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Understanding the Differences Between Felony and Misdemeanor Charges in Texas

Felony and misdemeanor charges are two distinct categories of criminal offenses in Texas and it is important to understand the differences between them. Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we understand these differences and are here to help you understand them too.

A felony is a serious criminal offense that is punishable by imprisonment for a duration of more than one year and in some cases, by death. Felonies are usually more severe crimes than misdemeanors and can include offenses such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, drug trafficking and other serious crimes. The punishment for a felony conviction can include incarceration in state or federal prison, substantial fines and other penalties, such as the loss of certain rights or privileges. In the United States, each state has its own laws regarding classifying and punishing felony offenses.

On the other hand, a misdemeanor is a less serious criminal offense than a felony, generally punishable by a maximum of one year in jail or other minor penalties such as fines, community service, or probation. Examples of misdemeanors may include minor theft, simple assault, disorderly conduct, and some traffic offenses. Misdemeanors are generally divided into different classes or levels, with higher classes carrying more severe penalties. The specific penalties and consequences for a misdemeanor conviction may vary depending on the nature of the offense, the jurisdiction, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Felony Charges in Texas

Felony charges in Texas are serious criminal offenses that carry a potential punishment of more than one year in prison. Some common examples of felony offenses in Texas include murder, sexual assault, burglary, and drug trafficking. Here is a table summarizing the different degrees of felony charges in Texas, along with their potential punishments:

Degree of Felony

Offenses

Potential Punishment

Capital Felony

Murder, aggravated kidnapping, trafficking of persons, sexual assault of a child, etc.

Life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty

First-Degree Felony

Aggravated robbery, arson leading to injury or death, drug trafficking, etc.

5-99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000

Second-Degree Felony

Manslaughter, robbery, burglary, injury to a child, etc.

2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000

Third-Degree Felony

Stalking, drug possession, theft of property valued at $30,000 or more but less than $150,000, credit card abuse, etc.

2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000

State Jail Felony

Forgery, interfering with child custody, DWI with a child passenger, theft of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $30,000, etc.

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000

It is important to note the potential punishments for a felony conviction can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the offense and the individual’s criminal history. It is always advisable to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing felony charges in Texas.

Misdemeanor Charges in Texas

Misdemeanor charges in Texas are less serious criminal offenses that carry a maximum punishment of one year in county jail. Here is a table showing the different misdemeanor classes, examples of offenses, and their punishments:

Misdemeanor Class

Examples of Offenses

Punishment

Class A

Burglary of a vehicle, theft of property valued at $750-$2,500, DUI with prior conviction, etc.

Up to one year in county jail, fine up to $4,000

Class B

First offense DUI, minor drug possession, prostitution, harassment, etc

Up to 180 days in county jail, fine up to $2,000

Class C

Traffic citations, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, etc.

Fine up to $500

It’s important to note that these are just a few examples of offenses that fall under each category, and the actual range of offenses is much wider. Additionally, the punishment for each offense can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

Differences Between Felony and Misdemeanor Charges

The severity of the Offense

The most significant difference between felony and misdemeanor charges is the severity of the offense. Felonies are more serious crimes and they typically involve violence, significant property damage or a high dollar amount of theft. Examples of felonies in Texas include murder, sexual assault, robbery and drug trafficking.

Misdemeanors are less serious offenses that are usually punishable by a fine, probation or a short jail sentence. Examples of misdemeanors in Texas include traffic violations, disorderly conduct and petty theft.

Potential Punishment

One of the most significant differences between felony and misdemeanor charges in Texas is the potential punishment. Felonies carry much harsher penalties than misdemeanors, including longer prison sentences and larger fines. The punishment for a felony depends on the category of the offense.

Capital felonies, such as murder or treason, carry the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. First-degree felonies, such as aggravated robbery or sexual assault, carry a potential prison sentence of 5-99 years and a fine up to $10,000.

Second-degree felonies, such as manslaughter or burglary, carry a potential prison sentence of 2-20 years and a fine up to $10,000. Third-degree felonies, such as drug possession or theft of property, carry a potential prison sentence of 2-10 years and a fine up to $10,000. State jail felonies, such as credit card abuse or forgery, carry a potential prison sentence of 180 days to 2 years and a fine up to $10,000.

Misdemeanors are generally punished with fines and/or a shorter period of confinement in a county jail. Class A misdemeanors carry a potential jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000, while Class B misdemeanors carry a potential jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine up to $2,000. Class C misdemeanors carry a fine up to $500.

Criminal Records

Another important difference between felony and misdemeanor charges in Texas is the impact on a person’s criminal record. A felony conviction carries a much greater stigma than a misdemeanor conviction, and the consequences can be severe. A felony conviction can limit a person’s employment opportunities, housing options, and the right to own a firearm. It can also affect a person’s right to vote, hold public office, and serve on a jury.

Misdemeanors also have an impact on a person’s criminal record, but the consequences are generally less severe. A misdemeanor conviction can still affect a person’s employment opportunities and housing options, but it is less likely to have a long-term impact on a person’s life.

Legal Process

The legal process for felony and misdemeanor charges in Texas also differs. Felony charges typically involve a grand jury indictment and require a more rigorous legal defense, including pretrial motions, expert witnesses, and extensive discovery. A grand jury is a group of citizens who are called to determine if there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against someone. The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecutor and decides if there is probable cause to believe that the person committed the crime. If the grand jury finds probable cause, it will issue an indictment, a formal charging document outlining the charges against the defendant.

On the other hand, misdemeanor charges are usually filed by a prosecutor based on the evidence gathered by law enforcement officers. The prosecutor will review the evidence and decide whether to file charges. If charges are filed, the defendant will be notified and given an opportunity to appear in court.

Trial Process

The trial process for felony and misdemeanor charges also differs. Felony cases are typically tried in district court, while misdemeanor cases are usually tried in municipal or justice court.

District courts are courts of general jurisdiction with the authority to hear felony cases. These courts have more resources and are better equipped to handle complex cases. Misdemeanor cases are usually heard in municipal or justice court courts of limited jurisdiction. These courts handle less serious offenses and have less authority than district courts.

The trial process for felony cases is also more complex and time-consuming than for misdemeanor cases. Felony cases involve more pretrial motions, expert witnesses, and extensive discovery. The trial itself is also more formal and structured, with more rules of evidence and procedure.

The intricacies of these similar yet separate offenses might seem like a lot to remember. That is why it is a good idea to have a competent attorney from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to guide you through the criminal defense process. We have a team of experienced lawyers committed to helping our clients and carrying them along every step of the way. Working with us ensures you are duly represented and justice is served. So call our office today at: 281-810-9760 so we can begin helping you today. And check out these commonly asked questions to help you understand all there is to know about felonies and misdemeanors.

What is the main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Texas?

The main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Texas is the severity of the crime. Felonies are more serious crimes that carry longer prison sentences and heavier fines, while misdemeanors are less serious offenses that carry shorter jail sentences and smaller fines.

What are some examples of felonies in Texas?

Some examples of felonies in Texas include murder, aggravated assault, burglary, and drug trafficking. These are crimes that are considered to be very serious and carry significant penalties.

What are some examples of misdemeanors in Texas?

Some examples of misdemeanors in Texas include traffic violations, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and petty theft. These are crimes that are considered to be less serious and carry lighter penalties than felonies.

Can a felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor in Texas?

In some cases, a felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor in Texas. This may occur as part of a plea bargain or if the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charge based on certain factors, such as the defendant’s lack of criminal history or cooperation with law enforcement.

What are the potential penalties for a felony conviction in Texas?

The potential penalties for a felony conviction in Texas can include imprisonment for more than one year, significant fines, and other legal consequences such as loss of voting rights or inability to possess firearms. The severity of the penalty will depend on the specific crime and other factors such as the defendant’s criminal history.

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