One of the most important questions that you can ask when you find out you are facing criminal charges is what type of charge you are facing. The classification has a big impact on the possible penalties you are facing. It also affects how a conviction could impact you for the remainder of your life.

Criminal charges in Texas are divided into broad categories — misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are the least serious and felonies are the most serious. Here are some ways that these two categories differ.

Classes and degrees

Misdemeanor charges are divided into classes. Each class has specific penalties that are allowed. There are three classes, each of which are assigned a letter. Class A is the most serious. Class C is the least serious. Class B is in the middle. Most felony charges are divided into first, second and third degree felonies. Two other classifications are also possible — capital felony and state jail felony. From most serious to least serious, the charges are as follows:

–Capital felony

–First-degree felony

–Second-degree felony

–Third-degree felony

–State jail felony

Penalty ranges

Each class or degree of criminal charge has a specific penalty range associated with it. A capital felony comes with a penalty of execution. A first-degree felony comes with 5 to 99 years in prison. A second-degree felony is associated with 2 to 20 years in prison. A third-degree felony carries 2 to 10 years in prison. A state jail felony can mean 180 days to 2 years of incarceration. All felonies except a capital felony carries a fine of up to $10,000. A class A misdemeanor has up to 1 year in jail, while a class B misdemeanor is 180-day maximum. A class C misdemeanor doesn’t carry any incarceration period. Fines range from $500 up to $4,000 for misdemeanors.

Court of jurisdiction

Felony charges are heard in the district court. In the case of a conviction on a capital felony, the case is automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A class C misdemeanor is heard in the Justice of the Peace Court. A class A or B misdemeanor is heard in county court at law or the constitutional county court.

Severity of future impacts

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you will have a mark on your criminal history. This conviction likely won’t impact you in the same way that a felony conviction would. A felony conviction will mean that you are labeled as a felon for the rest of your life.