Though less serious than felonies, misdemeanor crimes can have lasting consequences
Perhaps you believe misdemeanor crimes aren’t that harmful to a person’s reputation and livelihood.
After all, misdemeanors are relatively minor crimes which aren’t as serious as felonies or federal crimes such as murder. But misdemeanor crimes can have lasting results and serious consequences.
Contact knowledgeable Houston criminal defense lawyer Neal Davis if you need legal help with a misdemeanor crime charge.
Direct Results of Misdemeanor Charges
The consequences of misdemeanor charges begin with direct results - that is, the penalties which can be imposed by a judge if you’re convicted.
Such misdemeanor crime penalties can include:
- Jail time: You could face up to one year in jail for being found guilty of a misdemeanor crime, particularly if you’ve had multiple misdemeanor offenses.
- Fines: You could face a fine of $1,000, or even up to $4,000 in some jurisdictions, for a misdemeanor crime.
- Mandatory classes: For certain misdemeanor offenses, you could be required to complete an alcohol or drug abuse program via mandatory classes.
- Community service: You may be ordered to perform certain community services, such as highway trash pickup, as part of your punishment for a misdemeanor crime.
- Court supervision: Even though you’re not jailed, you still could face court supervision of your activities for a specific period of time.
While these punishments may not seem as severe as much harsher punishments for felony crimes, they can seriously restrict your freedom, reduce your finances and remove you from your friends and family.
Texas Misdemeanor Penalties’ Breakdown
For a breakdown of Texas misdemeanor penalties, contact Houston criminal defense lawyer Neal Davis. In the meantime, here are some ways you can be punished for a misdemeanor crime in Texas:
- Class A Misdemeanor: Up to one year in county jail and a fine of no more than $4,000
- Class B Misdemeanor: Up to 180 days (six months) in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000
- Class C Misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500
Indirect Results of Misdemeanor Charges
Indirect results of misdemeanor charges can be severely restrictive to your life.
For one thing, you can have a criminal record attached to you for the rest of your life.
Having a criminal record can be a major handicap and drawback. Some of the harmful aspects of having a criminal record include:
- Difficulty getting a job: Texas law imposes limited restrictions on using criminal records in the hiring process. If a job pays $75,000 or less per year, criminal arrests and convictions over seven years old cannot be included in a consumer report. Texas law also lets applicants deny the existence of a criminal record that has been expunged (removed) by court order. Even so, most employers will run a criminal background check, and even if discrimination on that basis is prohibited by law, that prohibition can be hard to enforce.
- Driver's license suspension: Misdemeanors such as multiple moving violations, illegally purchasing alcohol, or some drug and alcohol violations can lead to suspension of your driver’s license.
- Ineligibility for public housing or benefits such as housing vouchers: The Public Housing Authority can deny housing for you if it finds compelling evidence that you are, or were, involved in drug-related activities. Federally backed student loans, grants, welfare benefits and work assistance also may be limited due to a drug conviction.
- Inability to own a firearm legally: If you’ve been convicted of any drug offense - even a misdemeanor marijuana possession - you may not legally own a firearm.
- Being deported: Some misdemeanor charges can cause even immigrants with legal resident status to be deported.
Expunging a Criminal Record
Perhaps you’ve heard of the process of expunging a criminal record. That involves filing a lawsuit, as a first-time offender, to have your criminal record destroyed and unavailable through state or federal repositories.
A potential employer, then, may be unable to learn about your criminal record when running a criminal background check. Thus, getting a criminal record expunged can be very beneficial in helping you get a clean start on your life after facing a criminal charge.
Expunging a criminal record is different from having it sealed. A sealed record still exists but is just not readily available for anyone to see. An expunged criminal record is destroyed and not available for anyone to access - ever - even by a court order.
In either case, you can legally deny the events which were on the sealed or expunged record. That means you can legally answer “no” if a job application asks if you were ever convicted of a criminal offense.
Texas Law on Expunging Misdemeanor Records
Texas law on expunging does not allow for expunction of misdemeanor convictions unless you receive a pardon. However, if you were arrested and charged but not convicted, expunging might be an option.
Also, if you were convicted and accepted “deferred adjudication” (a form of probation), you might be eligible to have your criminal record sealed, known as an order of non-disclosure. That can happen immediately after your deferred adjudication period for a Class C misdemeanor, or after a waiting period of five years for a criminal conviction.
You also can have your criminal record expunged if you had an acquittal, a dismissal or an arrest not leading to conviction.
If you are not eligible to have your criminal record expunged, you might still be eligible for a pardon or other relief. The governor can issue a pardon after receiving written recommendation from a majority of members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Also under Texas law, if you had a misdemeanor conviction as a juvenile, your juvenile record is given automatic restricted access when you turn 21. However, you must have had no subsequent convictions after age 17. You also can petition to seal your juvenile record after waiting a period of two to five years.
Contact an Experienced Defense Attorney
Not everyone is eligible to have their criminal record expunged in Texas. Consult experienced Houston criminal defense attorney Neal Davis to learn if you have a legal right to have your criminal record expunged, giving you a clean legal record and no criminal history.
Contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today for a legal review of your case.