What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Texas?

Maverick Ray Law
January 4, 2021

How Texas Classifies Crimes and Determines Penalties

Texas classifies crimes into misdemeanors and felonies depending on the nature of the crime itself, the offender’s previous convictions or criminal background, and aggravating circumstances that may enhance penalties for the underlying offense. Felonies are considered more serious crimes and usually result in a state prison sentence if you are convicted.

When you are arrested for a crime, you need facts. You need an attorney that knows the law and will fight to protect your rights and your freedom. At Maverick Ray & Associates, our criminal defense team includes award-winning trial lawyers that will work hard to get the most favorable outcome in your case. Call (281) 346-9451 to speak with an attorney today.

Texas Crime Statistics

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, in the past year, over 800,000 people were arrested for crimes in the state. The vast majority (85%) of alleged crimes perpetrated were non-violent property crimes, including burglary and larceny-theft.

While not all of these arrests result in a conviction, without the help of an attorney, many people go to jail or serve the maximum sentence for their crime. Even more frustrating, thousands of people are wrongfully convicted each year.

According to the Innocence Project of Texas, an estimated 5,640 individuals are likely convicted of crimes they did not commit. Unfortunately, this estimate is conservative; the true number may be far higher.

How Are Misdemeanors and Felonies Classified?

Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code designates both misdemeanor and felony offenses into classes. Punishment for a violation is determined in accordance with its code.

Misdemeanors are classified into three categories:

  • Class A misdemeanors;
  • Class B misdemeanors;
  • Class C misdemeanors.

Felonies are classified into five categories:

  • Capital felonies;
  • Felonies of the first degree;
  • Felonies of the second degree;
  • Felonies of the third degree; and
  • State jail felonies.

What Are Commonly Charged Misdemeanor Offenses?

While misdemeanors are generally considered less serious offenses than felonies, they still carry significant consequences, including a state jail sentence and high fines. In addition, if there are aggravating circumstances, what would normally be considered a misdemeanor offense could be charged as a felony.

Commonly charged misdemeanor offenses in Texas include:

What Are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor Conviction in Texas?

Punishments for misdemeanor convictions in the State of Texas are determined by Chapter 12 of the Penal Code. Each crime is categorized into a misdemeanor class, with Class A misdemeanors being the most severe offenses.

Penalties for misdemeanor convictions in Texas include:

  • Class A misdemeanor – if convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, you could face a fine not to exceed $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year.
  • Class B misdemeanor – if convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, you could face a fine not to exceed $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days.
  • Class C misdemeanor – if convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, you could face a fine not to exceed $500.

What Are Commonly Charged Felony Offenses?

Felonies are considered the most serious crimes in the State of Texas. Depending on the actual offense, a person could face up to life in prison or death.

Commonly charged felony offenses in Texas include:

Regardless of whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you should always consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.

What Are the Penalties for a Felony Conviction in Texas?

As with misdemeanors, felonies are designated into classes, and the punishments are generally in accordance with the Penal Code based on their classification.

Penalties for felony convictions in Texas include:

  • Capital felony – If convicted of a capital felony such as capital murder, the prosecutor may seek the death penalty or life in prison. If the offender was under the age of 18 at the time it was committed, then a capital felony can result in life in prison. If the offender was 18 or older, the prosecutor can seek life without the possibility of parole.
  • First-degree felony – If convicted of a first-degree felony, a person may be punished by up to life in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
  • Second-degree felony – If convicted of a second-degree felony, a person may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
  • Third-degree felony – If convicted of a third-degree felony, a person may face up to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
  • State jail felony – If convicted of a state jail felony, a person may be sentenced to up to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Do I Need an Attorney?

In Texas, most crimes, with the exception of Class C misdemeanors, are punishable by state jail or a prison sentence. Your freedom could be on the line if you are convicted. In addition to a state jail or prison sentence and a hefty fine, you could also face a license suspension, mandatory community service, domestic violence classes, alcohol education classes, sex offense registration, or worse.

An experienced attorney can help fight the charges against you and help you to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. A criminal conviction can affect your right to possess a firearm, your custodial rights, and more. You cannot afford to go it alone. Call Maverick Ray & Associates today for a free consultation.

Charged With a Crime in Houston? Contact Maverick Ray & Associates!

Attorney Maverick Ray knows how prosecutors operate and what it takes to secure a conviction. He has successfully represented thousands of clients, obtaining favorable case results by getting charges reduced or dismissed.

Since 2018, Attorney Maverick Ray has been ranked No. 1 in “Show Me the Justice” for securing the highest combined total of Not Guilty Verdicts, In-Trial Dismissals, Trial Setting Dismissals, and Felony Dismissals.

Call (281) 346-9451 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your legal options with a knowledgeable attorney.