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What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

What separates a misdemeanor from a felony is the severity of both the charge and the punishment. Misdemeanors range from a slap on the wrist to substantial county or local jail time. In Texas, a felony charge carries a year or more in state jail or prison. A capital felony means either life in prison without parole or a death sentence. Felonies are ranked in degrees and misdemeanors in classes. Each goes up with the severity of the harm done to another person or the monetary value of the theft.

For any these charges, the effect on the accused’s life can be profound. It’s essential to fight any charges against you to makes sure you’re not over-penalized and your reputation compromised.


Texas Felonies

Being marked with a felony crime can severely impact your ability to keep or find work, housing, a relationship, and more. The charges below contain just a few examples of each type:

  • State Jail Felony – Six months in jail to two years in prison, $10,000 fine. Theft valued at $1,500–$20,000.  Example crimes: debit or credit card fraud. Texans convicted of these crimes cannot get early release for good behavior.
  • Third-Degree Felony –  Two to ten years in prison, $10,000 fine.  Theft valued at $20,000–$100,000.  Example crime: drive-by shooting without harming anyone.
  • Second-Degree Felony –  Two to twenty years in prison, $10,000 fine. Theft valued at $100,000–$200,000.  Example crime: aggravated assault.
  • First-Degree Felony –  Can mean a sentence of five to ninety-nine years/life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Example crime: grand theft, aggravated assault.
  • Capital Felony – Life in prison without parole and in some cases, execution.  Example crime: capital murder. Texas takes this type of offense very seriously, having one of the most severe punishments in the land.


Texas Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors don’t seem as bad, but they carry some of the same implications as felonies. They can compromise immigration status and your ability to find or retain a job, adopt a child, get a professional license, or a loan. They can also have hidden fees and penalties. Offenders can receive up to a year in the county jail (rather than in a prison). Failing that, there may be probation, which hampers freedom. Half the Texans given probations don’t adhere to the rules and end up in jail.

  • Class C Misdemeanor – This lowest misdemeanor carries no time behind bars, but things can lead to jail time if you’re a no-show. Fine: $500. Theft of less than $20. Example crimes: going to a dog fight, selling other people’s term papers, assault with no injury.
  • Class B Misdemeanor – Up to 180 days in jail. Fine: $2,000. Theft: $20–$500. Example crimes: DUI, terrorism threats, possession of under 4 oz. of marijuana.
  • Class A Misdemeanor – Up to one year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine. Theft value of $500–$1,500.  Example crimes: stalking and stealing cable service.


Austin and Wilco Criminal Defense Attorneys

At Tillman Braniff, we put decades of experience to work on our cases to get criminal charges lessened or dropped. Our reviews attest to our dedication to our clients’ future. Criminal charges can affect you for the rest of your life; make sure you put up the best fight.  Call us now for a free, confidential consultation about your situation by dialing 512-472-6565 for Austin residents and 512-473-8745 for Williamson County Residents.

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