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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

What Is a Misdemeanor in Texas? - Classification, Penalties, and Consequences

The Texas Penal Code is structured in such a way that all criminal offenses are categorized according to the severity of the crime, from simple infractions to very serious third-degree felony offenses.

As such, when a person is arrested, under Texas law, they are charged, tried, and possibly convicted according to the level of crime their offenses fall under.

In terms of the severity of the punishment they will face, a misdemeanor offense is far better than a felony offense.

This is why it is important for offenders facing the possibility of jail time to understand what a misdemeanor is in Texas.

An experienced criminal defense attorney from Sparks Law Firm can help offenders fight their misdemeanor charges and seek acquittal or a lenient penalty for their offenses.

Offenders can contact the Fort Worth law office at +1 817-334-0300 and ask for a free consultation. They can also assist with how to expunge misdemeanor Texas.

What Is a Misdemeanor in Texas?

What Is a Misdemeanor in Texas?

The best way to define a misdemeanor is that it is a criminal offense that is considered less serious than a felony but more serious than an infraction. As such, the severity of misdemeanor offenses and their punishments fall somewhere in the middle.

An offender with a misdemeanor conviction can expect to pay a fine, do some community service, serve probation, or spend some time in a county jail. However, their punishment will be a lot less severe compared to someone facing felony charges in Texas.

This is why it is important to be able to categorize criminal offenses as misdemeanor crimes or felonies.

The difference in terms of punishment is so wide that if a person is wrongfully convicted of a felony rather than a Texas misdemeanor, penalties that they receive could result in a very long jail sentence for a crime that only required a short incarceration.

Three Classes of Misdemeanor Offenses

In Texas, misdemeanors are classified into three categories depending on the severity of the crimes. Offenses are classified as:

  • Class A misdemeanors

  • Class B misdemeanors

  • Class C misdemeanors

A good criminal defense attorney can make sure that offenders are not prosecuted under a more serious category than their offense warrants. The following is a brief look at each of these categories:

Class A Misdemeanor

Class A misdemeanors usually include a wide range of criminal offenses that are considered not serious enough to warrant felony charges.

Compared to other types of misdemeanor convictions, Class A misdemeanors carry the most severe legal penalties and can result in a significant amount of jail time.

The following are some examples of Class A misdemeanors in Texas:

  • Evading arrest on foot

  • Violation of protective order

  • Perjury

  • DWI (second offense)

  • Cruelty to animals

  • Assault causing bodily injury

Class B Misdemeanor

A Class B misdemeanor conviction is slightly less serious than a Class A misdemeanor in terms of the fines imposed and the possibility of spending time in county jail. The following are some examples of Class B misdemeanors in Texas:

  • Criminal trespass

  • Drug crimes, such as possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana

  • DWI

  • Riot

  • Prostitution

  • Indecent exposure

  • Harassment

Class C Misdemeanor

Of all the misdemeanor convictions a person can face, being convicted of a Class C misdemeanor has the least punishment. This is because the jail time and fines are minimal as befits the minor crimes that are in this category.

The following are a few examples of Class C misdemeanors:

  • Assault by threat

  • Leaving a child in a vehicle

  • Gambling

  • Minor in possession of alcohol

  • Disorderly conduct

  • Use of laser pointers

  • Public intoxication

Penalties for a Misdemeanor Criminal Offense

The most important difference between, for example, a Class B misdemeanor and a Class C misdemeanor is the type of punishment the offender will face if found guilty.

Each of these three categories is punishable by a fine and some jail time as follows:

Class A Misdemeanor - This misdemeanor offense can result in up to one year in jail, and a hefty fine of $4,000.

Class B Misdemeanor - With a Class B misdemeanor conviction, the Texas Penal Code requires the offender to either serve a maximum jail sentence of 180 days or pay a fine of up to $2,000.

Class C Misdemeanor - Class C misdemeanors in Texas have the least punishment, with offenders required to pay a maximum fine of up to $500.

In some cases, on top of the regular punishment for their misdemeanor conviction, offenders may be required to undergo a probation period that is stipulated by the judge.

During this time, the offender will be required to comply with a wide range of conditions, such as community service, drug testing, and regular visits from a probation officer.

Being found guilty or pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges can also result in a loss of certain rights that other Texas residents enjoy, such as the right to vote or bear arms.

US immigrants may also face deportation or other immigration restrictions if found guilty of certain misdemeanors in Texas, such as drug crimes, domestic violence with bodily injury, or crimes of moral turpitude.

Collateral Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

Besides the jail sentence and fines that need to be paid, misdemeanor convictions also result in the offender having a criminal record.

If a criminal defense attorney cannot get their records expunged, the offender will have to face various collateral consequences of their misdemeanor crime.

In the worst-case scenario, these consequences will last for the rest of their lives, and they can include any of the following:

  • Difficulty finding employment

  • Being barred from certain educational institutes

  • Problems when they try to obtain housing

  • Loss of access to certain licenses

Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

Depending on the severity of the case, many crimes can easily be classified as either a misdemeanor or a state jail felony charge. Offenses such as assault, theft, or drug crimes are examples of such crimes.

If there is no serious injury to another party, these offenses are usually classified as misdemeanors in Texas.

However, if the case is particularly serious, or the offender already has prior convictions to their name, the case can be tried as a state jail felony.

Compared to, for example, a Class A misdemeanor, a felony charge will carry much more severe consequences for the offender.

As such, a good attorney will always fight hard to prevent a Class A misdemeanor from being upgraded to a state jail felony charge. A Fort Worth criminal defense law firm may be able to help.

When Can a Class A Misdemeanor Be Enhanced Into a Felony?

Certain elements regarding the nature and details of the crime have to be met for it to be upgraded from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony.

Some of these conditions include:

  • A Class A misdemeanor committed in a designated disaster or evacuation area

  • Offenses that are based on prejudice or bias towards certain groups of people

  • Crimes committed against protected or vulnerable people, such as the disabled, mentally ill, elderly, or children

  • Class A misdemeanors committed by repeat offenders

However, even with such guidelines in place, a lawyer needs to look at the specifics of each case to determine whether the prosecution has a legal basis to upgrade the charge from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony. Sparks Law Firm can provide more information to the question of what is a class a misdemeanor in Texas?

Specific examples of class A misdemeanors that can end up being tried as felonies include drug crimes committed in school zones, assault using a weapon and causing bodily injury, and assaulting a first responder, pregnant woman, or public servant.

How To Fight Against a Misdemeanor Charge

In all cases, the best way to fight against a misdemeanor conviction and avoid being stuck with a criminal record is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The legal process of fighting misdemeanors and state jail felonies in Texas can be very complicated, which is why offenders will need all the help they can get.

To increase the chances of success, anyone arrested for a misdemeanor offense can take the following steps:

  • Remain silent and calm when arrested

  • Avoid giving any official statements without an experienced attorney present

  • Gather evidence from the arrest scene

  • Seek out a reliable law firm to assist with the legal process of dealing with a misdemeanor charge

Plea Bargains in Misdemeanor Cases

In many cases. attorneys will use plea bargains to get a felony reduction so that their client can be tried for a less serious criminal offense.

With the help of a good attorney, offenders can even plea down from a Class A misdemeanor or Class B misdemeanor to a relatively minor charge of a Class C misdemeanor. This would mean rather than spending up to one year in jail, Texas law will allow the offender to walk away with just a $500 fine.

Sparks Law Firm Can Provide Professional Legal Help

Sparks Law Firm Can Provide Professional Legal Help

Misdemeanor classification is the first step to launching a strong defense strategy. It takes a lot of expertise to navigate the complex Texas legal process and explore alternative sentencing options for a criminal charge.

In Fort Worth, anyone facing a misdemeanor conviction can call Sparks Law Firm at its law office for top-tier legal representation from a highly recommended criminal defense attorney.


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