Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Classes of Misdemeanor Offenses in Texas


Criminal offenses in Texas are divided into two main categories, felonies and misdemeanors.  Misdemeanors are considered lesser crimes than felonies and are divided into three classes based on the degree of seriousness of the offense and the severity of the punishments.  It is important to take misdemeanor charges seriously, because having a misdemeanor conviction on your record can impact your life in many negative ways.  You may have difficult time getting the job you want, being admitted to an institution of higher education, or even obtaining an occupational license.

Class C Misdemeanors

Class C misdemeanors are considered the least serious type of criminal offense in Texas.  A Class C misdemeanor conviction carries a punishment of a fine of up to $500.  Community service in addition to or in place of the fine is at the judge’s discretion.  A common example of a Class C misdemeanor is a traffic offense that results in a traffic ticket.  Other types of Class C misdemeanor offenses include:

Disorderly conduct
Public intoxication
Bad checks
Simple assault
Criminal trespass
Gambling
Bail jumping
Leaving a child in a vehicle
Petty theft such as shoplifting
Possession of alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle
Driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor
Minor in possession of alcohol
Minor in possession of tobacco

Class B Misdemeanors

Class B misdemeanors are considered more serious than Class C misdemeanors and carry punishments of a fine of up to $2000, and/or a jail sentence of up to 180 days.  The court may also impose a maximum of two years of community supervision (adult probation)* or three years of community supervision with an extension.

Examples of Class B misdemeanors include:

DWI (Driving while intoxicated) first offense
Harassment
Prostitution
Terroristic threat
Criminal trespass
Evading arrest on foot
False report to a police officer and false 911 calls
Child enticement
Failure to pay child support
Indecent exposure
Minor drug possession
Vandalism

Class A Misdemeanors

Class A misdemeanors are the most serious type of misdemeanor offense in Texas.  Conviction of a Class A misdemeanor carries punishments of a fine of up to $4000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year in a county jail.  The court may also impose a maximum of two years of community supervision (adult probation)*, or three years of community supervision with an extension.

Example of Class A misdemeanors include:

DWI (second offense)
Assault with bodily injury
Burglary of a vehicle or vending machine
Possession of two to four ounces of marijuana
Unlawful carrying of a weapon
Gambling promotion
Violation of protective orders
Cruelty to animals
Perjury
Public lewdness
Resisting arrest
Unlawful restraint

* Community Supervision as defined by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure:

The placement of a defendant by a court under a continuum of programs and sanctions, with conditions imposed by the court for a specified period during which: (a) criminal proceedings are deferred without an adjudication of guilt; or (b) a sentence of imprisonment or confinement, imprisonment and fine, or confinement and fine, is probated and the imposition of sentence is suspended in whole or in part.

Misdemeanor Repeat Offenses

For some misdemeanors in Texas, a second or additional offense is charged as a more severe misdemeanor or as a felony.  For example, a first offense DWI is charged as a Class B misdemeanor.  If the same person commits a second DWI, he or she can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.  A third DWI offense is charged as a Third Degree felony.

Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication may be available as a sentencing alternative for misdemeanor offenses.  Deferred adjudication does not mean that a defendant has  been found not guilty of the offense, but  it is also not a conviction.  It is a plea bargain agreement with the criminal court where judgment is deferred pending the outcome of a probation period.  If the defendant is granted deferred adjudication and successfully completes the probation and any other conditions assigned by the court, the charges will be dismissed.  The defendant must enter a plea of either “guilty” or “no contest” to receive deferred adjudication.  For Class A and Class B misdemeanors, the court may grant up to 2 years deferred adjudication.  Although there is no formal probation, for Class C misdemeanors a type of deferred disposition period is available.

Misdemeanor Expungement

Having an arrest record expunged means that a person no longer has the obligation to state the offense on paper, but must still do so under oath.  Class C misdemeanors can be expunged in certain circumstances, if certain requirements are met including community supervision and deferred disposition.  In Texas, some records can be sealed instead of expunged.  A sealed record means that the public cannot view the record unless it is called for in court proceedings.  For Class A and Class B misdemeanors, the records can sometimes be sealed after the defendant has completed a period of deferred adjudication.
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Andrew Sullo

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