There are two general categories of crimes in the Texas legal system – misdemeanors and felonies.  Whether a crime is misdemeanor or felony depends upon the offense conduct.  The primary differences between a felony and a misdemeanor are the range of punishment, the consequences of conviction, and the ability to have the charge cleared or sealed.

Texas Ranges of Punishment

Under Texas law, crimes are classified from class C misdemeanors to capital felonies.  The table below includes all major punishment ranges under Texas law.

 

Offense Level Range of Incarceration  Fine
Class C Misdemeanor None Up to $500
Class B Misdemeanor 0 to 180 days in county jail Up to $2,000
Class A Misdemeanor 0 to 1 year in county jail Up to $4,000
State Jail Felony 180 days to 2 years in state jail Up to $10,000
Third Degree Felony 2 to 10 years in prison Up to $10,000
Second Degree Felony 2 to 20 years in prison Up to $10,000
First Degree Felony 5 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $10,000
Capital Felony Life without parole or death Up to $10,000


Consequences of Conviction

There are also various hybrid ranges of punishment under Texas law that do not fall under one of the class categories about, such as reckless driving and failure to stop and render aid.

A person convicted of a felony will lose the right to vote and to possess a firearm or ammunition under federal law and have limited firearm possession rights under state law.  A person convicted of a felony can also expect to have difficulty securing loans, receiving state or federal licenses, and obtaining employment.  The extent to which a misdemeanor conviction will adversely impact a person’s life depends upon the particular nature and circumstances of the crime.

Clearing or Sealing a Record

A person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication for most offenses or who has a case dismissed will be eligible to file a petition for nondisclosure or a petition for expunction.  Most misdemeanor offenses are eligible for immediate nondisclosure upon completion of deferred adjudication (there are some exceptions not addressed here).  Most felonies are eligible for nondisclosure five years after the end of the period of deferred adjudication.  Eligibility for expunction is determined by the statute of limitations – two years for misdemeanors and three years for most felonies (though there are many exceptions to the three year statute of limitations for felonies).

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© 2016 David A. Nachtigall, Attorney at Law, PLLC

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