Although a Texas misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, with a class C misdemeanor conviction resulting in no jail time and only a fine, many misdemeanors result in serious consequences and can lead to a jail sentence and hefty fines, potentially causing financial hardship or the loss of housing or employment. Here’s all you need to know about Texas misdemeanors, including the three classes of misdemeanor charges and their penalties, the common crimes associated with each misdemeanor class, and what to do if you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor.
Class C Misdemeanor: The least serious of all misdemeanor charges, a class C misdemeanor conviction will result in no jail time and fines up to $500. Common crimes that constitute a class C misdemeanor include: disorderly conduct, public intoxication, possession of drug paraphernalia, use of a laser pointer, petty shoplifting of items valued under $50, and possession of alcohol or tobacco as a minor.
Class B Misdemeanor: More serious than a Class C misdemeanor, a Class B misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to 180 days in a county jail and fines of up to $2000. Common crimes that constitute a class B misdemeanor include: indecent exposure, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, a first offense DWI, harassment, criminal trespassing, and intentionally lying to the police.
Class A Misdemeanor: A Class A misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor offense, with a Class A misdemeanor conviction resulting in up to a year in county jail and fines up to $4000. Common crimes that constitute a class A misdemeanor include: check theft, resisting arrest, assault with bodily injury, possession of two to four ounces of marijuana, burglarizing a motor vehicle, lying under oath, and animal cruelty.
Increased Misdemeanor Penalties:
In some instances under Texas law, misdemeanor charges can carry stricter penalties due to specific circumstances pertaining to the crime. This usually occurs with misdemeanors when:
The Defendant is A Repeat Offender: If an individual has been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, another Class A misdemeanor conviction will result in a mandatory minimum county jail sentence of 90 days. An individual convicted of a class B misdemeanor is subject to a mandatory minimum of 30 days. For certain offenses such as DWIs and drug possession, repeat offenses result in harsher criminal charges, with a third DWI offense resulting in third-degree felony charges.
The Crime Was Motivated By Bias or Prejudice: If a misdemeanor was the result of bias, such as harassing an individual based on their race, the criminal charges will move up to a Class A misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in county jail.
Overall, sentencing considerations can be made at a judge’s discretion, and a judge may be more lenient or harsh with sentencing depending on the details of an individual’s crime. For example, if a teenager is charged with using a laser pointer and shows remorse as a first time offender, a judge may let them off with just a fine, whereas if a teenager is charged with an assault that is particularly cruel or brutal, a judge may give them the entire 180 day county jail sentence and a $4000 fine.
What To Do When Facing Misdemeanor Charges:
Regardless of the severity of your misdemeanor charges, it is wise to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer as even a Class C misdemeanor conviction with no jail time will remain on your criminal record and potentially impact your chances at housing or employment while leaving you susceptible to harsh and strict penalties if you ever re-offend.
Misdemeanors charges can be stressful as they often act as an individual’s inadvertent introduction to the courts and criminal justice system in general. An experienced misdemeanor defense lawyer can not only help you navigate the justice system but will review your case and come up with a defense that grants you a dismissal or acquittal. Upon dismissing or acquitting your case, a misdemeanor lawyer can also aid in the expungement process, which will destroy your criminal record and mitigate any negative consequences associated with being arrested and charged with a crime.