What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony?
Because misdemeanor crimes are less severe, defendants serve their jail terms for convictions in local or county jails. Felony convictions often lead to sentences in state prisons or state jails. Furthermore, felony convictions can restrict certain rights, such as the right to carry a firearm or to vote in certain elections.
Nevertheless, a misdemeanor conviction could still significantly impact your future. Your most important move is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect you if you face misdemeanor charges in Austin.
What Is Considered a Misdemeanor in Austin, Texas?
Crimes in Texas will be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. A criminal misdemeanor is any crime that is less severe than a felony. It carries a penalty of a fine and jail time of one year or less. Some of the most common misdemeanor cases our law firm defends include:
- Assault Causing Bodily Injury – According to Texas law, when someone knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly causes another person to suffer bodily injury, they could be charged with assault. Texas Penal Code § 1.07(8) defines bodily injury as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
- Assault Causing Bodily Injury to a Family Member or Assault Family Violence – Prosecutors and judges in Texas take domestic assault charges extremely seriously. If convicted, the defendant will face more penalties than other instances of assault. They also can never ask the court to expunge their domestic assault convictions. Furthermore, a protective order could cause severe disruption to the defendant’s life.
- Criminal Mischief – This is Texas legal phrasing for vandalism or destruction of property. While this may seem like a petty offense compared to other crimes, criminal mischief charges can be classed as a misdemeanor or a felony. It all depends on the extent of the financial loss or the value of the damaged or destroyed property.
- Deadly or Disorderly Conduct – A range of behaviors could be considered disorderly conduct, including making noise above certain levels. Suppose the disorderly conduct involves a dangerous activity such as firing a gun. In that case, you could face charges of deadly conduct even if nobody was hurt or killed. Deadly conduct charges carry far more severe penalties if you are convicted.
- Driving with an Invalid or Suspended License – Being charged with driving with an invalid or suspended license can mean a Class B misdemeanor. If you have a prior conviction of one of these charges, you may face enhanced charges with stricter penalties.
- Failure to Identify Yourself to a Police Officer – If a person is lawfully arrested or stopped for questioning by a peace officer, they may face misdemeanor charges if they refuse to identify themselves; provide a false name; or give the officer faulty or incorrect information.
- Failure to Stop and Render Aid – This charge is commonly known as leaving the scene of a crash or hit-and-run. If you are involved in a car accident and leave the scene, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
- Indecent Exposure – Indecent exposure is considered a sex crime, and those with more than one conviction must register as sex offenders. This charge concerns a person exposing their anus or any part of their genitals to arouse or gratify another person’s sexual desire. A defendant could be charged with indecent exposure if the action occurred without regard to who might be present and might be offended or alarmed.
- Misdemeanor DWI – In most cases, a first or second DWI charge will be considered a misdemeanor offense. A conviction could still come with expensive fines and loss of driving privileges for a specific period.
- Misdemeanor Theft/Property Crime – A defendant can sometimes face misdemeanor charges depending on the value of the stolen property and how the defendant stole it.
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – This charge applies when someone knowingly and intentionally has possession of an item they intend to use to plant, cultivate, manufacture, produce, test, package, process, sort, or conceal a controlled substance.
- Theft by check – This offense occurs when an individual takes another party’s property by writing or passing a check they know, or should have known, would not be covered by the funds in the account.
- Theft of service – You could face theft of service charges if you intentionally or knowingly unlawfully took another person’s services without their consent, through deception, or via threat.
Can a Misdemeanor Be Expunged?
If you have a criminal record, you might wonder whether you can have it sealed or removed. There are two ways to do this: through nondisclosure, which means sealing your record so the public cannot view it; or through expunction (also known as expungement), in which the crime will be removed entirely from your record.
The court can issue an expunction order under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Section 55.02. When this happens, all files containing a reference to the crime, your arrest, and your punishment must be destroyed. To be eligible for expunging your record in Texas, you must:
- Not have had criminal charges filed against you
- Have been charged but acquitted on an appeal
- Had the charges dismissed later
- Have been convicted but later found to be innocent
- Received approval from the prosecutor to expunge your record if you were arrested but not tried
- Successfully plea bargained the case
- Have been sentenced for a misdemeanor as a juvenile
- Have received a “no-bill” from a grand jury
- Have been pardoned by the governor of Texas or the president of the United States
It’s crucial to note that specific convictions, like those for some DWI offenses, are not eligible to be expunged. Some individuals might receive deferred adjudication for Class C misdemeanors, while those charged with Class A or B might only be eligible to petition for an order of nondisclosure. An Austin misdemeanor attorney can assess your situation to determine your options.
Contact Our Austin Misdemeanor Defense Lawyers Today
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor in Austin, don’t assume that the police and prosecutors will not take charges against you seriously. They will, and a conviction could have a lasting impact on your life.
Fortunately, an arrest never automatically guarantees a conviction. With a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side, it could be possible to get the charges against you reduced or dropped. Whether you were arrested in Travis County, Hays County, or Williamson County, your best move is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately to discuss your rights and legal options.
At Minton, Basset, Flores & Carsey, P.C., we provide aggressive representation for those charged with various misdemeanor crimes in the Austin area. We have developed a reputation for excellence throughout Central Texas – from Round Rock, Cedar Park, and Rollingwood, to Westlake Hills, Lakeway, and Sunset Valley
To discuss the specifics of your case with one of our criminal defense attorneys, call or reach out to us online now.