Class C misdemeanors are a type of crime in Texas. They are the least severe type of misdemeanor. However, they are still more serious than infractions.
Convictions for Class C misdemeanors carry up to $500 in fines. Unlike other criminal offenses, there is no jail time for a Class C misdemeanor.
Examples of Class C misdemeanors include:
- Possession of drug paraphernalia (Health and Safety Code 481.125),
- Making a firearm accessible to a child (Penal Code 46.13), and
- Voyeurism (Penal Code 21.17).
1. What are Class C misdemeanors?
Class C misdemeanors are a class of criminal offenses in Texas. They are the least severe type of misdemeanor in the state.
Class C misdemeanors are more serious than all infractions. However, the following offenses carry higher penalties than a Class C misdmeanor:
While they are the least serious criminal offense, Class C misdemeanors are still not trivial. Convictions put a blemish on a defendant’s criminal background. This can make life difficult in a variety of ways, even if jail time is not a possibility.
2. What are the penalties?
The penalty for a Class C misdemeanor conviction is typically a fine of up to $500. Paying this fine is an admission of guilt. There is no jail time for a conviction. This makes Class C misdemeanors different from all other misdemeanors and felonies.
However, Class C misdemeanors can be enhanced. This increases the penalties of a conviction. 3 ways for a crime to get enhanced are if:
- the charge is for disorderly conduct or public intoxication, and the defendant has 3 prior offenses of either in the past 2 years,1
- it was done out of prejudice or bias against someone,2 or
- drugs were used to commit the offense.3
In any of these cases, a Class C misdemeanor is treated like a Class B misdemeanor. The penalties become:
- up to 180 days in county jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines.
While jail time is not a possible penalty for an offense, police can still arrest suspects of a Class C misdemeanor. This means suspects can spend time in jail, even though jail is not a possible punishment.4
Convictions for Class C misdemeanors are still criminal offenses. They will be recorded on the defendant’s criminal history. They can be found by anyone who performs a background check, like:
- potential employers,
- landlords, and
- government agencies.
When someone else discovers the prior criminal offense, they might take action. These are called collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. People with a criminal background face obstacles that other people do not. Even if the offense was just a Class C misdemeanor, it can be enough for a potential employer to decide to hire someone else.
Class C misdemeanors, however, can be expunged. This seals the record of conviction from public view. It can minimize the collateral consequences of the offense.
3. Is probation an option for convictions?
Because there is no jail time for a Class C misdemeanor, probation has nothing to replace in the sentencing phase. However, probation can be a part of deferred adjudication in a Class C misdemeanor case.
In these cases, probation requires a defendant to complete a probation sentence. The defendant has to spend the allotted time without violating a term of his or her probation. These terms can be strict. They often include:
- paying restitution,
- not getting arrested,
- paying probation fees and court costs,
- meeting regularly with a probation officer, and
- community service.
4. How does deferred adjudication work?
Deferred adjudication is a type of probation.
Defendants facing a Class C misdemeanor charge can plead guilty or no contest to receive deferred adjudication. Judges then finalize the case, but hold off on issuing a verdict. The defendant then has a chance to complete a term of probation.
If the defendant succeeds, the case is dismissed. It does not have to be expunged. The offense is never entered on the defendant’s criminal record.
If the defendant violates a term of his or her probation, the case resumes. It skips straight to sentencing because a guilty or no contest plea was already entered.
5. What are some examples?
Some examples of Class C misdemeanors include:
- Public intoxication (Penal Code 49.02),
- Assault by contact (Penal Code 22.01(a)(3)),
- Theft of less than $100 (Penal Code 31.03),
- Bail jumping (Penal Code 38.10),
- Possession of alcohol by a minor (Alcohol and Beverage Code 106.02),
- Disorderly conduct (Penal Code 42.01), and
- Attempted Class B misdemeanors (Penal Code 15.01).
- Texas Penal Code § 12.43(c).
- Texas Penal Code § 12.47(a).
- Texas Penal Code § 12.49.
- Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001).