Crimes can be committed in various capacities, and every single one is viewed differently by both the law and society, depending on the nature and severity of the offense. In order to ensure the repercussions of a crime are proportionate to the actual misconduct, the Texas Penal Code classifies crimes using a determinate sentencing structure. The sentencing rules establish a rationale for what punishment would be considered consistent for any given crime.
Although the penal code is complex and features many variations and exceptions, here is a general guide that’ll help you in identifying and comparing different crimes on the basis of their nature, severity, and the punishment warranted.
Classification of Crimes
Factors that influence the sentencing for a particular crime include your criminal history, the intent of why you committed the crime, whether there was a victim, and whether you show genuine remorse.
Felony charges, often considered ‘true crimes,’ are the highest degree of offenses according to Texas law. These crimes often involve violence, the use of weapons, or cause a great deal of harm to the victims. Most felony charges are violent by nature, but physical harm isn’t a mandatory qualifying factor for a crime to be considered a felony. Examples of non-violent felonies are tax evasions, money laundering, and theft—all of which involve monetary damage and loss.
Felonies are further divided into different degrees, all of which warrant different levels of severity in punishment. At the higher end of the range, a capital felony is punishable by death and often involves offenses such as homicide. First-degree felonies may warrant a life sentence and a fine of thousands of dollars and often involve crimes as severe as the sexual assault of a child. Second-degree felonies involve crimes like domestic violence and can result in up to two decades of imprisonment.
Third-degree felonies are usually much less severe, often involving the possession of marijuana, and can result in 2 to 10 years of imprisonment.
Misdemeanor charges are less severe than felonies, and penalties usually involve fines of up to $4000. Crimes that fall under this classification are not as violent and warrant much shorter jail sentences.
Class A Misdemeanor—1-year prison sentence (e.g., carrying a gun without a license).
Class B Misdemeanor—up to 180 days in prison (e.g., possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana)
Class C Misdemeanor—no time in prison, only a fine of up to $500 (e.g., property theft that amounts to $50 or less)
Minor offenses are crimes that are the least severe in nature. If you commit a minor offense, you may be let off only with a warning or get imprisoned for three months or fewer. Traffic offenses such as reckless driving or hunting without a license qualify for this category of crimes.
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