Have you been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor? Though less serious than felony offenses, misdemeanor charges can still result in hefty fines, terms of probation of up to two years, and even a lenghty term of incarceration in county jail. Under the Texas Penal Code, there are three types of misdemeanors, whose punishment range is as follows:
- Class “A”- up to 1 year in jail, and a fine up to $4,000.
- Class “B”- up to 180 days in jail, and a fine up to $2.000.
- Class “C”- no jail time, a fine up to $500.
In Texas, a misdemeanor is defined as any criminal offense for which a a jail term of less than one year, and a fine less than $4,000, can be imposed. Class “A” and “B” misdemeanor charges arise when a document known as an “information” is filed with the county clerk’s office. Class “C” misdemeanors are initiated by the filing of a “complaint.” In Texas, jurisdiction for Class “A” and “B” misdemeanors lies in either a county criminal court, or a county court-at-law. Class “C” misdemeanors are heard either in a municipal court, or by a justice of the peace in justice court.
Under the Texas Penal Code, all misdemeanors are subject to a two-year “statute of limitations.” For example, if you are arrested for “public intoxication,” the State must file charges against you within two years of the date on which you are alleged to have committed the offense. For example, if you were arrested on February 5, 2008, and the state files charges against you on February 9, 2010, your misdemeanor criminal defense attorney could file a “motion to dismiss for want of jurisdsdiction.” In the motion, your misdemeanor criminal defense lawyer would argue that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, because the complaint was not filed with the court within two year of the date on which the offense allegedly occurred. In this scenario, the court would be required, by law, to dismiss the misdemeanor charge against you, and you could not be prosecuted for it. In addition, you would be eligible for an expunction of this charge. An expunction, once granted, would destroy any criminal history information regarding your “public intoxication” charge, and you could deny, on job applications and in other circumstances, that you had ever been arrested or charged with a crime.
As with felonies, you have an absolute right to a jury trial if you are charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor jury trial is heard by a jury of six, who must agree unanimously upon a verdict. You have the right to call witnesses to testify for you, and cross-examine witnesses that might be presented against you. As a defendant, the U.S. Constitution provides that you enjoy the presumption of innocence. You are presumed innocent, unless the state can prove its case against you. The state has the burden of proof, and must prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the state fails in this regard, the presumption of innocence, in and of itself, is sufficient to acquit. A criminal defendant can, but is not required to put on any evidence, and can be found “not guilty” solely on this basis.
If you are convicted of a Class “A” or “B” misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to jail time. However, Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides that a defendant can receive “community supervision,” more commonly referred to as “probation,” rather than serving time in jail. Under Texas law, there are two types of probation: 1) regular probation AND 2) deferred adjudication (also known as “deferred disposition, when referring to Class “C” misdemeanors). If you receive regular probation, you are said to be “convicted” of the charge, and the case will appear permanently as part of your criminal history information with the Texas Department of Public Safety and other governmental and private entities, unless you are subsequently pardoned. On the other hand, if you receive deferred adjudication probation on a Class “A” or “B” misdemeanor, and successfully complete your probation, the case will be dismissed. Though it will still remain as part of your criminal history information, this type of dismissal allows you, in most cases, to seal your record from public view by means of an order of nondisclosure. In some cases, an order of nondisclosure is immediately available upon dismissal of the case. For other offenses, you must wait two years after the date on which your probation ends before you can petition the court for an order of nondisclosure.
Class “A” misdemeanors include offenses such as DWI/2nd offense, unlawfully carrying a weapon, possession of marijuana between two and four ounces, and theft over $500 but less than $1500. Class “B misdemeanors include DWI/1st offense, possession of marijuana under two ounces, and theft over $50 but less than $500. Class “C” misdemeanors include, among others, the following offenses: public intoxication, issuance of bad check, disorderly conduct, simple assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, manifesting purpose of prostitution, and theft under $50. Traffic ticket offenses are also considered Class “C” misdemeanors. As with felonies and other misdemeanors, you have an absolute right to plead “not guilty” and request a trial, either before a jury or a judge. If you are acquitted (i.e., found “not guilty” by a judge or jury) at trial, or your Class “C” misdemeanor case is dismissed, either by deferred disposition under Article 45.051(e) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, or by any other means, you are immediately eligible to expunge the charge. Once an expunction (also, “expungement”) is granted, the charge no longer appears on your record. All governmental files regarding the case are destroyed, and all related information is deleted from any governmental entity’s compunters, including any criminal history information maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you need an experienced misdemeanor criminal defense lawyer. We want to help you! Our Dallas County misdemeanor criminal defense attorneys can represent and defend you against any Texas Misdemeanor Charge, not only in Dallas County, but also in Collin, Tarrant, Ellis, Rockwall, and Denton County. At Berlof & Newton, P.C., we will aggressively defend you, and use every lawful means possible to get you the best possible outcome in your case. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in Dallas, Ellis, Rockwall, Tarrant, Denton, or Collin County, you need a criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about misdemeanor criminal defense representation. Look no further. The criminal defense attorneys at Berlof & Newton, P.C. can help. Call us now @ 214.827.2800 or use the contact form on this website.
Also, if a friend or loved one is in jail on a misdemeanor, call us at 214.699.7975. Our Dallas bail bond attorney can not only represent them in court, but also post their bond, and help them
get out of jail… FAST!