What You Need to Know about Misdemeanors in the State of Texas

Defense

If you are charged with a misdemeanor in the state of Texas, you may think, how bad can it be? It’s just a misdemeanor. But this is the wrong attitude to take. The fact is that a misdemeanor conviction can have serious consequences that lead to considerable fines, penalties, and a decrease in social standing. Keeping your record clean is the goal, and if you are facing a misdemeanor charge, taking the matter seriously from the outset is well advised.

Misdemeanors: Where they Stand in the Criminal Charge Lineup

Under Texas law, there are three levels of crimes that include infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Infractions

Infractions are those charges that are not serious enough for the accused to be arrested, and they do not result in time behind bars. Examples include some traffic violations, such as running a stop sign, jaywalking, and disturbing the peace with loud music at a party. Infractions are punished by fines and not by jail sentences.

Misdemeanors

The next level of criminal charge in Texas is the misdemeanor, which usually leads to fines and can come with jail sentences. It is important to note that there are limits to the fines and the amount of time behind bars associated with misdemeanor convictions, including:

  • The fines top out at $4,000.

  • The jail sentence cannot exceed one year, and any incarceration is local, which means at the county jail (or even under house arrest) – instead of being in the state penitentiary.

Misdemeanors are the most common criminal charges, and their classification indicates that they do not involve serious violence or any major property damage.

Felonies

Felonies are the most serious criminal charges, and a conviction leads to imprisonment in the state penitentiary.

This puts misdemeanors squarely in the middle of the scale of criminal charges, but a conviction can have long-lasting and overarching consequences that make fighting for your rights and for your case’s best possible resolution worth the effort.

RELATED READINGS: What is the Difference Between Misdemeanors, Felonies, and Infraction in Texas?

The Levels of Misdemeanors

There are three levels of misdemeanors in Texas.

Class A Misdemeanors

Class A misdemeanors are the most serious, and they include charges such as burglary of a vehicle and carrying a gun without a permit. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can carry up to one year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.

Class B Misdemeanors

An example of a Class B misdemeanor is possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, and a conviction comes with up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000.

Class C Misdemeanors

Any misdemeanor that does not reach the level of Class A or Class B and that has no specific punishment (other than a fine) is a Class C misdemeanor, and an example includes theft of property worth less than $100. A conviction for a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by fines of up to $500 (with no possibility of jail time).

Common Examples of Misdemeanors in Each Class

While misdemeanors come in nearly limitless varieties, some charges are far more common (in each class) than others.

Common Examples of Class A Misdemeanors

Some of the most common examples of Class A misdemeanor charges include:

  • Assault causing bodily injury

  • Assault involving a family member

  • Third offense DWI

  • Resisting or evading arrest

Common Examples of Class B Misdemeanors

Some of the most common examples of Class B misdemeanor charges include:

  • Criminal trespass (things like hazing and thrill-seeking often qualify)

  • Criminal mischief

  • First offense DWI

  • Failure to pay child support, which can progress all the way to a felony

  • Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana

Common Examples of Class C Misdemeanors

Some of the most common examples of Class C misdemeanor charges include:

  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

  • Disorderly conduct

  • Public intoxication

  • Some moving violations

The Statute of Limitations

The law is not without limits when it comes to charging you with a crime, including misdemeanors. In the State of Texas, the statute of limitations (or time limit) for bringing a misdemeanor charge is generally two years from the date of alleged commission.

Misdemeanors and Your Rights

Even being charged with a misdemeanor can affect your rights, and recognizing what you are up against is essential.

A Misdemeanor and Your Right to Drive

You do not have a constitutional right to drive, which means that your driving privileges can be revoked by the government at its discretion. You can lose your driver’s license for the following three categories of misdemeanor charges:

  • Drug Crimes – For a misdemeanor drug offense like possession, you can face a driver’s license suspension of up to 180 days, and this suspension can happen regardless of whether or not the crime involves your car. In addition to the suspension, you will likely also be required to complete a drug education course before you can have your license reinstated.

  • DWI – A DWI conviction can lead to a license suspension of up to two years. To make matters more precarious, your driver’s license can also be automatically suspended for refusing to take (or for failing) a roadside sobriety test.

  • Traffic Violations – Even Class C traffic violations (when they accumulate) can lead to a suspended driver’s license. In Texas, if you receive four or more violations within a 12-month stretch or seven or more within a 24-month stretch, it can lead to an automatic driver’s license suspension.

One final note is that driving on a suspended license is, in and of itself, a minimum of a Class C misdemeanor charge, which can lead to steeper fines, an extension of your suspension, and even arrest in some instances.

A Misdemeanor and your Right to Bear Arms

Texas is a strong proponent of the constitutional right to bear arms, but Texas also takes criminal charges seriously, and it will strip you of your right to own a gun without blinking an eye. While you recognize that those accused of felonies lose this right, you may not know that even being charged with certain misdemeanors can restrict your Second Amendment rights. Those charges that can leave you hanging include DWI, disorderly conduct, and assault. If you are charged with either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor of any kind, your License to Carry (LTC) will be suspended automatically, and this extends to certain kinds of Class C misdemeanors that involve disorderly conduct, including:

  • Indecent exposure

  • Blatantly behaving in an offensive matter that breaches the peace

  • Public fighting

  • Publicly threatening or otherwise abusing people

If you are either formally acquitted of the charge in question or the prosecutor drops the charge against you, your LTC will be restored automatically. If, on the other hand, you plead your case down through deferred disposition or deferred adjudication – or you are convicted – your License to Carry will be revoked for a full five years, and you can reapply at that point.

A Misdemeanor and Your Right to Visitation

When the court makes decisions about children, they are bound to base them on the best interests of those children, and if you have a misdemeanor conviction under your belt, it can affect the visitation you are afforded by the court. Because children’s well-being can be seriously affected by so many different variables, the kind of misdemeanor charge that may or may not make a difference in your custody case is not clearly defined. Instead, it is up to the judge’s discretion to determine if your conviction is relevant to your children’s ongoing best interests and – as such – whether or not it should affect your right to visitation. Some of the charges that are most likely to play a role in visitation rights include:

  • DWI

  • Public intoxication

  • Assault (especially when family-based)

  • Drug possession

  • Solicitation

RELATED READINGS: Texas Criminal Procedure: Misdemeanors

Misdemeanor Charges: FAQ

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you have serious questions, and the answers to some of the questions that are asked most frequently can help.

Shouldn’t I just pay the fine and move on?

Many people who are accused of a misdemeanor are tempted to put it behind them as fast as they can by paying the fine (when there’s no jail time involved) and moving on, but the problem with this approach is that you may not really be moving on. Having a misdemeanor conviction on your record can have serious implications that can haunt you into your future, including:

  • The conviction can affect your ability to find a job.

  • The conviction can affect your professional licensure.

  • The conviction can affect your ability to rent a home.

  • The conviction can affect your ability to obtain a loan and purchase a home.

  • The conviction can affect your ability to obtain a student loan, live on campus, and even gain acceptance into the college or university of your choice.

Do I really need a criminal defense attorney?

While no one can make you hire a criminal defense attorney, your legal rights and the serious negative consequences of a conviction make leaving your case to chance a dicey proposition. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can even save you money in the long run. In fact, your attorney will engage in all the following to help construct your strongest defense (in pursuit of your case’s optimal outcome):

  • Carefully examining all the prosecution’s evidence

  • Investigating the circumstances involved in your alleged crime (in search of exculpatory evidence, which is evidence in your favor and which generally means evidence that disproves the prosecution’s theories)

  • Helping you understand your best options and help you make the right decisions for you (in your unique situation)

  • Negotiating with the prosecution to have your charges dropped or reduced, to have your sentencing requirements decreased, or to effect a plea deal that is beneficial to you

What should I do when charged with a misdemeanor?

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the first order of business is remembering your right to remain silent. Do not give the police something to use against you by getting chatty. Once you have identified yourself and answered any similar administrative questions (if asked), it is time to ask for a criminal defense attorney. Your rights to remain silent and to have an attorney on your side were put in place to help protect you, and you are well-advised to invoke both of them.

What if I receive probation?

Many people think of probation as a slap on the wrist and believe it is a great resolution to the problem at hand, but this is a short-sighted approach. For one, probation is not easy to fulfill, and for another, probation amounts to a conviction on your record, which is far from ideal. Consider the following common conditions of probation:

  • You may be required to report to a supervisor on a regular basis for up to three years.

  • You may be required to submit to random searches of your home, car, or person.

  • You may be required to submit to random and unannounced drug and alcohol tests.

  • You may be required to receive counseling for violent behaviors.

  • You may be required to maintain steady employment.

  • You may be required to attend drug and alcohol treatment and counseling.

  • You may be required to submit to electronic monitoring and/or to have a breath-testing device installed in your vehicle.

  • You may be required to perform up to 600 hours of community service.

  • You may be hit with fines; court costs; and fees for treatment and counseling, victim restitution, and more.

  • You may be required to obtain the judge’s permission if you want to relocate or travel outside a specific region.

It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a well-respected criminal defense attorney with a wealth of experience guiding criminal cases like yours toward favorable resolutions. We are here to help you, too, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

RELATED READINGS

What is the Role of a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney in My Case?

Texas Criminal Defense: The Basics

Categories: 
Related Posts
  • Know What to Do if You Are Convicted with Bad Evidence or Junk Science Read More
  • Facing a Criminal Charge? Avoid These Mistakes Read More
  • The Duress Defense in the State of Texas Read More