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Difference Between Misdemeanors & Felonies


Federal and state governments generally classify crimes based on their potential punishments, such as how much time an offender could spend incarcerated and where they could serve their time. Under Texas law, the two primary types of crimes are felonies and misdemeanors. While misdemeanor offenses aren’t as serious as felonies, a conviction can result in harsh criminal penalties like jail time, a criminal record, and fines up to thousands of dollars.

When is a Crime Considered a Misdemeanor in Texas?

Misdemeanor offenses, such as DWI, perjury, and disorderly conduct, among others, are crimes that carry a jail sentence of up to one year or are not punishable by prison time. In some states, the maximum jail time for misdemeanors is 364 days instead of one year to help avoid deportation consequences for certain non-violent offenders. It’s crucial to note that Texas that this law does not apply to misdemeanor offenses in Texas.

Additionally, a crime for most purposes can be considered a misdemeanor but a felony for other purposes. For example, a crime that’s considered a misdemeanor in Texas might be considered an aggravated felony when dealing with federal immigration proceedings.

When is a Crime Considered a Felony in Texas?

Felony crimes are the most serious criminal offenses and often involve the severe threat of harm or actual harm to victims. Common examples of felonies in Texas include murder, aggravated assault, arson, robbery, manslaughter, and stalking. They can likewise include fraud schemes and white-collar crimes.

Felony offenses typically carry potential prison time of a year to life or death, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, heftier fines, and more severe collateral consequences. Crimes usually remain felonies even if the offender receives a more lenient sentence rather than the crime’s maximum sentence. This applies even if the punishment does not include prison time.

Degrees of Crime in Texas

Felony and misdemeanor crimes in Texas are categorized into degrees or classes. Misdemeanor crimes include:

  • Class C misdemeanors – the least serious
  • Class B misdemeanors – moderately serious
  • Class A misdemeanors – the most serious

Felony crimes include:

  • State Jail Felony – the least serious
  • Third-degree Felony – up to 10 years of imprisonment
  • Second-degree Felony – up to 20 years of imprisonment
  • First-degree Felony – up to 99 years or life in prison
  • Capital felony – life imprisonment or the death penalty

When Can a Misdemeanor Become a Felony?

Many misdemeanor crimes can become felonies when there are certain additional circumstances involved. Elements that typically jump up misdemeanor crimes to felonies are: 

  • Injuring another person
  • The amount of drugs in possession
  • The use of deadly or dangerous weapons
  • The value of destroyed or stolen property
  • Having prior criminal convictions

Get Legal Advice From a Seasoned Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Now

Whether a felony or misdemeanor, criminal charges, can lead to incarceration, job loss, costly fines, stress, and other collateral consequences. Whether you’re facing a felony or misdemeanor charge, one of the most crucial steps you should take to protect your freedom and legal rights is to discuss your specific situation with a Texas criminal defense attorney.

Contact Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC online or by phone at 210-222-9132 to arrange your case evaluation with a Texas criminal defense attorney today.