Understanding Criminal Law in Texas

The Purpose of Criminal Law

Texas is tough on crime, yet serious criminal offenses still take place throughout the state. Criminal law describes the behaviors that are discouraged and the penalties for those convicted of breaking them. These laws also protect the innocent by ensuring fair trials for the accused and reasonable penalties that justly match the severity of the crime for those convicted.

Types of Criminal Activity

Criminal law punishes violations of the law that cause deliberate or intentional harm to another person or their property. Crimes of physical harm include categories like assault, battery, rape, and murder. Property crimes include burglary, shoplifting, robbery, and carjacking. Government prosecutors decide which charges to pursue in court based on evidence gathered by police investigators.

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Misdemeanor Crimes

For minor crimes such as possession of less than two ounces of marijuana or stealing less than $50 worth of property, an offender can be charged with a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by fines and up to one year in the county jail, plus the consequences that come afterwards.

Felony Crimes

A felony charge is made when a more severe crime has been committed. Felonies include murder, sexual assault, distributing illegal drugs, and armed robbery. Except in the case of a county jail felony, convictions lead to at least two years in prison. Capital felonies can result in life in prison or the death penalty.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

For serious crimes, a criminal lawyer is essential to ensure that a charged person receives a fair trial. Attorneys make certain that court procedures are followed and that investigators have used approved methods of gathering evidence. They also help their clients by negotiating the severity of the charges so that the penalty fits the crime.

Statute of Limitations

The state of Texas has a statute of limitations that restricts the prosecution of crimes after a certain amount of time has passed. For misdemeanors this is usually two years. The limit is longer for felonies with varying lengths averaging around seven years.