What Are The Differences Between Felonies And Misdemeanors?
Are There Different Levels Of Each?
Yes, there are. Really, the distinguishing factor between misdemeanors and felonies is the range of punishment. When you’re dealing with misdemeanors, you could receive up to a year in jail (but not over) and, in Texas, up to a $4,000 fine. That one-year mark is the distinguishing feature. Now, the legislature in each jurisdiction will determine which offenses are misdemeanors and which are felonies. For a felony offense, you can receive all the way up to the ultimate punishment, which is a death penalty. It’s still a felony from a year in custody, though, with the possibility of going all the way up. For a misdemeanor, it’s that year in custody all the way down that is the determining factor.
In Texas, we have many different levels of offenses. When you’re dealing with a misdemeanor, we have a class C misdemeanor, which involves justice courts, municipal courts, speeding tickets, etc. You’re not going into custody for those. Now, if you work out a fee payment arrangement and you fail to complete it, you can be arrested on a Capias pro fine charge to say that you need to pay. If you didn’t show up at the court, you could be locked up for a little bit for failure to appear. On the actual charge itself, though, you cannot be confined.
Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $3,000 fine. The majority of these cases are marijuana possession or a first-time DUI with under 0.15 on the blood alcohol test.
We then get up to the class A misdemeanors, and that’s where you can get up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. A second or subsequent DUI with a blood alcohol level over 0.15, domestic violence, violence, soft tissue bodily injury — these are all examples. Then we get into the felony range. We have the state jail felony, which means you can get sent to state jail for up to 2 years, or you can serve up to 180 days in the local county jail as a punishment. So the options are state jail from 180 days to 2 years, or under 180 days at a local community corrections facility, which in this case is our county jail.
You can have a third degree felony, which carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail. Second-degree felonies carry up to a $10,000 fine and up to 20 years in jail. For a first-degree felony, you’re looking at 5 to 99 years (or life), but you’re still looking at a large range of punishment. If the sentence is 10 years or less, you’re still eligible for probation. We also have “super felonies” for drugs, which means 15 to life and the probation is no longer an option, and that’s where you just have a large quantity of drugs. Generally, if it’s that much drugs, it would be dealt with in the federal system and states can’t prosecute it.
Then we have what we call continuous sexual offenses, where it’s 25 to life. We have the category of a subsequent offender, which means if somebody has a second felony offense, it kicks it up a grade. If it’s a third, second, or first-degree felony or up, if you have a second offense, it bumps the punishment level up. If it’s a first degree and you have a subsequent offense, then you’re looking at 15 to life; for repeat offenders, 25 to life. Now, if you committed multiple or an earlier sex offense, and you have a second conviction on a similar charge, then you can get life imprisonment for that.
Now, life imprisonment is kind of hard to calculate because it’s a real misnomer. What it generally means is anything above 60 years in confinement. Life just has a different component for getting out but you are still eligible for parole. Then we have capital murder, which carries a life sentence, and it’s 45 years before you’re eligible for release. Finally, we have the possible death sentence.
So we have many different types of penalties in our penal code and our code of criminal procedure. We also have a number of different codes that have offenses that aren’t articulated what penalty they carry; those have their own offense schedule. But just dealing with our local codes, that is the punishment range and the types of felonies and misdemeanors we have.
How Often Are You Able To Get Charges Dropped Or At Least Reduced?
Really, it happens a lot, because every case is different. When you’re dealing with different prosecutors, you’re dealing with different individuals. When you’re dealing with misdemeanors, it’s particularly common, because their goal there is not to just punish; their goal is mainly to make sure that this conduct, if it is criminal conduct, doesn’t happen again. You also have the ability to talk to people or to set the case for trial and look at the facts of the case and the investigation. There are all kinds of different ways to do it but it happens.
Now, if somebody’s been in trouble multiple times, that’s really not going to happen as easily. It could happen, but it’s not going to be an easy thing to do. You just have to do a thoughtful, complete, comprehensive, and thorough investigation, and review the police’s investigation. In these cases, you’re looking for areas where you can have a meeting of the minds about something not being fair or a charge being inappropriate. Sometimes it even works to go in and say, “You know what? If you dismiss this case, you’re never going to see this person again, because this is once-in-a-lifetime thing. They’re not going to come back.”
Now sometimes we do agree to pay a larger fine for less possible time in custody or else less time on probation because it might not be nearly as difficult as paying the money. That’s our way of saying, “We won’t be back. This is an investment for him to show you he won’t be in trouble again.”
For more information on misdemeanors, felonies, and criminal defense, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (254) 699-3755 today.
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