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Penalties for a Misdemeanor Crime in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Penalties for a Misdemeanor Crime in Texas

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Misdemeanor crimes include various charges prosecuted under Texas state law. A misdemeanor offense is usually viewed as a less serious matter than a felony offense. Both must be taken seriously by the accused. If convicted of a misdemeanor crime, the offender faces possible jail time, a criminal record, and fines.

In the state of Texas, misdemeanor crimes are classified into three types: A, B, or C. The classifications rank the offense according to severity. Class A misdemeanors are considered more serious than Class B or Class C offenses. Penalties for misdemeanor crimes in Texas may include:

  • Class A misdemeanor. This is the most serious misdemeanor classification in Texas. If convicted, the offender faces up to 12 months in jail, a $4,000 maximum fine, or both (Texas Penal Code Ann. § 12.21).
  • Class B misdemeanor. This misdemeanor offense ranks between the highest and lowest misdemeanor classifications. A class B misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum 180-day county jail term, $2,000 fine, or both (Texas Penal Code Ann. § 12.22).
  • Class C misdemeanor. This misdemeanor charge is the lowest misdemeanor classification level. If found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, the offender faces a maximum fine of $500. The court won’t sentence an offender to jail but, if convicted, the offense remains on his or her criminal record (Texas Penal Code Ann. § 12.23).
  • A Texas misdemeanor that doesn’t have a designated class (A, B, or C) or a specific punishment is a Class C misdemeanor (Texas Penal Code Ann. § § 12.03, 12.23). The offender doesn’t lose any of his or her civil rights in the event of a misdemeanor conviction, such as a DWI (first or second offense), simple assault, or theft.

Have you been charged with a misdemeanor in the state of Texas?
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Common Misdemeanor Offenses in Texas

Many more defendants are accused of misdemeanor crimes than felony offenses in Texas. Common misdemeanor charges include:

  • Drug crimes involving (minimal amounts) of controlled substances or illegal drugs
  • First-offense DWI
  • Petty theft
  • Certain possession of weapons offenses
  • Disorderly conduct offense

Misdemeanor charges are often appropriate for a non-violent crime or an offense that doesn’t involve a high level of damage or property loss.

Common Class C Misdemeanor Offenses in Texas

Being convicted of a Class C misdemeanor charge in Texas may involve community service instead of a $500 fine (at the discretion of the judge). A traffic offense resulting in a traffic ticket and the following offenses are considered Class C misdemeanors:

Common Class B Misdemeanor Offenses in Texas

A judge may, at his or her discretion, additionally impose up to two years’ community supervision (probation) or up to three years’ community supervision (with extension):

  • DWI (first offense)
  • Vandalism
  • Harassment
  • Indecent exposure
  • Terroristic threat
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Evading arrest on foot
  • Criminal trespass
  • Child enticement
  • False arrest to a peace officer/false 911 call
  • Minor (drug possession)

Common Class A Misdemeanor Offenses in Texas

A Class A misdemeanor offense can also include up to two years’ community supervision (probation) or three years’ community service (with extension):

Misdemeanor Convictions and Punishments

Does a misdemeanor conviction mean jail time?

The judge will consider the offender’s criminal history and the case details before rendering a sentencing decision. Of course, an experienced criminal defense attorney will always ask the court for the least possible sentence when negotiating a plea arrangement or arguing before the judge during the sentencing hearing.

What is a sentencing consideration?

The judge must consider the sentencing requirements and/or specific circumstances before he or she arrives at a sentencing decision.

If a repeat offense is involved, the sentencing parameters for the offense are likely to increase:

  • For a repeat offense: If the defendant was previously convicted of a Class A misdemeanor in Texas before, he or she faces a minimum 90-day county jail sentence. If he or she was previously convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, he or she faces a minimum 30-day jail sentence.
  • If drugs were used in the commission of the crime: When a controlled substance (CDS) or a drug is used to commit the crime, the Class A misdemeanor charge includes a 180-day minimum jail sentence.
  • If the offense was motivated by prejudice or bias: The Class A misdemeanor sentence carries a minimum 180-day jail term.

A second or later misdemeanor offense may be charged as a felony. For instance, a first DWI conviction is a Class B misdemeanor. If the offender commits another DWI, he or she faces a Class B misdemeanor. He or she faces a third-degree felony if charged with a third DWI.

What about probation?
  • If it’s the offender’s first conviction, probation, or community supervision, might be an option. Probation suspends the offender’s jail or prison sentence with the agreement that the offender meets specific requirements established by the court.
  • Probation typically entails regular reporting to the probation (community supervision) officer.
  • In most cases, the probation agreement includes the offender’s willingness to maintain a steady job, pay restitution or fines as agreed, and allow the probation officer to regularly inspect his or her residence.
How long does probation last?

If convicted of a misdemeanor crime, the offender’s community supervision sentence may span up to two years. If the offender meets his or her obligations during the supervisory period (after serving a minimum one-third of the term), he or she may be eligible for an early release from probation.

Are there other alternatives to jail time?

The judge could order confinement of the offender in some cases. Confinement might be accomplished through house arrest or in a weekend jail program.

If jail is ordered, does “good behavior” apply?

If the offender is serving time in a county jail or state prison, he or she earns time credits for an early release with good behavior. After the offender serves at least 25 percent of his or sentence (for most criminal charges), it’s possible to apply for parole in Texas.

Is it possible for a defendant to negotiate his or her own plea deal with the prosecutor?

Criminal defense—including plea bargain negotiation— isn’t a do-it-yourself task. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is familiar with the prosecutor’s office and the judge.

Recognize that an experienced criminal defense attorney will work hard to ensure his or her client won’t face a conviction and/or sentencing on a Texas criminal charge without a battle.

Misdemeanor Sentencing

If the prosecutor believes the state has a strong case against the defendant, it may recommend a plea agreement on his or her behalf. In that case, the defendant faces a less serious charge with the sentencing recommendations.

For instance, a defendant’s charge might be reduced from a third-degree felony to a misdemeanor offense. If the defendant accepts the plea deal, he or she benefits from the possibility of reduced jail time. Only the judge has the right to accept or deny the plea deal. If the judge denies the deal, the defendant may withdraw the guilty plea.

If a case proceeds to trial, the jury may recommend sentencing. The defendant may elect the option of a jury trial. If the defendant is convicted of the offense, the jury will determine the punishment. However, before the jury decides, the defendant has the opportunity to present mitigating evidence and or witnesses to the jury.

The Texas Penal Code establishes broad sentencing guidelines for misdemeanor charges. The judge hearing the case determines the offender’s actual sentences after considering recommendations the prosecutor’s recommendations or, in some cases, the jury’s suggestions. Before the judge sentences the offender, he or she orders a pre-sentencing investigation which includes the defendant’s social and criminal history and the recommended community supervision plan from the state. At that time, the defense may argue for leniency or add comments for the judge’s consideration.

When the sentence is rendered, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires that the judge arrange a sentencing hearing. The judge must deliver the sentence in the defendant’s presence.

What is deferred adjudication?

Deferred adjudication might be available for certain misdemeanor offenses:

  • Deferred adjudication doesn’t mean the defendant was found guilty or convicted of an offense.
  • It’s considered a plea bargain agreement in which the offender’s judgment is deferred. His or her outcome is pending: if probation is successfully completed, the charges are dismissed.
  • A defendant must enter either a “no contest” or “guilty” plea in order to receive deferred adjudication.

The court has the option to grant as much as two years’ deferred adjudication for Class A/B misdemeanors. A specific type of deferred disposition may be available for Class C misdemeanors.

Misdemeanor Expungement

A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney may be able to assist the offender with misdemeanor expungement. After a person is arrested in Texas, he or she has an arrest record. If asked about an arrest record under oath, the individual is required to disclose it by law.

In some circumstances, the offender with a Class C misdemeanor conviction may expunge, or completely erase, his or her record of the offense after meeting specific requirements, such as 1) deferred disposition and 2) community supervision.

Not all crimes are eligible for expungement. In that case, the offender may petition the court to seal his or her records. Unlike an expungement, a sealed record doesn’t erase the record. Instead, another party cannot view the criminal history without a court order. A Class A or Class B misdemeanor may sometimes be sealed after the offender completes the deferred adjudication period.

Misdemeanor Crimes Must Be Taken Seriously

A criminal conviction, including a misdemeanor conviction, may include a jail sentence and fines. If you’re facing a misdemeanor charge or any criminal charge in Texas, you must consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. He can assess your potential case based on Texas law, the case facts, and the assigned prosecutor and judge.

Greg Tsioros has the experience you need to defend your case. Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros at 832-752-5972 to for an initial case evaluation now.

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