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The differences between misdemeanors and felonies

When arrested in Texas, a person faces misdemeanor or felony charges. What determines the charge, and what are the differences? Federal and state guidelines dictate what crimes fit the category, and while initially charged under one, a charge may move to another.

Facts of a crime determine whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. You should know some of the basics of both.

Misdemeanor

Misdemeanor crimes are the least severe. There is a tiered class system that further categorizes the severity of the misdemeanor crime, and each class comes with a sentencing guideline. A, B and C are the varying classes a crime can fall under. Class C misdemeanors include lesser crimes, while class A is the most severe:

Class C:

  • Public intoxication
  • Traffic citations
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Simple assault

Class B:

  • First DWI
  • Misleading police
  • Less than 2 ounces of marijuana
  • Criminal trespassing

Class A:

  • Second DWI
  • Stealing from a motor vehicle
  • 2 to 4 ounces of marijuana
  • Resisting the police

Felony

Felony crimes are more severe and result in harsher punishments. The fines levied are much higher in felony convictions and the sentences are stiffer. There are four categories of felonies based on severity. The least severe (third degree) may come with jail time. The most severe (capital) may carry the death penalty:

Third degree:

  • Third DWI
  • Stalking
  • Felon with a gun

Second degree:

  • Marijuana 50 to 2,000 lbs.
  • Robbery
  • Second-degree stalking
  • Manslaughter

First degree:

  • Attempted capital murder
  • Inflicting severe bodily injury
  • Theft with a weapon
  • Kidnapping with a weapon

Capital:

  • Premeditated murder
  • Treason
  • Homicide with special circumstances

State jail felony

Texas has a state jail felony which carries mandatory jail sentences ranging from six months to two years. Criminals convicted under a state jail felony serve the full jail sentence with no early release. Examples include the following:

  • DWI with a child passenger
  • Identity theft
  • Stealing from a building
  • Criminally negligent homicide

When facing a criminal conviction, it is beneficial to understand the differences between misdemeanors and felonies. The classes or degrees under each also dictate the punishment befitting the crime.

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