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What is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Texas uses different classes of crimes in order to categorize offenses by their severity. For example, crimes such as murder, rape, sexual assault and kidnapping are serious and would most likely result in a felony charge. Crimes like this are subject to harsh penalties and significant jail time. Other types of crimes, such as a first DWI, minor assault, shoplifting, and offenses without serious consequences often result in less serious penalties for the offender.

There is not just one simple distinction between an offense being a misdemeanor or a felony. There are also various classes and levels of offense within the category of felony and misdemeanor. Texas has three different levels of misdemeanor charges, examples of these and the potential penalties include:

  • Class C Misdemeanor (ex. Shopliftings, disorderly conduct, public intoxication)
    • A fine of up to $500
  • Class B Misdemeanor (ex. Prostitution, indecent exposure, vandalizing)
    • A fine of up to $2,000
    • Up to six months in jail
  • Class A Misdemeanor (2nd DWI, assault, perjury)
    • A fine of up to $4,000
    • Up to one year in jail

Just as misdemeanors are broken down into smaller categories, there are several degrees of felonies. When facing charges for a felony, it may be a Capital Felony, a 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree felony or a state jail felony. A capital felony is the most serious and can follow a murder offense. More common are 1st, 2nd, 3rd and state jail felonies. Examples of these felonies and the potential penalties include:

  • State Jail Felony (ex. Theft of property valued between $1,500 and $20,000)
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Between 180 days and two years in state jail
  • Third Degree Felony (ex. Marijuana possession between five and 50 pounds)
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Between two and 10 years in prison
  • Second Degree Felony (ex. Domestic abuse)
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Between two and 20 years in prison
  • First Degree Felony (ex. Sexual assault against a child)
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Between five and 99 years in prison

When determining the charges that can follow a criminal offense, the court may take into consideration the details of the unique case, prior criminal history and other aggravating factors in a case. Even if one defendant was charged with a Third Degree Felony for the same crime you are being charged for, your charges may be different because no two cases are the same. You need an experienced legal advocate by your side to build a defense on your behalf. Contact The Law Office of John J. Fox today and set up a free case evaluation to discuss your case.

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