A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor carries up to a year in jail. It also carries the potential for a fine of up to $4,000.
Examples of Class A misdemeanors are:
- Assault (Penal Code 22.01),
- Violating a protective order (Penal Code 25.07), and
- Theft of between $750 and $2,500 (Penal Code 31.03).
1. What is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas?
A Class A misdemeanor in Texas is a type of criminal offense. As a type of misdemeanor, it is more severe than an infraction. However, it is not as severe as a felony.
Class misdemeanors are the most serious type of misdemeanor. Less serious offenses are:
- Class B misdemeanors, and
- Class C misdemeanors.
However, Class A misdemeanors still carry steep penalties. They can also be enhanced into a felony in some cases. This increases the penalties even further.
2. What are the penalties?
Defendants charged with a Class A misdemeanor face the following penalties:
- up to 1 year in county jail, and/or
- up to $4,000 in fines.
There is a 180-day mandatory minimum jail sentence if:
- drugs were used to commit the crime,1 or
- the offense was motivated by bias or prejudice.2
There is a 90-day mandatory minimum jail sentence if the defendant has a prior conviction for:
- a felony offense, or
- a Class A misdemeanor.3
In addition to these penalties, there are also collateral consequences of a conviction. These hidden penalties often come from private parties or companies. They can take lots of different forms, but often include:
- a bank refusing to provide a loan because of a prior conviction for fraud,
- being ineligible for federal student loans,
- a landlord refusing to rent an apartment because of a prior conviction for a violent crime, or
- struggling to get a job because employers would rather hire someone with a clean criminal background.
Both the legal penalties and collateral consequences of a conviction increase if the charge is enhanced to a felony.
3. When can they be enhanced into a felony?
In some cases, Class A misdemeanors can be enhanced. If they are, they can be treated as a felony offense.
Class A misdemeanors can be enhanced if certain elements of the crime are met. These elements make the offense more severe. They depend on the nature of the crime. For example:
- forgery can become a state jail felony if the victim was elderly (Penal Code 32.21(e-2)),
- online impersonation becomes a third degree felony if it was intended to get a police response (Penal Code 33.07(b)), and
- burglarizing a vehicle can become a state jail felony if done in a disaster area (Penal Code 12.50).
In most cases, Class A misdemeanors become state jail felonies. These offenses carry up to:
- 2 years in state jail, and/or
- $10,000 in fines.
While rare, Class A misdemeanors can be enhanced into a third degree felony. If this happens, the possible penalties are up to:
- 10 years in jail, and/or
- $10,000 in fines.
4. Is it possible to get a sentence of probation?
Probation is an option in misdemeanor cases.
Also known as community supervision, probation is a type of sentence for a misdemeanor offense. Rather than holding a defendant in jail, probation lets them live in the community. However, probation puts very strict rules on what the defendant can do.
The terms of probation depend on the offense being sentenced. However, common conditions of probation include:
- making restitution payments,
- performing community service,
- attending drug or alcohol treatment or other classes,
- meeting regularly with a probation officer, and
- staying out of legal trouble.
Violating any of these terms can lead to a judge revoking probation. This can lead to even stricter probation conditions. It can also send a probationer to jail.
If the judge issued probation as a form of deferred adjudication, violating a term of probation can make the case resume. It will go straight to the sentencing portion of the process. None of the time spent on probation can be used as credit for the sentence.
5. What are some examples of Class A misdemeanors?
Some common examples of Class A misdemeanors include:
- Criminal mischief causing $750 to $2,500 in damage (Penal Code 28.03(b)(3)),
- Public lewdness (Penal Code 21.07),
- Terroristic threats against a public servant or family member (Penal Code 22.07(c)),
- Possession of between 2 and 4 ounces of marijuana (Health and Safety Code 481.121(b)(2)), and
- Attempted state jail felonies (Penal Code 15.01).
- Texas Penal Code § 12.49.
- Texas Penal Code § 12.47(a).
- Texas Penal Code § 12.43(a).