Penalties in criminal cases can be divided 3 ways – time, money and criminal record.
Your criminal record can look vastly different depending on how you decide to handle your case. In some cases the entire record can be destroyed through a process of expungement. In other cases, the arrest and conviction could stay on your record for the rest of your life.
A criminal record consists of 3 parts. An ARREST, a CONVICTION, and JAIL TIME. Consider that once you are facing charges, the arrest and jail time (if any) is already on your record. The only way to remove it now is with an expunction. However, there is not yet a CONVICTION, which occurs only with a guilty plea or when a judge or jury finds you guilty after a trial.
The ARREST can be expunged after the case is dismissed, but there can be a waiting period in some cases. If you are CONVICTED (with a guilty plea or following a trial), then neither the arrest or conviction will be expunge-able. It will remain on your record the rest of your life (unless laws are changed).
An Order of Non-Disclosure is also available in some cases. Because the rules are more complicated and the result is not as good as an expunction (records are sealed but not destroyed and certain parties may still access them), it is beyond the scope of this article.
Time can be in the form of jail time, community service hours, and classes.
Jail time in Travis County is calculated on a 2-for-1 or even 3-for-1 basis. What this means for you is that each day you spend in jail counts 2 or 3 times for your sentence. 3-for-1 is awarded for “trusty” status, which is given if you are eligible to perform certain jobs within the jail. You’re also awarded credit for any time you already spent in jail following your arrest.
Community Service Restitution (CSR) can be served at any non-religious non-profit, but it is always best to get approval from the court or run it by your attorney before choosing where to serve your CSR. It is also extremely important to document your hours and maintain your records well. If you lose your documentation, you might have to serve your hours again.
Classes are arranged through Counseling and Education Services (CES)
For many misdemeanors, prosecutors will request that you take certain classes as part of your punishment. These classes can be 8-45 hours long. Usually you are required to attend the classes in-person; you can’t do them online. If you miss a class, you usually have to start from the beginning. It can be beneficial to take these classes early, because a prosecutor might take this into account when offering a plea. Sometimes taking classes early can even lead to a dismissal for minor cases.
There’s no two ways about it; an arrest hits you in the pocketbook. Attorney fees, fines, court costs, restitution, pretrial conditions and probation all cost money. A good attorney will help you keep these to a minimum. Even though attorney fees seem expensive, it’s important to also consider the amount a good attorney will save you in costs later on.
Call 512-677-5003 for a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. By retaining an attorney early, you can minimize the penalties in your misdemeanor. Rob Chesnutt serves Travis, Williamson and surrounding counties.