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Understanding the Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies


Typically, people think of misdemeanors as less serious offenses and felonies as more serious ones. However, there is much more involved in understanding what classifies an offense as a misdemeanor or felony, and the punishments they carry.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony Offenses

Misdemeanor Offenses

A misdemeanor is a criminal charge that involves a less serious offense, especially when compared to felony offenses. Common examples of misdemeanor offenses in Texas include:

  • Shoplifting and theft (over $100)
  • DWI (first and second offense)
  • Unlawful restraint
  • Unlawful carrying of a weapon
  • Assault with injury
  • Carjacking
  • Indecent exposure
  • Prostitution
  • Minor drug possession
  • Harassment

Texas classifies all misdemeanor offenses into three grades, each of which carries a varying degree of punishment:

Class A: This is considered the most serious of all misdemeanor charges. The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor ranges from jail time (up to one year in county jail) to fines (up to $4,000).

Class B: Being charged with a Class B misdemeanor carries a punishment of up to 180 days in jail and/or fines up to $2,000.

Class C: This is considered the least serious misdemeanor charge and most often does not include jail time. It also carries a maximum fine of $500. Any misdemeanor offense that is not designated Class A, B, or C is automatically considered a Class C.

Community service and probation are also some common punishments for misdemeanor offenses.

Felony Offenses

Felony offenses are considered more serious and often include instances of physical violence. Similar to misdemeanors, felonies are divided into different categories depending on how serious the offense.

Capital Felony

Also known as a “capital offense,” these crimes are among the most serious and therefore only two punishments are available — life in prison or the death penalty (Texas is one of 27 states where capital punishment is authorized).

This grade of offense is reserved for capital murder — the murder of more than one individual, a child, or a public servant. A capital felony charge can also be applied to a murder connected to another felony offense, such as kidnapping or sexual assault.

First Degree Felony

First degree felony convictions carry a punishment of “imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice” for between five and 99 years, or life. It can also include an optional fine of up to $10,000.

Second Degree Felony

If convicted of a second degree felony offense, the punishment can include a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum of 20 years. It can also include an optional fine of up to $10,000.

Third Degree Felony

Texas legislature mandates that a third degree felony conviction carry a penalty of no less than two years in prison and a maximum of 10 years. It can also include an optional fine of up to $10,000.

State Jail Felony

Considered the least serious felony offense, this classification can include non-violent felony offenses. If convicted of a State Jail Felony, the punishment ranges from a minimum of 180 days in jail to a maximum of two years. It can also include an optional fine of up to $10,000.

It’s important to note that probation, rehabilitation programs, and community service are also possible repercussions, even if you’re convicted of a lower-level felony offense.

Contact Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLCtoday to schedule a consultation with an accomplished Dallas federal criminal defense lawyer. Our phones are answered at any time of day or night so that our clients can get in touch with us 24/7 at (214) 238-9392.

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