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Misdemeanors vs. Felonies: Do You Know the Difference?

Detectives and undercover agents in Beeville recently conducted raids on clandestine gambling parlors and arrested the alleged owners and operators. Police arrested a few employees who were later charged with felonies under the Texas Penal Code, and more than a dozen gamblers were briefly detained and given misdemeanor citations. What is the difference?
All jurisdictions in the United States classify criminal offenses by their degree of seriousness as determined by legislators. In theory, a crime is committed whenever an ordinance, rule or law is disobeyed. Violations of rules and ordinances typically lead to infractions. Examples of infractions include drivers who fail to make a full stop at an intersection or a homeowner who plays music too loud late at night. People cited for infractions may have to appear in court, but they are not called criminal defendants and do not expect to receive jail sentences.

Criminal Offenses in Texas

In Texas, misdemeanors and felonies are understood to be violations of the Penal Code. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, but they may still present the possibility of incarceration. The maximum jail sentence under misdemeanor charges in Texas is one year, and defendants will not be assessed fines higher than $4,000.

Prison sentences under felony offenses in Texas start at twelve months and can extend to life imprisonment whenever very serious crimes are involved. The maximum amount of a fine under felony cases is $10,000. It is important to remember that capital felonies in the Lone Star State may be punishable by death.

Examples of Misdemeanor and Felony Offenses

In the case of the Beeville raids on illegal game rooms mentioned above, the alleged operators were likely charged with violations of Chapter 47.04 of the Texas Penal Code, which prohibits keeping a gambling establishment. Those who were given citations during the raid allegedly violated the Penal Code, but they were likely charged with betting on the outcome produced by a gambling device, which is a Class C misdemeanor offense.

Other criminal offenses considered felonies in Texas include:

Misdemeanors include:

  • Domestic violence without grave injury
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Possession of small amounts of drugs
  • Shoplifting

Certain crimes such as drunk driving can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies according to the circumstances surrounding the offense; for example, an alleged drunk driver who causes an accident with injuries and property damage may be charged with a felony.

In general, defendants who are charged with misdemeanor offenses do not have to worry about losing their civil liberties. Felony defendants, on the other hand, may lose their rights to bear arms, vote and hold public office. Certain professional licenses issued by state regulators may also become off limits to those convicted of felonies.

Hiring an Attorney

Regardless if you have been accused of committing a misdemeanor or a felony, it’s essential that you hire a professional legal representative to manager your case. This may be one of the most important decisions you will make as a conviction could haunt you for the rest of your life. Call Matthew Sharp today at 713-868-6100 to schedule a free case evaluation.

*Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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