Infraction vs. Misdemeanor—What’s the Difference?

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If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in the state of Texas, you definitely want to know whether you are facing an infraction or a misdemeanor. The difference between the two as far as penalties and further consequences can be significant. Regardless of whether your offense is considered an infraction or a misdemeanor, it can be extremely helpful to have an experienced criminal defense attorney from Whalen Law Office helping you through the process, and working hard on your behalf for a positive outcome.

We understand that this can be a difficult time for you; if you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor you could potentially face jail time. At Whalen Law Office we will help you sort out your charges, then after a comprehensive evaluation of the evidence and your options, we will help you choose the best option for you.

What is an Infraction in Texas?

When considering an infraction vs. misdemeanor offense in the state of Texas, the primary difference is the associated potential of leniency based on how the offense is categorized. The punishments for both infractions and misdemeanors will also be influenced by whether this is your first such offense.

As an example, a conviction of a first-time infraction may receive a more lenient sentence than if this is your fourth or fifth such infraction, and the same is true for misdemeanor offenses. An infraction is the least severe type of criminal offense, typically not considered serious enough to warrant an arrest, but serious enough to result in some sort of law enforcement action. Some of the most common infractions in the state of Texas include:

  • Minor traffic violations
  • Jaywalking
  • Public nuisance charges
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating

When you commit an infraction, you will usually be informed of your actions by a law enforcement officer…as they write you a ticket. Punishments associated with infraction offenses include fines, community service, and possibly mandatory education classes.

What is a Misdemeanor Offense in Texas?

When considering infraction vs. misdemeanor offenses, a misdemeanor is in the middle range of crime categories in the state of Texas. A misdemeanor offense is more serious than an infraction, but not as serious as a felony offense. A misdemeanor can be further categorized by levels—A Class C misdemeanor, a Class B misdemeanor, and a Class A misdemeanor, with the Class A misdemeanor being the most serious of the three.

Misdemeanor offenses may be serious enough to warrant an arrest but are rarely serious enough to result in more than one year in jail. Typical misdemeanor offenses in the state include:

  • First-time DWI
  • Simple assault
  • Criminal mischief
  • Petty theft
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Drug crimes involving very small quantities
  • Certain traffic offenses
  • Writing a bad check
  • Shoplifting
  • Leaving a child in an automobile unattended
  • Criminal trespass
  • Weapons possession when the weapon in question is less dangerous
  • Public intoxication

For those who are under the age of 21, possession of alcohol or tobacco is charged as a misdemeanor offense. If you’ve committed a misdemeanor, you could potentially be arrested and booked into jail, depending on the offense. The bail amount for most misdemeanors is low, so most people arrested on a misdemeanor offense can make bail and get out of jail.

The typical penalties for a misdemeanor offense include less than a year in jail, probation, and fines. For example, a Class C misdemeanor penalty could be punished with a $500 fine, while a Class A misdemeanor could be punished by up to a year in jail, along with up to $4,000 in fines.

What Are the Differences Between an Infraction and a Misdemeanor?

There are other differences between an infraction vs. misdemeanor, primarily related to how difficult it can be to have the offense removed from your record. A Class C misdemeanor can be removed from your record 180 days from the date of your arrest, so long as all conditions have been properly met. Class A and Class B misdemeanors can potentially be expunged one year from the date of your arrest, but expungement is only possible in the following circumstances:

  • You must have been acquitted
  • The charges must have been dismissed
  • You must have been pardoned by the governor after being found guilty

If you were convicted of the misdemeanor offense, you may petition the court for an order of nondisclosure. This petition requires you to participate in community supervision, a variety of court-mandated programs, or to seek mental health or substance abuse counseling.

An infraction generally does not stay on your criminal record; a traffic ticket will stay on your driving record for three years in the state of Texas, beginning when you are convicted. The points associated with the traffic offense infraction will also remain on your record for three years.

While you may consider an infraction or a misdemeanor of little consequence, in fact, potential employers as well as potential landlords can see your criminal history. That criminal history could negatively influence decisions associated with employment and being able to rent a home. It’s a good idea to always have an experienced attorney take a look at your record to determine which offenses can be expunged or qualify for an order of non-disclosure. If you’ve recently been charged with a misdemeanor, you could definitely benefit from having an attorney from Whalen Law Office handle the charges. While misdemeanor charges are not as serious as felony charges, they can nonetheless land you in jail, cost you significant amounts of money, and remain on your record, further impacting your record.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney from Whalen Law Office Help with Your Infraction or Misdemeanor Charges?

At Whalen Law Office, we have the resources, knowledge, and skills necessary to help you obtain the best possible outcome following your criminal charges. We are always professional, bringing integrity, client service, and a stellar reputation to the table on your behalf. We will evaluate your charges, then help you determine the best course of action. Don’t wait to contact Whalen Law Office—we are ready to assist you whether you have been charged with an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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