Texas has not established a large number of assault and battery laws. In Texas, these crimes are all charged as misdemeanor or felony assault. If you are charged with an assault crime in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, discuss your case with a Dallas criminal defense lawyer immediately.
What constitutes assault in the State of Texas? If you are charged with an assault crime in this state, what are your legal rights, and what steps will you need to take? If you’ll continue to read this brief introduction to the assault laws in Texas, these questions are about to be answered.
How Are Assault Crimes Categorized by Texas Law?
Assaults in this state may be charged as Class C, B, or A misdemeanors or as third-, second-, or first-degree felonies. A specific assault charge will be determined by the extent of the alleged victim’s injuries, the particulars of the charge, and the assault defendant’s prior criminal history.
“Simple” assault happens in Texas when someone knowingly, recklessly, and/or intentionally causes or threatens to cause bodily injury to someone else or when someone knowingly and/or intentionally engages in offensive or provocative physical contact with someone else.
Simple assault is typically charged as a Class C misdemeanor, but it becomes a Class A misdemeanor when the victim is a disabled or elderly person. Simple assault is a Class B misdemeanor if the victim is a sports official or a participant during a sports event.
What Is Assault With Bodily Injury?
An assault that causes bodily injury will be charged as a Class A misdemeanor (with exceptions discussed in the next section). Defendants who receive misdemeanor convictions in Texas face the following maximum penalties:
- for Class A misdemeanor convictions, a year in county jail and/or a $4,000 fine
- for Class B misdemeanor convictions, 180 days in county jail and/or a fine of $2,000
- for Class C misdemeanor convictions, a fine of $500
When Is an Assault Charge a Felony Charge?
However, assault with bodily injury becomes a felony in the third degree if the perpetrator knew that the victim was working in his or her official capacity as a:
- public servant
- government employee or contractor at a correctional, treatment, or rehabilitation facility\
- a security guard
- a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or another emergency services responder
Causing bodily injury to someone who is pregnant or committing repeated acts of domestic assault may also be charged as a felony in the third degree. Third-degree felony assault charges are punishable upon conviction with two to ten years in a state prison and/or a fine as high as $10,000.
Assault is a felony in the second degree when someone attacks and causes bodily injury to a law enforcement officer or a judge in reaction to that public servant’s official duties. Second-degree felony assault convictions may be penalized with two to twenty years in a state prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
What Constitutes Aggravated Assault?
Texas law defines aggravated assault as “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another person” or “using or exhibiting a deadly weapon in the course of committing any assault crime, including threatening another with bodily injury or engaging in conduct that the victim likely will find offensive.”
Aggravated assault may be charged as a second-degree felony, or in the circumstances listed below, aggravated assault may be charged as a first-degree felony:
- the perpetrator used a deadly weapon, committed a domestic assault, and caused serious bodily injury
- the defendant is a government employee who was acting in an official capacity when the crime occurred
- the perpetrator assaulted someone while knowing that the victim was a government employee or a security guard
- the perpetrator committed the crime as retaliation against an informant, witness, or someone who reported criminal activity
- the perpetrator shot a firearm from a moving vehicle at a residence, building, or another motor vehicle with reckless disregard for the occupants, and caused serious bodily injury
As mentioned previously, a second-degree assault conviction may be penalized with two to twenty years in a Texas prison and/or a $10,000 fine. A first-degree assault conviction is punishable with five to ninety-nine years in a state prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Are There Other Penalties?
An injured assault victim may bring a lawsuit in a Texas civil court to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and related losses. A conviction on a criminal assault charge almost guarantees the success of a victim’s lawsuit in such cases.
If you hold a professional license in Texas, an assault conviction may generate disciplinary action by your professional licensing board. If you are not a United States citizen, an assault conviction may trigger a deportation proceeding.
How Will Your Attorney Fight an Assault Charge?
If you are charged with assault, can you counter the charge with a claim of self-defense? That depends on the particulars of the incident and how you reacted if you were struck first.
When you claim self-defense, you are confessing to behavior that could be deemed assault in another circumstance, so your Dallas assault attorney will need to offer persuasive evidence that you acted within the law and in self-defense.
How does Texas law define self-defense? The best way to define it is to explain what self-defense is not. If someone punches you once, stops, and is obviously finished, you cannot legally retaliate and return the blow.
What Is Allowed in Your Self-Defense? What Isn’t?
A retaliation assault when someone no longer threatens you is legally a second assault. You are allowed to protect yourself against perceived threats, but in Texas, you may not retaliate when a threat has passed.
If the assault charge against you cannot be dropped or dismissed, and if your assault case goes to trial, it will be up to a jury to decide if you acted legally in self-defense.
If jurors find that you acted justifiably in self-defense, you will be found not guilty of assault, but if they believe that you retaliated and/or overreacted, the law will require the jury to convict you of the assault charge.
If you are charged with assault in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, your best chance for avoiding an assault conviction – or winning a favorable plea deal if your conviction is certain – is by working with the right Dallas criminal defense lawyer. Make the call as soon as possible after an assault arrest.