The Difference Between A Misdemeanor And FelonyA lot gets put on the line when you are charged for any kind of crime. From terms of imprisonment to community service, court-ordered classes and fines along with the long-term consequences that come with your record having a conviction on it, any criminal charge may threaten your future and freedom.
Our criminal defense lawyers Houston have decades worth of combined experience in defending clients that are charged with all kinds of federal and state crimes, which includes both felonies and misdemeanors. Although we aggressively work on every case that we work on, there are some distinct differences between felonies and misdemeanors that accused individuals need to be aware of.
Felonies and misdemeanors are the major offense groups for crimes committed in Texas. Those classifications are used for identifying how serious an alleged offense is, and determines what the potential punishment is. The two offenses have some key differences between them:
With a misdemeanor offense, the defining characteristic is that the punishment doesn’t carry a jail term of over one year – and it is usually in a county jail. Although every case is different and punishment might be affected by the unique circumstances that are involved, the common punishments that are carried by misdemeanors include the following:
- Restitution, Court Fees, Fines
- Court Ordered Treatment or Classes
- Community Service
- Imprisonment Terms (to not exceed 1 year)
In the state of Texas, there are numerous misdemeanor crimes, that range from simple assault and shoplifting to a majority of first and second DWI charges. Those misdemeanors also are classified into three distinct categories that are associated with the potential penalties and severity of the offense:
Class A Misdemeanor – Jail terms up to one year and fines up to $4,000.
Class B Misdemeanor – Jail terms up to 180 days and fines up to $2,000.
Class C Misdemeanor – No jail time and fines up to $500.
In most states felonies are classified as crimes that may result in one year or more at a state prison, or if it was a federal crime in a federal penitentiary. Felonies in Texas, include crimes punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of six months up to life, or in death in some cases. The most serious type of criminal offense are felonies, and they carry life-altering and severe penalties including the following:
- Court Ordered Treatment or Classes
- Losing Your Civil Rights (Gun Ownership, Voting)
- Long Imprisonment Terms
- Restitution / Hefty Fines
Apart from the harsh penalties that the court hands down, felonies are notable as well since they can seriously limit life opportunities for people. Frequently, felonies can end up being a stain that seriously impacts an individual’s ability to find a job and earn their living, or attend higher education or obtain funding. Also, felonies can hurt your reputation. There are 5 different levels of felonies in Texas:
State Jail – From 6 months up to 2 years at a state level, with fines up to $10,000.
Third Degree – From 2 to 10 years at state prison, with fines up to $10,000
Second Degree – From 2 to 20 years at state prison, with fines up to $10,000
First Degree – From 5 to 999 years at state prison, with fines up to $10,000
Capital – Life sentence, no parole or death
Other Factors To Take Into Consideration
Felony and misdemeanor crimes, in addition to their penalties, may vary widely, which will different on many different circumstances. The following are a couple of other important things that should be noted:
Wobblers – There are some crimes that are called wobblers, which means that prosecutors might have the discretion for charging a person with a crime as either a felony or misdemeanor. In those cases, it can be a very positive resolution to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
Aggravating Factors – In both felony and misdemeanor cases, there can be certain aggravating factors that can elevate the penalties that an individual faces. In certain cases they can elevate a misdemeanor into a felony. Those aggravating factors may include crimes committed against certain people (vulnerable adults, children, law enforcement), crimes committed when on probation, criminal history and prior convictions.
Whether you have personally been charged with a felony or misdemeanor or someone you love, remember that both of these types of offense pose very serious long-term and immediate consequences, and need to be taken very seriously. Put your trust in our experienced and proven legal team as soon as you can after a charge.