What's the Difference Between Felonies and Misdemeanors?
Exploring the legal distinctions between felonies and misdemeanors in Texas - definitions, penalties, examples
Criminal laws in Texas, enacted and enforced by both federal and state governments, makes certain criminal acts illegal and punishable by prison or jail time as well as fines.
The exact punishment someone may face if found guilty of a crime depends on whether the offense is considered a misdemeanor or felony.
Below, we'll take a look at these two primary offense categories in Texas under federal and state law.
Misdemeanor Charges in Texas
A federal or state misdemeanor charge in Texas is typically involves non-violent offense. A non-violent crime means the illegal action did not cause physical harm to the alleged victim. Possible punishments for a misdemeanor offense are: fines, court fees, and restitution; community service; court ordered classes or treatment; probation; and jail time not exceeding 1 year.
According to Texas statutes, misdemeanors are classified according to the relative seriousness of the offense into three categories: (1) Class A misdemeanors; (2) Class B misdemeanors; (3) Class C misdemeanors.
Being found guilty of a misdemeanor sometimes entails some jail time, but not more than a year. The time served in jail ranges from a few days to several months, depending on which “class” the offense falls into.
Some examples of misdemeanor charges include:
- Shoplifting and theft (over $100)
- DWI (first and second offense)
- Unlawful restraint
- Unlawful carrying of a weapon
- Assault with injury
- Indecent exposure
- Failure to pay child support
- Minor drug possession
- Lying to a police officer
- Jumping bail
Class C misdemeanors, the least serious misdemeanor offense under Texas law, are punishable by fine only (not to exceed $500). Traffic citations like speeding, reckless driving, and driving without a license are the most common fine-only misdemeanor offenses.
Public intoxication and petty theft under $100 are other common examples of Class C misdemeanors. Though less serious than felonies, misdemeanor crimes can have lasting consequences.
Felony Charge in Texas
A felony charge in Texas is the most serious type of criminal offense. Crimes in this category are reserved for violent and illegal actions that cause financial harm, physical injury or death to another person or group of people. Felony convictions result in a sentence of two years or more in federal prison. Extensive fines are also imposed. The fine for a felony is usually more than a misdemeanor. Almost all federal crimes are felonies.
Felony crimes include kidnapping, rape, credit card fraud, and unlawful possession of a weapon. Other examples of felonies include:
- Aggravated robbery/theft
- Indecent exposure to a child
- Intoxication assault
- Sexual assault
- Possession of 50 pounds or more of marijuana
- Child sex trafficking
- Improper teacher/student relationship
- Possession of child pornography
- Online solicitation of a minor
- DWI (third offense)
Read our related article to learn more about the different classifications of felonies and misdemeanors.
Contact Neal Davis Law Firm about Your Felony or Misdemeanor Charge in Texas
If the crime you or a loved one is accused of is a misdemeanor or felony, state or federal prosecutors will decide who gets the case. Don't let your fate be in the prosecutor's hands. If you're accused of a federal crime in Texas, contact Neal Davis immediately. We're here to represent you and obtain the best possible resolution for you and your family.