For many people in Harris and Galveston counties, their first run-in with the law will be over a misdemeanor charge. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies. In Texas, a misdemeanor is defined as any criminal offense where the maximum penalty is no more than one year in jail. There are different classes of misdemeanors–ranging from Class A to Class C–which cover a number of different kinds of petty offenses.
Here are a few of the more common misdemeanors you might encounter:
- Simple Assault
Assault occurs when one person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. In Texas simple assault is usually considered a Class A misdemeanor unless the victim of is a public servant or government contractor performing an official function.
- Disorderly Conduct
This refers to a broad range of “bad behavior,” including making an offensive statement or gesture designed to “incite an immediate breach of the peace” or exposing oneself in public. Disorderly conduct is usually prosecuted as a Class C misdemeanor.
- Public Intoxication
Getting drunk is not a crime. But if you are in a public place intoxicated to the point where you may endanger yourself or someone else, you can be charged with public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor.
- Driving While Intoxicated
Of course, if you get behind the wheel while drunk, that is a whole different story. A first DUI offense is considered a Class B misdemeanor. If you have a prior DUI conviction, however, the charge may be upgraded to a felony.
Obviously, theft is when you take property that does not belong to you. Whether theft is a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the property stolen. If you shoplift a pair of jeans worth less than $100, it is a Class C misdemeanor. Once the value of the theft is $2,500 or more, however, it is a felony.
- Criminal Trespass
Trespassing means you are on someone else’s property after receiving notice that entry is forbidden. This can mean ignoring a “no trespassing” sign or ignoring the owner’s demand that you leave the property.
Betting on the outcome of any game or sporting event (outside a state-approved venue like a racetrack) is a misdemeanor offense. This includes your weekly poker game or that football betting pool at the office.
- Traffic Violations
Perhaps the most common type of misdemeanor in Texas is a citation for violating state and local traffic laws. If you receive a traffic ticket and are ordered to appear in court, you are in fact being charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
- Passing a Bad Check
Although electronic payments are more commonplace, many people still pay bills with personal checks. If you issue a check knowing you do not have sufficient funds in your account–i.e., you pass a bad check–that is a Class C misdemeanor.
- Criminal Mischief
“Criminal mischief” is another way of saying vandalism. It is a misdemeanor to intentionally damage someone else’s property. A common example of criminal mischief is graffiti.
Have You Been Charged With a Misdemeanor in Houston?
These are only a sample of the types of misdemeanor crimes prosecuted everyday in Harris and Galveston Counties. While a misdemeanor may not seem like a big deal, a conviction can have permanent effects. If you are facing any type of misdemeanor charge and need help from an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in League City today.