What Is a Misdemeanor? Understanding Texas Criminal Charges

Gavel, handcuffs, and book describing misdemeanors in Texas

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Many people hear the term misdemeanor and think it’s not such a big deal. However, a misdemeanor conviction can lead to harsh consequences that derail your plans and negatively impact your future. If you or someone you care about is facing a misdemeanor charge, it’s time to consult with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Misdemeanor Charges

Criminal charges in Texas are generally classified into two groups – misdemeanors and felonies. While misdemeanors typically carry less harsh penalties, a conviction can lead to jail time, significant fines, and social consequences that you may not have bargained for. If you're facing a misdemeanor charge, having professional legal counsel on your side from the outset is always to your advantage.

What Are the Classes of Misdemeanors?

There are many types of misdemeanors, and they fall into three misdemeanor classes, depending on the severity of the crime in question. Learn more about where your charges fall by discussing your case with a knowledgeable Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Class C Misdemeanor

A Class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of misdemeanor, and a conviction carries up to $500 in fines. At the judge’s discretion, community service can be ordered in place of the fine or in addition to it. Common examples of Class C misdemeanors include all the following offenses:

  • Traffic offenses

  • Disorderly conduct

  • Simple assault

  • Public intoxication

  • Bad checks

  • Petty theft, including shoplifting

  • DUI by a minor

  • Possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle

  • Minor in possession of tobacco

  • Minor in possession of alcohol

  • Child left in a vehicle

Class B Misdemeanor

Class B misdemeanors turn things up a notch, and convictions carry fines of up to $2,000 and jail sentences of up to 180 days. The court also has the discretion to impose community supervision, which is also called probation. Common examples of Class B misdemeanors include all the following offenses:

Class A Misdemeanors

Class A misdemeanors are the most serious kinds of misdemeanors, and they carry fines of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to a year. The court also has the discretion to impose community supervision. Some of the most common examples of Class A misdemeanors include the following offenses:

Community Supervision

Community supervision is an alternative to jail time in the Texas criminal justice system that is implemented after the accused has either pleaded guilty to the crime in question or has been convicted of the crime charged.

Those who receive community supervision must comply with the court's conditions and are subject to monitoring by the county probation department. When someone on community supervision fails to comply with the court-ordered conditions, they can land in jail and be required to serve their full sentence.

Kinds of Community Supervision

Community supervision falls into two basic categories:

  • Regular community supervision, which is also called probation and is an alternative to a jail sentence upon conviction

  • Deferred adjudication, which can only be ordered after the accused has pleaded guilty or no contest

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor that comes with jail time, the judge can choose regular community supervision (probation) instead.

If you plead guilty or no contest, which means that the state has enough evidence to convict you, the judge can order deferred adjudication (delayed judgment). This arrangement acknowledges that you’ve accepted responsibility for the crime charged without having the conviction on your record if you abide by all the rules set forth by the court.

Eligibility and Duration

Most defendants who are facing misdemeanor charges are eligible for community supervision. In most cases involving misdemeanors, the maximum length of community supervision that can be sentenced is two years.

Conditions

If you’re sentenced to community supervision, the conditions that apply are up to the judge’s discretion. Possibilities include all the following conditions:

  • A requirement that you submit to electronic monitoring

  • A requirement that you obtain and maintain suitable employment

  • A requirement that you submit to drug and alcohol testing

  • A requirement that you report to a parole officer

  • A requirement that you allow your parole officer to make home visits

  • A requirement that you financially support your dependents

  • A requirement that you don’t leave a specified area

  • A requirement that you avoid “injurious or vicious habits”

Deferred Adjudication

An important note about deferred adjudication is that it does not mean you were found not guilty of the charge, but it is not a conviction either. Deferred adjudication is a form of plea bargain agreement in which judgment is put off until the probation period has run its course.

If probation is successfully completed, the charges levied against you will be dismissed. However, both the offense charged and the sentence of deferred adjudication will remain on your record, and they can show up on both private and public searches.

Misdemeanor Repeat Offenses

Misdemeanor charges can be elevated in response to repeat offenses. For some charges, a second misdemeanor or subsequent offense can be charged as a higher-level misdemeanor or even a felony.

For example, a first DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor, but if you’re charged with a second DWI, it will likely be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, and a third charge is a third-degree felony.

Misdemeanor Expungement

In very specific circumstances, misdemeanor charges can be expunged, which is called expungement or expunction. An expungement can permanently remove an entry on your record, but the applications are extremely limited.

While charges that receive deferred adjudication are sometimes eligible for expungement, those that lead to probation or regular community supervision never are. Contact a Killeen criminal defense attorney to see if your case is eligible for expungement.

Applications

In the State of Texas, expunction applies only in the following distinct situations:

  • The charge was a Class C misdemeanor that resulted in deferred adjudication.

  • The charge – regardless of level – did not lead to a conviction, the charge was not filed, the charge was dismissed, or the defendant was either acquitted or pardoned.

Minimum Waiting Periods

Even in situations in which no charges were levied, there are minimum waiting periods that apply before you can file an application to have a matter expunged:

  • For a Class C misdemeanor, you’ll need to wait at least 180 days.

  • For a Class A or B misdemeanor, you’ll need to wait at least a year.

  • For a felony, you’ll need to wait at least three years.

Finally, if charges were brought against you, you’ll need to wait out the statute of limitations for each of the charges that you were arrested for – not just the charges that were brought against you.

After filing for expunction in the county in which you were arrested, a court date will be set that is no earlier than 30 days from your filing date. If the entry in question is expunged, it is completely removed from your criminal record, and you’re not required to include it on job applications – or anywhere.

Misdemeanor Nondisclosure

A misdemeanor nondisclosure is less comprehensive than an expungement, and instead of erasing the entry on your record, it hides specific offenses from public disclosure. However, anything that nondisclosure applies to will remain visible to criminal justice agencies, certain government entities, and licensing agencies.

Texas has two forms of nondisclosure:

  • Automatic nondisclosure for first-time misdemeanors

  • Nondisclosure with petition

Automatic Nondisclosure for First-Time Misdemeanors

Automatic nondisclosure applies only to first-time misdemeanors that are not traffic fines and that were dismissed and discharged after August 31, 2017. If each of these applies to your charge, the judge is required to order nondisclosure after six months have passed. In reality, however, you may need to nudge the court to take this final step by reminding them that your case qualifies.

Nondisclosure with Petition

If your offense doesn’t qualify for automatic nondisclosure but is eligible for nondisclosure, you’ll need to file a petition.

The nondisclosure law in Texas is often called the “second chance law,” and it was expanded in 2017. It is meant to give individuals who have been convicted of specific nonviolent crimes some reprieve. Eligibility has been expanded even to those who had to serve jail time and even to those with offenses like DWIs.

The following charges are never eligible for nondisclosure:

  • Any charge that requires registration as a sex offender

  • Any charge that involves family violence

  • Any charge involving the abuse of a child, abuse of the disabled, or abuse of the elderly

  • Certain alcohol charges

  • Assault charges

  • Human trafficking charges

  • Repeat violations of certain court orders, including stalking

  • Kidnapping charges

  • Any murder charges

Common Misdemeanor Charges

Some misdemeanor charges are far more common than others. If you’ve been charged with one of the misdemeanors listed below, reach out for the legal guidance of a Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Petty Theft

Theft charges in Texas are classified according to the value of the property stolen. Petty theft or misdemeanor theft is capped at $2,500. Anything above this amount is generally charged as a felony. Shoplifting an item worth less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor, and the charge increases from there.

Simple Assault

Assault refers to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing someone else to suffer bodily injury or credibly threatening to do so. Simple assault is generally charged as a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.

Criminal Trespass

Trespassing refers to being on someone else’s property when you know entry is forbidden. This offense can mean ignoring the owner’s no trespassing sign or their demand that you leave their property. In other words, being somewhere that you’re not supposed to be can lead to criminal trespass charges.

Public Intoxication

While getting drunk in and of itself is not generally a crime, being intoxicated to the point that you could endanger yourself or others is. The charge of public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor.

Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is typically prosecuted as a Class C misdemeanor, and it includes a spectrum of inappropriate behaviors, such as making offensive comments or gestures that are specifically designed to disturb the peace. Exposing oneself in public will also suffice.

Driving while Intoxicated

DWI is a serious charge. A first offense is a Class B misdemeanor, while a second offense can be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor or even to a felony. Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that is over the legal limit of .08 percent can lead to a DWI charge, but operating your car erratically or unsafely with a lower BAC can still lead to a charge of DWI.

Bad Checks

While checks are nowhere near as common as they once were, people continue to use them. Writing a check that you know you can’t cover is referred to as passing a bad check, and it’s a Class C misdemeanor in Texas.

Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief translates to vandalism, and it refers to intentionally damaging someone else’s property. Graffiti is a common example of criminal mischief, and the level of the charge is based on the level of damage done.

An Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – a well-respected Texas criminal defense group in Killeen – is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who recognizes how seriously even a relatively minor misdemeanor can affect your future.

We have decades of impressive experience helping clients like you obtain favorable case resolutions, and we’re here for you too. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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