There are three categories of criminal charges, felonies, misdemeanors, and minor offenses. While felonies are more severe than misdemeanors, However, both should be approached with care as they can have life-altering consequences otherwise.
Misdemeanor offenses are punishable with costly fines, time in jail, or both, and, if you are convicted, will appear on your background check thereby causing long-lasting issues. The Law Office of Todd Ver Weire should be your first call if you are arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. We are ready to protect your rights and safeguard your freedom.
Why Choose the Law Office of Todd Ver Weire
- We stay abreast of the latest legal developments, and best practices in dealing with these cases so that we have a firm grasp on what our clients face and how to best defend them against it.
- We exceed the minimum continuing education requirements so that our clients can rest assured that they will obtain the best possible defense.
Differences Between Misdemeanors, Felonies, and Minor Infractions in Texas
There are three distinct levels of offenses when charged with a crime in Texas. An experienced misdemeanor defense lawyer can further explain the charges pending against you. Descriptions of each of these are listed below:
- Minor Offenses: These are minor crimes that do not warrant an arrest. Some examples of infractions are breaking a noise ordinance by playing music too loud, jaywalking, or rolling through a stop sign. The only consequence you will face for these types of minor offenses is a potential fine.
- Misdemeanors: These crimes are somewhat more serious than infractions. Depending upon the level of the misdemeanor offense, you could face nothing more than a fine, or you could face up to a year in jail, and a fine. An experienced Misdemeanor defense lawyer can advise you as to which outcome fits you the best.
- Felonies: Felonies are the most serious level of offense. Convicted felons are handed sentences requiring them to do time in the state penitentiary. They are guaranteed to spend more than one year in prison but can face life without the possibility of parole or, in extreme cases, the death penalty.
Limits on Consequences for Misdemeanors
If convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face fines, jail time, or both. While there are stiff consequences for misdemeanors, the penalties are limited in the following ways:
- Fines shall not exceed $4,000
- Jail sentences will not exceed one year
- Incarceration will be local, meaning the time will be served in the county jail, not in Prison or a State Jail Punishment Facility.
- Sometimes your sentence can be probated – meaning you serve time on probation thereby avoiding some or all of any fines assessed or jail time assessed.
Texas Misdemeanor Classes
Misdemeanor offenses are divided into classes in Texas. Each class carries different types of penalties. These classifications are as follows:
- Class A Misdemeanor: These are the most serious misdemeanor charges. They carry up to a year’s jail sentence and fines of up to $4,000.
- Class B Misdemeanor: If convicted of a class B misdemeanor, the penalty is up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000. For some crimes, both fines and a jail sentence will be mandatory.
- Class C Misdemeanor: Class C misdemeanors are the least serious offense, carrying fines of up to $2,000. No jail time is sentenced to class C offenders.
Statute of Limitations on Texas Misdemeanors
Texas has a statute of limitations that affects Texas misdemeanors. Generally speaking, the limitations clock starts to run when a crime is committed. In Texas, this means that prosecutors must file charges within two years of the date the crime occurred, absent a few exceptions. If the State fails to bring charges within that time frame, they will lose their right to press charges. Please note, if the State files a warrant, and is looking for you, the statute of limitations is tolled, meaning that the State can proceed with the case even if it takes 3, 4, or 5 years to find you.
Charges That Fail to Meet Misdemeanor Status
If you receive a traffic citation, think speeding ticket, these are not considered misdemeanors. You will not garner a criminal record for an infraction, which is what offenses like these are considered. If you were driving obscenely fast, dangerously, or serially and willfully breaking traffic laws, your traffic ticket would not surpass a simple infraction.
However, you may have a blight on your driving record, which could lead to higher insurance premiums. The higher rates could apply for several years after the infraction occurred.
An example of the difference between a minor offense and a misdemeanor could be speeding. Breaking the speed limit and being stopped and ticketed is an infraction. If the speeding involved street racing, you could be charged with a misdemeanor which could carry a fine and up to a year in jail.
Common Misdemeanor Charges in Texas
Misdemeanor charges can be levied for a number of offenses in Texas. Some of the more common offenses are listed below:
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Boating While Intoxicated (BWI)
- Marijuana possession of fewer than 2 ounces
- Assault (some not all)
- Domestic assault
- Criminal mischiefs such as vandalism, keying someone’s car, destroying school or public property, breaking windows in shops or someone’s house
- Public intoxication
- Reckless driving
- Possession of alcohol by a minor
- Drug paraphernalia possession
- Lack of a permit when carrying a weapon
- Resisting arrest
- Disorderly conduct
- Resisting arrest
- Road racing
- Evading arrest without the use of a motor vehicle
- Failure to identify oneself to law enforcement
- Submitting a false report to a law enforcement officer
- Interfering with another’s call to 911
Since it is possible to have a misdemeanor on your record for life, if you are charged with a criminal misdemeanor, you will need to talk to an experienced Misdemeanor defense attorney about what could be done to drop the charges levied against you.
There are some ways that a misdemeanor charge can be dropped. Listed below are some strategies your misdemeanor lawyer might take so that you may avoid prosecution.
- Lack of evidence: The prosecution may realize they have insufficient evidence to prosecute. If they determine that they do not have the type of evidence that will convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, they may decide that the case is not worth pursuing and drop the charges.
- Deferred prosecution: It is possible that your misdemeanor attorney can strike an agreement with the prosecution that will allow you to complete particular actions in exchange for having the charges dismissed after compliance. These include community service, drug and alcohol classes, or treatment programs.
- Plea bargain: A skilled misdemeanor attorney may convince the prosecution that the defendant could plead guilty to another charge in exchange for the misdemeanor being dismissed.
- Motion to dismiss: Your misdemeanor attorney can make a motion to dismiss the charges waged against you if there is a legal reason that they might be dismissed. By investigating the evidence from your case, your misdemeanor lawyer may find a way to have the charges dismissed.
If you are unable to get the charges against you dropped, ask your attorney about the possibility of having it expunged from your record. This will clear the charge from your criminal record, and it will no longer show up on background checks. It will be as if it never happened.
Why it is Crucial to Fight a Misdemeanor Charge
While a misdemeanor may not sound that serious, it can have a profound negative impact on your life. You will want to fight the charge so that your life is not impacted in the subsequent ways:
- Looking for employment can be complicated by a criminal record. If a potential employer sees fit to run a background check, and you are competing for a job opportunity, the criminal charges may make you seem like the less desirable applicant.
- Securing housing can be more complex, with a criminal record looming. Potential landlords often run background checks on possible tenants. They do this to ensure the person to whom they rent their property is not a threat to the property or those living in close proximity. Depending on the charges, this could disqualify you from being able to secure desirable housing.
- When applying for colleges and universities or pursuing grants and scholarships, your admission to the school of your choice and the financial help you may be eligible for can be jeopardized.
- Not only do you have to be concerned with your credit score when applying for loans with a criminal record, but you also have another obstacle to clear. Your record may be visible to banks when you are trying to get a loan.
- Impacting your immigration status, or ability to re-enter the county if you are not a U.S. Citizen.
- Traveling to other countries. For instance, Canada will deny you entry if you have a conviction for DWI.
Bail Available for Misdemeanors
When charged with a misdemeanor, bail may be set. It can be as small an amount as $25 or as large as $5,000, and if you did not show up, you could see your bail set as high as $10,000. While bail is initially set by the magistrate, once the case is filed with the clerk, the judge can modify the bail by increasing it, decreasing it, or adding additional conditions, such as curfews, restrictions on where you can go, or other items related to the nature of the accusation.
Several factors are considered when deciding on bail for a misdemeanor charge. These factors can include the following:
- The defendant’s ties to the community and if those ties are strong enough to keep them there.
- Employment status is another factor to be considered. If the defendant is gainfully employed, it demonstrates responsibility and stability.
- Risks to the safety of the public will also be taken under advisement as the judge considers whether to set bail and the amount at which it should be set.
- How much bail the defendant can afford is another factor that could be considered when setting bail.
- If an individual has failed to appear, or is facing a revocation of probation, bail could be denied.
There are times when judges may set the conditions of bail. These conditions may order the defendant to avoid the victim and stay away from certain areas and not take part in specific activities. However, with certain offenses, like DWI, there are certain statutes in Texas that mandate the use of alcohol monitoring equipment like an ignition interlock, or portable alcohol monitoring device.
How a Texas Misdemeanor Lawyer Can Help
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor under Texas law, it is important that you speak to a misdemeanor lawyer as soon as possible. They can assist you in multiple ways.
Investigating Your Case
Your misdemeanor attorney will review all of the evidence from your case. They have the kind of experience that allows them to easily identify helpful pieces of information as well as harmful evidence. By doing this, they can build a robust defense by simply combining their skills with being informed.
Your attorney will evaluate how strong your case might be based on the evidence. They can give you legal advice and outline for you the most probable outcomes. Knowing your options is crucial when determining how you should proceed.
Protecting Your Rights
Another way a lawyer can help you with your misdemeanor charge is by protecting your legal rights. Having someone in your corner who understands the legal process watching out for your best interest is crucial. Having a lawyer at your side from the initial questioning by law enforcement forward can ensure that your rights are protected.
Negotiation with the Prosecution
Depending on the specifics of your case, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf. This often means seeing if you qualify for a diversion program that would result in the case being dismissed, pleading to a lesser charge, or completing certain classes, passing drug tests, or doing some community service in exchange for dismissing the misdemeanor charges. Having a skilled negotiator in your corner can be key to negotiating a successful plea deal.
Build a Defense
One of the most critical factors in beating a misdemeanor charge is having a strong legal defense. A skilled attorney will construct a defense that challenges the admissibility of damning evidence. They will also argue the elements of the offense and how your actions do not reach a criminal level.
A criminal defense attorney with honed legal acumen can take the evidence before them and lay out a solid case for their clients. Never underestimate the power of persuasion in the courtroom.
Mitigation of Penalties
When a conviction for a misdemeanor charge is imminent, a skilled lawyer can mitigate the consequences on behalf of their client. This may include negotiating a plea deal or having the penalties reduced. This may mean that the defendant must complete probation or community service in exchange for avoiding a jail sentence.
Having an experienced legal team providing you with exceptional guidance and advocating for you throughout the legal process can help you achieve the most acceptable resolution possible.
Robust Defenses for Those Accused of Misdemeanors
Having Todd Ver Weire, Attorney at Law, by your side will prepare you for your day in court. Though, through aggressive negotiation skills, you may be able to avoid court altogether. Contact our office today to see what we can do for you.