If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, you may be wondering what the potential consequences are. In Texas (as in most states) criminal offenses are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are offenses that are punishable by up to a year in jail. Although misdemeanors are considered to be less serious, a misdemeanor conviction can still have negative consequences on a person’s job prospects, housing or immigration.
Felonies are considered to be more serious both in terms of the potential punishment and the consequences of a person’s background. In addition to exposing a person to significant prison time, being convicted of a felony can impact your voting rights, and right to own a gun, make you ineligible for certain loans or professional licenses, and make it more difficult to obtain a job or housing.
Under Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code, misdemeanors and felonies are classified“according to the relative seriousness of the offense.”Misdemeanors are classified as follows:
Class C misdemeanor: Punishable by a fine of up to $500 only. This includes offenses such as theft under$100, possession of drug paraphernalia or public intoxication. In the Houston area, Class C misdemeanors are usually heard in JP courts along with traffic citations.
Class B misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2000. This includes offenses such as a first time DWI, theft or shoplifting between $150-750, prostitution (for the seller) or indecent exposure. In the Houston area, Class A and B misdemeanors are heard in county courts at law.
Class A misdemeanor: Punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $4000. This includes DWI 2nd offense,assault-family violence (domestic violence), prostitution second offense (for the seller), or assault.
Under Texas law, there are five categories of felonies, with the least serious being a State Jail Felony. Felonies are heard in District Courts. Felonies in Texas are categorized in the following way:
State jail felony: Punishable by 180 days to 2 years in State Jail and a fine of $10,000. Examples of state bail Felonies include prostitution (for the buyer), possession of less than one gram of cocaine, or evading arrest with a motor vehicle.
Third-degree felony: Punishably by 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This includes DWI 3rd offense, assault-family violence (domestic violence) with a prior conviction and many drug possession crimes.
Second-degree felony: Punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree felonies include aggravated assault, indecency with a child or sexual assault.
First-degree felony: Punishable by 5-99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This includes aggravated robbery or aggravated assault on a public servant.
Capital felony: Life without parole or death. This applies to Capital Murder charges.
It is important to understand that the seriousness of the offense and the potential consequences to a person is not solely based on how an offense is classified under Texas law. For example, for a CDL holder, a Class B misdemeanor DWI can be worse than other, more serious offenses. If a non-citizen is charged with a crime, they must take into account the way that Federal Immigration law could treat the offense. For example, even though a possession of drug paraphernalia charge is a Class“C” misdemeanor under Texas law, it can lead to major problems to a person’s immigration case.
You should always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to fully understand the potential consequences of a criminal case. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation