class C misdemeanor is subject to a fine up to $500 and no jail time. A conviction of a Class A misdemeanor, however, qualifies for up to one year in state or county jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony: Why it matters
The most obvious difference between a misdemeanor or a felony is the drastic difference in severity of the penalties. But perhaps an even more important difference is the long-term effect that they impose.
Misdemeanors are more likely to be granted an expungement or an order of nondisclosure, which would keep the record from being publicly available. They are also less likely to impact your job prospects. A felony conviction, on the other hand, can disqualify an individual from holding a professional license or obtaining a gun permit and require disclosure on job applications.
Fight misdemeanor and felony charges in Texas
Getting trusted legal counsel in the process before charges are even filed gives you a chance to have the charges reduced from their inception. After charges are filed, a skilled attorney puts the prosecution to the test to make them prove their case. If you are facing potential criminal charges in Dallas, TX, put your trust in attorney Jeff King. Call our office today to schedule a no-cost consultation.
Additional Texas Felony v. Misdemeanor Resources:
- Texas Attorney General, Penal Code Offenses by Punishment Range, https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/cj/penalcode.pdf
- Texas Legislature, Code of Criminal Procedure Title 1. Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 55. Expunction of Criminal Records, http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CR/htm/CR.55.htm