Misdemeanors in Texas range from Class C offenses, which are the most minor, up to Class A, which are serious enough to include up to a year of jail time. Below I will outline some of the key differences between the classes of misdemeanors.
C misdemeanors are the only level that is not handled at the county court. Instead, the municipal or Court of Justice of the Peace (JP Court) will handle the case. In Austin, you can also be funneled into Community Court for certain offenses downtown. Sometimes people are confused when they are issued a Class C citation and arrested for a more serious offense, because they are handled in different courts.
Class C offenses include speeding tickets and other moving violations. They can also include minor assaults, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft of less than $100, and other minor offenses.
Penalties for a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $500, and no jail time. Defendants can often get their fine reduced by completing certain classes or other similar requirements.
If your case is dismissed, your Class C citation can be expunged. However, Class C violations are not reported to Texas DPS, and many employers will not be concerned about a Class C offense. For some, it is worth it to have a clean record.
Class B and higher misdemeanors are handled at the County Court. In Travis County, that is at the Blackwell-Thurman Justice Center at 509 West 11th Street. B misdemeanors include possession of marijuana, first time DWIs, certain assaults., theft of $100-$750, etc.
B misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, 180 days in jail, or both. There are also additional penalties for certain crimes beyond the misdemeanor penalties. For example, a DWI can have consequences for you driver’s license. An assault involving family violence can lead to a family violence finding, which can prevent you from owning a gun and enhance future assaults.
A misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors, and include offenses like a 2nd DWI, theft $750-$2,500, certain enhanced assaults, etc. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or 1 year of jail time. You’re also more likely to encounter other penalties with class A offenses, such as minimum jail time even if you opt for probation.
This is a very broad overview of minimum punishments. Keep in mind that the penalties listed are maximum penalties, and actual sentences are usually much lower. Conversely, the additional penalties specific to certain crimes can actually be worse than the standard penalties. There is also often an option for probation if you do not want to face jail time, but that can often be a difficult decision and you will want to fully understand the consequences before making a decision. If you are charged in Travis, Williamson or surrounding counties, call experienced criminal attorney Rob Chesnutt for a free consultation. 512-677-5003.