What Are The Differences Between Felony And Misdemeanor Charges?

The biggest difference between misdemeanor and felony charges are the potential consequences.

The classic legal answer is that a misdemeanor is punishable by up to at most a year in jail and a felony is punishable by at least a year in jail. But in Texas, that’s not true. There are felonies in Texas for which you can be sentenced to less than a year in jail.

What really distinguishes felonies and misdemeanors are the consequences. If you’re convicted of a felony, you lose important rights that you won’t lose if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor. With a felony conviction, you lose your right to vote, your right to own firearms, your right to serve on a jury, and your right to run for public office. You’re going to lose these rights forever and, short of getting a pardon, you’ll never get them back. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, a felony conviction can cause you to be deported. And if you have a state license, that license can also get taken away with a felony conviction.

Misdemeanors don’t come with as many consequences. But that’s not to say misdemeanor convictions are consequence free. For example, an assault family member conviction will cause you to lose your right to own firearms and can put any state license you have at risk. DWI convictions can come with license suspensions and surcharges. It all depends on the type of misdemeanor.

Apart from consequences, the other difference between felonies and misdemeanors is the amount of jail or prison time you’re exposed to.

As for misdemeanors, there are three types.

Class C misdemeanors are the lowest level. These are ticket offenses. The maximum punishment for a class C misdemeanor is usually just a $500 fine. Examples for these would be a speeding ticket or ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Class B misdemeanors are the next level up. They are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. These tend to be the less serious misdemeanors. Examples include a first time DWI with a low blood result, a criminal trespass case not in somebody’s home, possession of a small amount of marijuana, or driving with a suspended license.

Class A misdemeanors are the most serious type of misdemeanors. They are punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. These include most assault cases, burglaries of motor vehicles, some types of cruelty to animals, and possession of other types of drugs.

As for felonies, there are also three types.

The lowest are state jail felonies, which are punishable by between six months and two years in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine. These include cases like possession of small amounts of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine, burglary of a building, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, or abandoning a child.

Next up are second-degree felonies, which carry a punishment of between 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. These include even more serious cases like aggravated assault or burglary of a habitation.

Beyond that are first-degree felonies, which are punishable by between 5 years – life in prison and a $10,000 fine. Examples of first-degree felony cases would be murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated sexual assault of a child, or possession of a large amount of drugs.

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