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What’s the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

The terms felony and misdemeanor are ways of classifying the severity of a crime. Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies and result in a year or less in jail time. Felonies are very serious and you may find yourself in jail for a year or up to a lifetime. 


A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that can carry up to a year in jail time. These crimes are less serious than felonies, and you’ll likely serve out your sentence in a state jail. These crimes tend to be less serious and can encapsulate anything from possession of an ounce of weed to stealing a vehicle. The courts classify the level of your crime based on the severity of the crime and potential length of sentencing.

Class A misdemeanors are punishable by 6 months to 1 year in jail. The court can also order you to pay a fine of up to $4,000. You will also likely have to serve a two-year probation after your initial sentence ends. In Texas, you may receive this classification for crimes like vehicular burglary, or theft of property valued between $750 and $2,500. 

Class B misdemeanors can land you in jail for up to 180 days. You may also be required to pay as much as a $2,000 fine. Upon your release, you can expect to complete up to 2 years of probation. If this is your first offense, you may receive a deferred adjudication. This means that you can take a plea deal, and after probation, your case can be dismissed without a conviction. Class B misdemeanor offenses can include crimes like minor drug possession or a first-time DWI offense. 

Class C misdemeanors are considered the lowest level of criminal offense and are punishable by a fine of up to $500. With this classification, you still have the right to a trial, but you won’t serve any jail time. You are likely to receive a Class C Misdemeanor for traffic and parking violations, or theft of property under $100. You can also receive this classification for theft valued under $50.  


A felony conviction is very serious. Felonies are associated with crimes that hurt people or cause expensive damages. These crimes can include things like murder, rape, burglary, assault, kidnapping, or arson. Much like misdemeanors, felonies are classified based on the severity of the crime and punishment. 

Capital Felonies are typically punishable by death in Texas. If the prosecutor doesn’t seek the death penalty, you’ll face life in prison without parole. This felony is attributed to serious crimes like murder. 

First Degree Felonies are only associated with severe crimes and can result in imprisonment ranging from 5 to 99 years. You may also have to pay a fine as large as $10,000. People convicted of crimes like rape, kidnapping, and arson can expect to face these consequences. 

Second Degree Felonies are punishable by 2 to 20 years in state prison, and you may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000. People who commit crimes like selling between 5 and 50 pounds of marijuana or other comparable crimes are likely to receive this classification. 

Third Degree Felonies result in serving 2 to 10 years in prison. You may also be required to pay a fine of an amount up to $10,000. Crimes on the same scale as promoting sex work as a pimp or child abandonment may be classified as a third degree felony.

State Jail Felonies are the least severe felony classification. You will have to serve time in a state jail for anywhere between 180 days and 2 years. People that are charged with a state jail felony may have committed a crime like theft of property valued between $2,500 and $30,000. 

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