Texas Misdemeanors: Everything You Need to Know
Some people misguidedly believe that a misdemeanor is no big deal in the scheme of things, but this approach is not going to do you any favors. Still, other people do not understand what a misdemeanor even is. In fact, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and better understanding what misdemeanor charges are all about can help you avoid facing such a charge – or can help you make the right decisions for you (if you do face such a charge). Keep reading to learn more. And if you do find yourself facing a misdemeanor charge (of any kind), do not delay consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Three Levels of Crime under Texas Law
Under Texas law, there are three levels of crimes, and they include all the following:
Infractions are the least serious type of crime in Texas, and they are punishable only by fines, tickets, and/or community service but cannot lead to arrest or jail time. Some of the most common infractions include:
Speeding or running a stop sign
Being a public nuisance
Disturbing the peace, such as with loud music at a party
Having parking violations
Misdemeanors amp the charges up a notch, and most misdemeanor charges are punishable by fines – while some also include jail time or house arrest. Texas misdemeanors are classified as either Class A, Class B, or Class C charges, with Class A being the most serious and carrying the harshest penalties. Common misdemeanor charges include a first DWI conviction, petty theft, disorderly conduct, shoplifting, and more. Repeat convictions for misdemeanors can lead to enhanced sentencing.
Felonies are the most serious criminal charge you can face, and the penalties and fines reflect this fact. Felonies break down into five classifications – the most severe of which are capital felonies.
While infractions do not stay on your criminal record indefinitely, misdemeanors and felonies do. In some instances, however, there is the potential to have a misdemeanor charge removed from your record via careful legal intervention – consulting with a dedicated criminal defense attorney is key.
Considering Common Misdemeanors
In order to better understand misdemeanors, it is important to carefully consider some of the most common misdemeanor charges.
Disorderly conduct charges refer to engaging in conduct that upsets or otherwise disturbs the public’s general order. The language used in the statute is both broad and vague, which means that it can be applied to nearly any situation. Disorderly conduct charges are often thrown in as a freebie with other charges, such as public lewdness, criminal mischief, or assault. Basically, disorderly conduct covers actions that are considered indecent, vulgar, profane, abusive, offensive, threatening, or generally annoying (such as noxious fumes or unreasonably loud noises). A conviction for disorderly conduct is typically a Class C misdemeanor which can lead to fines of up to $500.
Petty theft is also referred to as misdemeanor theft. In Texas (as in other states), theft charges are classified according to the value of the property stolen. Consider the following:
If the property stolen is worth less than $100, it is a Class C Misdemeanor, which carries no jail time but includes fines of up to $500.
If the property stolen is worth less than $100 (but it is a second charge); is worth between $100 and $750; or is a driver’s license or another form of identification, it is a Class B Misdemeanor, which can carry jail time of up to 180 days and fines of up to $2,000.
If the property stolen is worth between $750 and $2,500, it is a Class A Misdemeanor, which can carry up to one year of jail time and fines of up to $4,000.
Shoplifting in the State of Texas is just another name for theft – only it happens to be from a store.
First Offense DWI
In Texas, a first offense DWI refers to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent and is a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction for a first offense DWI can lead to a jail sentence of up to 180 days and fines of up to $2,000. A license suspension also applies, and if the BAC reaches the level of .15 percent or more, the charge can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor.
Drug Crimes (involving small quantities)
Drugs are classified into penalty groups in the State of Texas, and possession of a small amount of a drug in a certain penalty group is a misdemeanor, including the following:
Penalty Group 2-A – Penalty group 2-A refers to artificial cannabinoids that have street names like Spice and K2. Possession of less than a gram is a Class B misdemeanor, and possession of from 1 to 4 grams is a Class A misdemeanor. Any amount over 4 grams, however, takes the matter into felony territory.
Penalty Group 3 – Penalty group 3 refers to prescription drugs (without the necessary prescription) that have either a stimulant or depressant effect, including benzodiazepines, anabolic steroids, and more. Possession of small amounts of these drugs (less than 28 grams) is a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry jail time of up to 180 days and fines of up to $2,000.
Penalty Group 4 – Penalty group 4 refers primarily to prescription medications that are at high risk for abuse, and possession of fewer than 28 grams is a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry jail time of up to 180 days and fines of up to $2,000.
Marijuana – Marijuana does not fit in any of the other penalty groups and stands in a class of its own. Possession of less than a quarter ounce of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry jail time of up to 180 days and fines of up to $2,000.
Criminal trespassing is a fairly complicated charge that involves the following elements:
You entered or remained on someone else’s property.
You did not have effective consent from the other person to do so.
When you were given notice that your entry was forbidden, you failed to depart.
Often trespass charges hinge on whether the alleged trespasser had noticed that his or her entry was forbidden, and the law requires that such notice be either written or oral and that it be made by either the property owner or manager or by someone with apparent authority to act for the owner. Notice is also considered adequate when any of the following apply:
The property is surrounded by fencing or is otherwise enclosed in a manner that is obviously designed to keep intruders out or to keep livestock in.
There is a sign or signs either on or at the entrance to the structure that entrants are reasonably likely to see, and that forbids entrance.
Specific conditions are met, such as the use of highly identifiable purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property.
There is an obvious crop on the property that is in the process of being cultivated, harvested, or otherwise made marketable.
Criminal trespass charges are generally Class B misdemeanors, which are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and by fines of up to $2,000.
Public intoxication in Texas amounts to being in a public place while intoxicated to such a degree that the person is deemed capable of harming himself, herself, or someone else. Public intoxication is generally a Class C misdemeanor charge, which carries fines of up to $500.
Leaving a Child in an Automobile Unattended
In Texas, it is a crime to intentionally or knowingly leave a child in a car or another kind of vehicle for more than 5 minutes. The charge is a Class C misdemeanor and can lead to fines of up to $500.
The State of Texas takes its misdemeanor charges seriously, and you should too.
A Misdemeanor Is a Criminal Charge
While a misdemeanor is not as serious as a felony, it is nevertheless a criminal offense that can leave you with a criminal record. In addition to the fines and penalties you face, a misdemeanor can have serious social consequences, including:
Your overall social standing can take a hit.
Because your criminal record is a matter of public record, a misdemeanor conviction can make you a less than ideal job candidate and can make finding a job more difficult.
A conviction can affect your ability to rent a house or apartment and can even affect your ability to obtain a home loan.
If your conviction involves a DWI, you can face a license suspension that makes running your life as you know it exceptionally challenging.
A conviction can make it difficult to obtain a college degree by making it harder to gain acceptance into the college of your choice, limiting your ability to obtain a federal student loan, and by decreasing your chances of obtaining on-campus housing.
If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, bringing your strongest defense from the outset is always in your best interest.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney
It is true that the penalties for a misdemeanor conviction are less harsh than they would be for a felony conviction, but you can rest assured that such a conviction will upset your life in dramatic ways that you may not have even considered. Having a dedicated criminal defense attorney on your side is always well-advised – for a variety of important reasons.
Avoiding Jail Time
You do not want to spend time in jail. Even a night or two can have serious emotional and social repercussions, and doing everything you can to avoid this eventuality is well worth the effort. One of the best strategies for avoiding jail time in the face of a misdemeanor charge – bar none – is working closely with a seasoned criminal defense attorney from the outset.
Avoiding a Criminal Record
Not only do you want to avoid jail time, but you also want – and need – to avoid a criminal record in the first place. As mentioned, a misdemeanor is a criminal charge, and a conviction is a criminal conviction. Discuss your case and begin building your best defense strategy with a savvy criminal defense attorney today.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Just because you have been charged with a misdemeanor does not mean that you are guilty of a misdemeanor. In fact, the police often take a heavy-handed approach in these matters and let the prosecution sort things out (by obtaining whatever convictions they possibly can). You are well-advised to remember that you have legal rights that are worth protecting. Your criminal defense attorney will help to ensure that you understand your legal rights and will make it his or her mission to protect these rights throughout the legal process. One favor you can do for yourself toward this end is allowing your attorney to speak on your behalf and invoking your own right to remain silent.
Discuss Your Misdemeanor Charge with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Anyone who tells you that a misdemeanor charge is no big deal has never faced such a charge, and you should not consider him or her a reliable advisor. No matter how you parse the matter, a misdemeanor is a criminal charge, and a conviction can mean jail time (in some cases), a criminal record, a stain on your social standing, serious fines, and more. If a misdemeanor charge has been levied against you, the time to consult with a practiced criminal law attorney is right now, and Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is standing by to help. Mr. Pritchard focuses his considerable practice on helping clients like you favorably resolve their misdemeanor cases and move forward into their brightest futures. We are here for you too, and our legal team has the experience, legal insight, and drive to help. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.