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Not "Just a Misdemeanor:" When Small Charges Have Big Consequences

Mark Thiessen

Anyone who’s either been personally or indirectly involved with the criminal justice system—aka “caught in the system”—knows that a felony charge is major bad news. The bail is higher, the potential consequences are more severe and the damage to your personal reputation may be almost irreparable. A misdemeanor on the other hand? You just pay a fine, do your community service and then life goes on… right?

Not so fast.

Depending on the specific charge and/or your legal background, even being accused of a misdemeanor offense can strip you of some key rights. Before you dismiss your misdemeanor offense as “no big deal,” make sure you understand what’s at stake to be better prepared of how to defend your freedoms should you find yourself in a bad situation.

Understanding the Different Types of Misdemeanors in Texas

In Texas, there are three categories of misdemeanor offenses, each with their own range of penalties.

  • Class C Misdemeanors: The least severe category, Class C misdemeanors are ticketable offenses that can only be punished by a maximum $500 fine. Common Class C misdemeanors include traffic violations, possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct and theft of property worth less than $50. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § § 12.03, 12.23 for more details.
  • Class B Misdemeanors: A Class B offense can result in your arrest upon accusation with maximum penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 if convicted. Common Class B misdemeanors include possession of marijuana (up to two ounces), first offense DWI, criminal trespass and criminal mischief. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.22 for more details.
  • Class A Misdemeanors: Class A charges are reserved for the most severe misdemeanor offenses and are punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000. Common Class A misdemeanors include resisting/evading arrest, assault causing bodily injury, assault involving a family member and third offense DWI. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.21 for more details.

While it is incredibly rare that a Class C misdemeanor would result in any consequence larger than a fine, both Class A & B misdemeanors can result in consequences beyond the basic range of penalties mentioned above.

Misdemeanors and Your Right to Bear Arms

Gun ownership may be a constitutional right, but even in Texas, that right can be stripped away if you aren’t careful. While most know that convicted felons aren’t legally permitted to own a firearm, the state of Texas can still restrict your second amendment rights for even being accused of certain misdemeanors like DWI, assault or disorderly conduct.

If you are arrested for and legally accused of a Class A or B misdemeanor, your License to Carry (LTC) will be automatically suspended. This also applies to people accused of a Class C misdemeanor involving “Disorderly Conduct.” Examples of misbehavior include:

  • Public fighting
  • Indecent exposure
  • Publicly threatening or otherwise abusing people in public
  • Behaving in a blatantly offensive way that constitutes a breach of peace

Technically, “creating a noxious odor in public” also qualifies as a Class C Disorderly Conduct offense, but we’ve yet to see someone lose their LTC over a fart!

If either you’re formally acquitted of your charges or they were dropped by the prosecutor, your LTC will be automatically restored. However, if you are convicted or plead your case down through deferred adjudication or deferred disposition, your LTC will be revoked for five full years, at which point you will then be able to reapply.

Misdemeanors and Your Right to Drive

Unlike the right to bear arms, the right to drive a car is not constitutionally granted—this means it can be taken away by the government as they see fit. A person’s driver’s license can be suspended for a range of misdemeanor offenses within the following three main categories.

  • Drug Crimes: If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor drug-related offense such as possession, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to 180 days. This suspension can occur regardless of whether or not your car was involved in the crime. In some cases, you may also be required to attend and complete a drug education course before your license can be reinstated. Keep in mind this is valid even if it’s been longer than 180 days since the initial suspension.
  • DWI: If you are convicted of a DWI in Texas, your driver's license could be suspended for up to two years. Your license can also be automatically suspended for refusing or failing a roadside sobriety test, requiring you and your lawyer to contest the suspension at an ALR hearing. Additionally, minors convicted of any alcohol-related offense including possession can be hit with a driver’s license suspension.
  • Traffic Violations: If left unpaid or racked up habitually, tickets for Class C misdemeanors like speeding can result in a suspended driver’s license. Under Texas law, anyone cited for four or more moving traffic violations within a 12-month period or seven or more offenses in a 24-month period is subject to having their license suspended.

And don’t forget: driving on a suspended license is a minimum Class C misdemeanor in of itself! This offense could result in additional fines, a longer suspension and even arrest.

Misdemeanors and Visitation Rights

In the state of Texas, a child’s well-being always comes before the wishes of their parents. If you are separated from your spouse and in the midst of a custody dispute, even a misdemeanor can impact your visitation rights as a parent.

Unlike your right to carry a firearm or drive, the range of misdemeanors which can impact your visitation rights aren’t so neatly defined. Because a child’s well-being can be impacted by a wide-range of factors, even the smallest criminal conviction can be used to impact your visitation rights should the judge decide they’re relevant to the child’s well-being. Some of the most common misdemeanor offenses that can limit your ability to see your child include:

  • Assault (especially when a family member is involved)
  • DWI
  • Drug possession
  • Public intoxication
  • Solicitation

Don’t Let a Misdemeanor Accusation Take Your Rights Away

No one should have their rights taken from them based on unfair accusations. If you’ve been arrested and accused of a misdemeanor offense, do not take your situation lightly. Fight back and defend your rights with the help of Super Lawyer Mark Thiessen and his team at the Thiessen Law Firm. We understand how much your rights mean to you and will work hand-in-hand with you along each step of the way to ensure they’re protected.

Get your case off to the right start. Call 713-864-9000 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation today!

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