The Texas Penal Code separates criminal offenses into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Of the two classifications of crimes, misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. However, while misdemeanors are generally considered less serious crimes, they can still carry hefty penalties. There are three (3) different levels of misdemeanors, and five (5) different classifications of felonies based on the severity of the offense and the history of the person committing the crime.
Misdemeanors fall into the following categories:
- Class A: Punishable by up to 1 year in a county jail, and/or a fine up to $4,000.
- Class B: Punishable by up to 6 months (180 days) in a county jail, and/or a fine up to $2,000.
- Class C: No jail, punishable by a fine up to $500.
Class A Misdemeanors
Class A misdemeanors typically include: assault with bodily injury, violating a protective order, harassment with a prior conviction, DWI (with a prior conviction), theft of $500 or more, and criminal trespassing with a deadly weapon or a residence.
Class B Misdemeanors
Class B misdemeanors include harassment (first offense), indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, a first DWI offense, and theft or criminal mischief of $50 or more.
Class C Misdemeanors
Class C misdemeanors are considered minor or petty offenses, such as assault (threatening to injure someone), possessing an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle, and theft or criminal mischief of less than $50.
Felony Classifications in Texas
Felonies are categorized into the following: capital, first degree, second degree, third degree, and state jail felonies, with capital felonies being the most serious of all felony offenses.
- Capital felonies: Punishable by death by lethal injection or life without parole if offense was committed by someone under the age of 18.
- First degree: Punishable by 5 to 99 years, or life in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.
- Second degree: Punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison, and possibly a fine up to $10,000.
- Third degree: Punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.
- State jail felony: Punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a state jail, and a fine up to $10,000. In some cases, the court may impose the punishment for a Class A misdemeanor.
In Texas, capital felonies are punishable by death or life without parole. An example of a capital felony is murder. Examples of capital felonies also include murder of a public safety officer and murder in addition to other certain felonies, like robbery or sexual assault. However, if the defendant was a juvenile when they committed the crime and the prosecutor chooses not to seek the death penalty, the capital felony would be punishable by life imprisonment.
First Degree Felonies
First degree felonies are considered the most serious crimes in Texas, second only to capital felonies. Examples of first degree felony crimes include aggravated robbery, aggravated assault of a public servant, and aggravated sexual assault.
Second Degree Felonies
Second degree felony charges in Texas are considered more severe than third degree felonies, state jail felonies, and misdemeanors. Examples of second degree felonies include online solicitation of a minor, robbery, manslaughter and indecent contact with a child.
Third Degree Felonies
Third degree felonies are considered severe crimes, but less severe than a first or second degree felony. Some examples of third degree felonies include indecent exposure to a child, intoxication assault, a DWI third offense and possessing a firearm as a felon.
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