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The Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Texas

By Peek & Toland on November 2, 2016

When you are initially charged with a crime, you may not be sure whether you are facing a felony or a misdemeanor. You may not know the difference between the two.

It’s a very important distinction because it impacts your sentence. It can affect the size of the fine you receive and impact your chances of living a normal life after you have served your sentence.

Misdemeanor Crimes in Texas

On our website we talk about the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony here. Misdemeanors are classified from A to C. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious.

Felony crimes carry a higher sentence than misdeameanors

If you commit a Class A misdemeanor such as burglary, stalking or carrying a gun without a permit, you face a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, if convicted.

Class B misdemeanors include theft of property worth $20 or more but under $500, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana or a DWI. This can result in a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

A Class C misdemeanor includes assault without bodily injury and petty larceny of property worth less than $50. The punishment for a class C misdemeanor conviction in Texas is a fine of no more than $500. It does not involve any jail time.

When you’re convicted of a misdemeanor you are likely to be charged by written indictment and you will not receive a court-appointed attorney if you can’t provide your own. Unlike a felony, you can still serve on a jury or in the military with a misdemeanor on your record. That’s not to say it won’t affect your future. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it’s important to get an attorney to fight the charge.

Felony Crimes in Texas

Felony convictions generally carry much stiffer sentences than those for misdemeanors. They carry jail sentence of at least a year. The Texas Penal Code sets out the categories.

Capital felonies are punishable by death or life without parole. Murder is an example of a capital felony.

The offender will not receive the death penalty if he or she was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed and a prosecutor decides not to seek the death penalty. The capital felony will be punishable by life imprisonment.

If you are sentenced to a first degree felony, you may also be imprisoned for life. The sentencing range is from five to 99 years or life as well as a fine of $10,000. Examples of first degree felonies include sexual assault against a child, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault of a public servant, aggravated kidnapping, murder, trafficking of children under 14 years of age and aggravated sexual assault.

Second degree felonies include causing serious injury to a family member, aggravated assault and reckless injury to a child. Second degree felonies are punishable by two to 20 years in prison. You can be hit by a fine up to $10,000.

A third degree felony includes stealing more than $20,000 but under $100,000. Possessing five to 50 pounds of marijuana is also a third degree felony. If you are convicted of a third degree felony you can be imprisoned for 2 to 10 years and fined $10,000.

Where Texas lawmakers have identified a crime as a felony. but failed to set a specific sentence, it is designated a state jail felony.

State jail felonies are punishable by 180 days to two years in a state jail. You will face a fine of up to a maximum of $10,000.

A judge may decide an offender has committed a state jail felony when:

  • A deadly weapon was exhibited in the commission of the crime, or
  • The defendant was previously convicted of a felony.

If you’re convicted of a felony in Texas, your civil rights will be severely impacted once you are released from jail. You won’t be able to serve in the military, own a gun or serve on a jury. You will be barred from certain professions and may not be able to vote.

If you are charged with a serious offense, it’s very important to seek the advice of a seasoned Austin criminal defense lawyer. Steve Toland of Peek & Toland , is one of Austin’s leading criminal defense attorneys. He possesses years of experience in federal and criminal defense law. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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