The negative effects of a Class A misdemeanor should never be underestimated. These non-felony charges can lead to sizable fines, jail time and ongoing struggles in both professional and personal matters. Understanding the consequences of this charge, as well as your rights and your legal options is key to protecting yourself.
What is a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas?
A Class A Misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by law, carrying a sentence of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4000, or both. Misdemeanors are distinguished from felonies which are considered to be more serious offenses, and punishable by a state or federal prison term and higher fines.
Class A Misdemeanor in the Texas Penal Code
The Texas State Penal Code designates criminal offenses as either felonies or misdemeanors. Depending on the relative seriousness of the offense, misdemeanors are classified into three categories:
(1) Class A misdemeanors;
(2) Class B misdemeanors;
(3) Class C misdemeanors.
(b) An offense designated a misdemeanor in this code without specification as to punishment or category is a Class C misdemeanor.
(c) Conviction of a Class C misdemeanor does not impose any legal disability or disadvantage.
Class A Misdemeanor Examples
Class A misdemeanors encompass a range of offenses, including but not limited to the following:
- Evading arrest on foot
- Cruelty to animals
- Public lewdness
- Resisting arrest
- Unlawful restraint
- Gambling promotion
- Burglary of a vehicle
- Online impersonation
- DWI (second offense)
- Theft of property valued at $750 or higher but not to exceed $2500
- Drunk driving without injury to others
- Assault with bodily injury (Penal Code 22.01)
- Violating a protective order (Penal Code 25.07)
- Criminal trespass: only when habitations, residential treatment, or shelter centers are involved. Otherwise, this charge will receive a Class B or Class C designation.
When Can a Class A Misdemeanor Be Enhanced into a Felony?
In certain instances, a Class A misdemeanor can be enhanced. When this happens, it is treated as a felony offense. This enhancement takes place when certain elements regarding the nature and details of the crime are met.
This is often related to habitual offenders or crimes committed against vulnerable or protected individuals (children, the elderly, the disabled), crimes committed on the basis of bias or prejudice or when the accused commits the crime in a designated disaster or evacuation area. For example:
- Assault, theft or family violence all carry the potential to become a felony when the individual had a previous conviction for the same or similar offense
- If someone commits the crime in certain locations, such as drug crimes in school zones
- If the victim was a minor
- When the accused has prior convictions, either in Texas or another state.
- If the individual used a weapon during the crime
- Assaulting a first responder, public servant or process server while they are on duty
- Assaulting a pregnant woman
A few specific examples include:
- Forgery committed against an elderly victim can become a state jail felony (Penal Code 32.21(e-2)),
- Burglarizing a vehicle, business or home in a disaster area can become a state jail felony (Penal Code 12.50).
- If there exists the intent to get a response by emergency personnel, online harassment by impersonation becomes a third degree felony (Penal Code 33.07(b)
As you can see from the examples above, most enhanced misdemeanors become state jail felonies, which carry a potential two-year jail sentence and/or fines not exceeding $10,000.
Occasionally, the enhancement of a Class A misdemeanor can yield a third degree felony, which can result in up to 10 years in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalties for a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas
In Texas, Class A misdemeanors carry a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and up to $4000 in fines. The judge may allow the accused to serve their prison time intermittently, during off-work hours such as weekends or even under house arrest.
The judge also carries the power to make allowances for community supervision (probation) in lieu of jail time, or even deferred adjudication, two concepts expanded upon later in this article.
Collateral Consequences of a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas
In addition to those consequences handed down by the court, a Class A misdemeanor can have several “collateral” consequences that affect one’s work and family life, along with one’s relationships, financial stability, living situation, parental rights and more.
The severity of these additional effects on the defendant’s life depends partially on the severity of the crime and the resulting sentence. Some of these consequences include:
- Inability to obtain or renew a business license
- Reduced time or complete loss of employment because of jail time
- Restricted access to loans or financial aid programs
- Negative impact on one’s reputation and relationships
- Exclusion from government contracts
- Loss of immigration status
- Inability to obtain certain kinds of government assistance
- Restrictions on child custody rights
- Prohibition on owning firearms
No matter how minor you might believe a criminal offense is, the resulting consequences can be widespread and long-lasting. Avoiding criminal activity in the first place is your best option. Otherwise, partnering with the right attorney is the most important building block of a good strategy.
Probation for a Class A Misdemeanor Conviction in Texas
As an alternative to imposing a jail sentence, judges may grant probation when the circumstances and the seriousness of the crime suggest that the probationer does not pose a threat to society and when the judge believes that incarceration is not an appropriate punishment.
Just because a judge grants someone probation instead of time in jail does not remove the seriousness of the offense. Probation carries a number of conditions that must be followed for the entirety of one’s probationary period. Some of these conditions include:
- Substance abuse classes or group meetings
- Community service
- Fines and restitution
- Probation officer calls or meetings
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Travel restrictions
- Refraining from all criminal activity
- Continued regular employment
- Not associating with known criminals
- Payment of court-ordered fines, fees and restitution
- Submission to warrantless searches
- Having an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on one’s vehicle
- Submit to continual location monitoring through GPS or other forms of electronic equipment
It is important to note that the jail sentence only remains suspended so long as the individual does not violate the conditions of their probation. If this should happen, the accused may incur new penalties, heightened restrictions and even the revocation of their probation and time in jail.
Another possible option is deferred adjudication. In return for a guilty plea to the charge(s), the judge holds off on sentencing, often for a period of two years. Much like with probation, certain conditions take effect. If the accused abides by these requirements, there are no further punishments applied. However, penalties for violating these conditions can be serious.
One of the most attractive aspects of deferred adjudication is the ability to have the charge kept off of one’s criminal record. This doesn’t happen automatically. The individual must file a petition of non-disclosure. And this, only after a waiting period of up to two years following the end of the deferred adjudication period.
The Best Strategy to Fight a Class A Misdemeanor Conviction in Texas
Remember, both the immediate and long-term effects can be severe for those accused of a Class A misdemeanor. You risk significant fines and jail time, along with numerous collateral consequences that can impact your life, freedoms, parental rights, work access, immigration status, reputation and relationships.
If you’re facing Class A misdemeanor charges, it is imperative that you fight these charges as hard as you can to protect your freedoms and your well-being. Your best strategy always begins with hiring a skilled attorney who understands the system and can advocate strongly for your rights.
State of Texas Penal Code
Tite 3. Punishments
Chapter 12. Punishments
Subchapter A. General Provisions
Harris County Managed Assigned Counsel
About Texas Misdemeanors
Texas Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences
Overview of Misdemeanor Classifications, Penalties, Enhancements, and Sentencing Options in Texas
By Rebecca Pirius, Attorney
Updated April 26, 2022
Collateral Consequences Resource Center
Appreciating the Full Consequences of a Misdemeanor
By Alexandra Natapoff
May 10, 2018
The University of Texas at Austin
The Texas Politics Project
Crimes and Punishments
Parole and Probation Law
Cornell Law School
Legal Information Institute (LII)
Texas State Attorney General
Penal Code Offenses by Punishment Range
Including Updates from the 85th Legislative Session
Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.