HOW TO BEAT AN ASSAULT CHARGE IN TEXAS: A FORMER DA BREAKS DOWN THE LAW OF ASSAULT (2021)

 

Strong Defense for Assault Charges – Fort Worth TX – Free Consultation

If you or someone you know has been arrested for assault charges in Tarrant County or Fort Worth, Texas, we can help. Jeff Hampton is an experienced assault lawyer with a deep understanding of Texas criminal code and the Tarrant County courts. If you are facing felony or misdemeanor assault charges, the criminal lawyers at The Hampton Law firm are the defense team you need on your side.

Under Texas Penal Code, Section 5: Offenses Against the Person, Section 22.01, the State of Texas will be required to prove specific elements of an assault charge beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of assault charges.  The prosecutors must prove that you intentionally caused bodily harm, you threatened someone with violence or physical harm, or you touched a person knowing they would find it offensive, provocative, or both.

We Defend People Charged with Felony & Misdemeanor Assault Including

And many other charges involving allegations of violent behavior or threats. Give our law firm a call to see if we can take your case.

Types of Assault Crimes in Texas

Aggravated Assault. Under Texas law, Texas Penal Code Ann. § 22.02 Aggravated Assault, you have committed an aggravated assault if you have committed an assault and, in the process, caused serious bodily injury to another person (including serious bodily injury caused in domestic violence cases where the abuse is directed at the spouse of the accused). If domestic violence is a factor or the alleged victim was a public servant or government worker the charges can be enhanced to a third degree felony.

A determining factor as to whether you are charged with aggravated assault will be whether a serious bodily injury occurred or whether a deadly weapon was displayed or used during the alleged assault. If one of these aggravating factors is present in your case, you could be charged with the second degree felony crime of aggravated assault punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000. That’s why we strongly urge you to hire an assault charge lawyer if you are in this situation.

Simple Assault. Texas differs from many other states in this, as many states make a distinction between battery (physical injury or offensive contact) and assault (credible threat of a battery). According to Texas Penal Code Ann. § 22.01 Assault, a simple assault crime(or assault without aggravating circumstances or factors that can cause enhancements) is defined three ways:

  • First, an assault crime can involve someone causing injury or physical harm to a person. The person must have caused bodily injury knowingly, intentionally, or with reckless disregard.
  • Second, an assault charge can involve threatening a person (or their spouse/partner) with violence or physical harm either intentionally or knowingly. This kind of assault charge involves no actual physical contact, only words or other actions that allegedly threaten someone.
  • Third, an assault by contact charge involves allegation that someone knowingly or intentionally provoked someone with physical contact, allegedly intending to provoke or offend the other person.
    • Examples can include: a finger on the chest, a hand on the shoulder, a hand on the back, or even an accidental bump or graze.

A first-time simple assault without an aggravating circumstances or enhancements is classified as a class C misdemeanor.

For the charge of assault to apply, the prosecution must be able to prove that you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly committed the alleged assault. If you acted out of self-defense, the charge of assault does not apply.

In Texas, simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor. There is no jail time for a Class C misdemeanor, although you will be required to pay a fine of up to $500. Additionally, if convicted, you will be left with a criminal record of violent crime.

The following circumstances elevate the charge of simple assault to aggravated assault:

  • Use of an object designed or adapted to serve the purpose of serious bodily injury, even if that object was used to threaten rather than to commit actual bodily harm.
  • Inflicting serious bodily injury on the victim that causes a substantial risk of death or permanent disfigurement or disability.
  • The assault was committed against a public servant or public official while in the course of that person’s official duties, or in retaliation for that person’s official duties.
  • The assault was committed in relation to a sports performance.
  • The offense was committed against an elderly person.
  • The assault was committed against someone with whom the defendant has an intimate or family relationship.

Depending on the nature of the aggravating factors and the defendant’s prior criminal records, these factors could lead to a higher-level misdemeanor charge, or to felony-level charges.

Sexual Assault. According to Texas Penal Code Ann. § 22.011 Sexual Assault, a person commits sexual assault if they contact or penetrate someone’s mouth, anus, or sexual organs either intentionally or knowingly. This includes sexual contact or penetration with someone who is unconscious, someone impaired by drugs or alcohol, and provoking or coercing someone to participate in a sex act when they have a mental illness or condition that prohibits their understanding of the situation or ability to resist it.

Sexual assault is considered a second degree felony in Texas if there are no prior convictions or aggravating circumstances involved.

Assault with Serious Bodily Injury. For an assault charge to be classified as causing serious bodily injury, the alleged victim must suffer grave injuries or death. According to Texas Penal Code § 1.07 Definitions, a person causes assault with serious bodily injury if the victim is killed, their injury led to death, the victim is left with an impairment, loses the use of a body part or member, or is permanently disabled or disfigured from the assault.

Assault with serious bodily injury is usually a second degree felony charge in Texas, barring any enhancements or aggravating factors like firearms or family member involvement.

Texas Assault Charges Can Vary Greatly Depending on The Victim

Assault charges are fueled by a variety of different intentions. A person who gets heated and decks someone at a bar may not be considered as dangerous as a person who assaults a police officer while they are in the line of duty, and Texas understands that not all incidents of assault should result in the same charges.

If you have been charged with assault or fear getting charged with assault in the near future, think back to the incident. What was your relationship to the alleged victim? What were they doing at the time of the incident? Were they on the clock?

All of these questions may seem trivial, but Texas places great emphasis on who the alleged victim is and what they were doing at the time of the assault. In most cases, a victim with a certain position or relationship to the defendant will result in elevated charges.

Below is a list of people who may affect assault charges. If the alleged victim in your assault case fits any of these descriptions, talk to a defense lawyer immediately. Your defense strategy may change depending on the victim involved in the incident.

Sports Participants

We all know how heated a tight game can be. In fact, the charges against assaulting a sports participant are less severe in Texas than a typical assault charge.

However, a bad call from a referee is not an excuse for violence. Texas law specifically notes that an audience member or fan that commits assault against a sports participant is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

The intention behind this assault must be associated with the participant; maybe the defendant was angry about a bad call or the player’s performance in the game. A random assault of a person who just so happens to play softball will not result in escalated charges.

Elderly, Disabled, or Pregnant Individuals

Elderly or disabled individuals have more protections in Texas than younger or more able-bodied people. If someone assaults an elderly or disabled person, the assault charges will be increased to a third degree felony.

Similar charges apply when a pregnant women is involved. If the defendant committed assault against a pregnant woman in order to harm the fetus, the assault charges will be increased to a third degree felony.

People Who Hold Certain Positions

The job that a person holds could also have a big impact on the assault charges that you face. Assaulting a law enforcement officer who is on call to keep the community safe, for example, is deemed a more serious offense than doing the same to a person who is walking through town without any specified duties.

If you assault a person who holds any of the following positions, you may face a class A misdemeanor assault charge:

  • Peace officer
  • Judge
  • Security officer
  • Public servant
  • Emergency services personnel (this includes volunteers)
  • Person under contract with the state (Child Protective Services, etc.)

Again, there are exceptions to this rule. The victim must be performing the duties of their job during the assault in order for charges to be elevated. If a peace officer is off-duty and is randomly assaulted on the street, the defendant will not face elevated charges.

Your Spouse or Significant Other

In 2016, 146 women were killed by an intimate partner in the state of Texas alone. Domestic violence is an epidemic, and when it’s left unchecked, it can result in larger incidents of violence, including – some argue – mass shootings.

This makes the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim very important. If the case turns out to be an incident of domestic violence, the charges come with different penalties.

An incident is considered “domestic” or “family” violence when a person causes bodily harm against:

  • A family member
  • A member of their household (i.e. roommate)
  • Their significant other or spouse
  • A former significant other or spouse

Domestic violence is a third-degree felony. There are extra penalties that come with a domestic violence conviction in Texas. According to federal law, domestic violence offenders are not allowed to possess or purchase firearms.

Offenders may also face protection orders or counseling that specifically deals with the domestic violence.

Other Aggravating Factors in Texas Assault Cases

If none of the above apply to your case, you shouldn’t breathe easy just yet. Other aggravating factors may increase the charges against you. The following factors may result in heavier or additional charges:

Each assault case in Texas is different. Stay informed about your individual charges to build the best defense strategy.

Factors Affecting Severity of Punishment for Assault Crimes in Texas

Depending upon the circumstances of the case and the severity of the injuries involved, the crime of assault may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If the assault did not cause any bodily injury or harm and was only an offensive touching, the crime is categorized as a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine only of up to $500.

If the assault caused bodily injury against the victim, the crime is categorized as a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in a Tarrant County jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine.

However, Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Section 22.01(b) states that an assault can be classified as a 3rd degree felony if the offense is committed against a person the actor knows is a public servant while the public servant is lawfully discharging an official duty, or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant. Under Texas law, a 3rd degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Defending Yourself against Texas Assault Charges

No matter the type of Texas assault charges you are facing, a conviction will leave you with a criminal record of violent crime, which can hinder nearly every aspect of life, including:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Child custody

This means that it’s imperative to develop the best possible defense strategy to beat or reduce your charges. The best assault defense strategy depends on the circumstances of the alleged offense in question.

Your attorney will evaluate the specifics of your case and develop a defense based on the evidence for and against you. Common assault defenses include:

  • Self-defense, in which you were reacting to a credible threat of harm, had a fear of harm, did not provoke or harm anyone first, and did not have any way to avoid the situation.
  • Protection of another person or of property against harm or a credible threat of harm.
  • The alleged victim consented to the assault, such as in an arranged fight.

No matter who you are, assault charges are nothing to mess around with. If you find that you’re facing charges, fast and immediate action is imperative to avoid the life-changing consequences of a conviction.

An experienced assault crime attorney will discuss these and other possible defenses with you and weigh the risks and benefits of each to determine which defense strategy makes the most sense for your case. If you are in North Texas, call The Hampton Law Firm to make an appointment for legal counsel.

Hate Crime Assault Is Much More Serious Than Regular Assault in Texas

Many believe the mere existence of the Texas Hate Crime Act is an important declaration to Texas residents that hate will not be tolerated. Others, like Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg feel that low conviction numbers mean the law is failing Texas minority residents.

It’s easy to understand this latter argument. After all, compared to the number of hate crimes reported, Texas does have a relatively low conviction rate, and Ogg isn’t the only one questioning the state’s commitment. One thing that can’t be argued, though, is that Texas has come a long way over the last two decades in terms of how seriously the state charges hate crimes.

Nowhere is this truer than with assault, and the differences between the consequences you can face for regular assault versus hate crime assault are striking.

A Brief History on Texas Hate Crime Legislation

The Texas Hate Crimes Act defines hate crimes as those that are motivated by prejudice, hatred, or the advocacy of violence, including but not limited to incidents for which statistics are or were kept under Public Law 101-275 (the Federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act).

Though legislation against hate crimes was introduced in 1993 in Texas, efforts were stifled due to conservative concerns with offering protection to the LGBTQ community – until the infamous 1998 Jasper murder. In that case, avowed white supremacists chained a young black man, James Byrd Jr., to a pickup truck bumper and dragged him for two miles, killing him after his head and right arm were severed.

Even then, it took three more years to finalize those efforts begun in the early ‘90s, when then-Gov. Rick Perry finally signed the Texas Hate Crimes Act into law in 2001.

Since then, violations against selected groups within Texas have been considered a threat to the safety of Texans. To quantify these incidents of bias-based crimes, the Texas Hate Crimes Act directed every law enforcement agency within Texas to report bias offenses to the Department of Public Safety.

How the Law Applies to Texas Assault Cases Today

The Texas Penal Code says of penalties associated with offenses committed because of bias or prejudice, “the punishment for the offense is increased to the punishment prescribed for the next highest category of offense.”

For instance, in one recent case, two Texas men admitted using Grinder, a social media dating app for gay men, to arrange a meeting with their victim at his home.

Upon arrival, they restrained the man with tape, brandished a firearm, and physically assaulted him while making derogatory statements about his sexual orientation. Afterward, they stole property from the victim’s home, including his vehicle. They pled guilty to targeting the victim for his sexual orientation, and were sentenced to 20 and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Restraining a victim with tape, physically assaulting him, and making derogatory statements could all have been charged as simple assault.

However, because the perpetrators involved a firearm in committing the crimes, the case automatically became one of aggravated assault, which is classified as second-degree felony and carries sentencing between two and 20 years.

How did it being charged as a hate crime make it worse for the defendants? Instead of 20 years behind bars, the maximum penalty jumped up to a potential life sentence.

Lucky for those men, the judge decided to lean on the upper end of second-degree felony max sentencing. Without the hate crime element, they likely would have faced a far shorter stint in prison for their crimes.

You Have Just Been Charged with Assault in Texas – What Should You Expect?

Assault charges may be the result of a mistake or a misunderstanding. Maybe you were partying too hard and caused an accident. Or you were defending yourself from getting hurt and got framed. No matter the situation that got you here, you are now facing criminal assault charges in the state of Texas.

Not sure what to expect? You are not alone. The criminal justice system can be hard to navigate, even for people who have been through it before. An assault conviction can also have a serious impact on your ability to be a parent or move forward with your life – so be sure to fight for your freedom starting today.

Use this guide to help you understand the next steps of the process and what you can do to secure the best outcome for yourself and your family.

What Happens Following a Texas Assault Charge

There are a lot of court dates and meetings leading up to bringing your assault charges before a judge. You’ve entered a plea, and now it’s time to fight the charges in front of you.

So what’s next?

Investigation Follows a Plea of “Not Guilty”

When you decide to enter a “not guilty” plea, a criminal defense attorney will have a period of time to collect evidence and information that can help you defend your case.

Since you are innocent until proven guilty, your criminal lawyer will search for weaknesses in the allegations and evidence presented by the prosecution.

This investigation includes collecting eyewitness testimony, surveillance footage, and looking through Texas law to find defenses to establish your innocence.

When the Case Against You is Weak, Expect Plea Negotiations

During the investigation phase, the prosecution may approach you and ask you to make a plea deal. This is a deal that exchanges a guilty plea for a “shorter” sentence.

Many charges end in a plea deal but pleading guilty can have a significant impact on your ability to find work or go back to school. Talk to your criminal lawyer about whether a plea bargain is a wise idea, but ultimately, this is a decision you will make personally.

When You Do Not Accept A Plea Deal, Your Case Goes to Trial

During the trial, the prosecution and the defense will each have time to present their arguments through the opening and closing statements, as well as examining witnesses. As the accused, you do not have to testify at trial.

Once both sides have finished their closing statements, the judge or jury will have time to decide on the verdict. If the verdict is “not guilty,” then the defendant is free to go. If the verdict is “guilty,” there will be another hearing set to determine sentencing. At this point, the defendant often chooses to begin to appeal the verdict.

Educate Yourself on Your Charges and the Process in Texas

Many people feel helpless once they have been charged with a Texas assault. A lot of work lies ahead, but do not lose hope. There are things you can do to educate yourself and set yourself up for the best outcome.

Consult a Criminal Defense Attorney Specializing in Assault

If you have not spoken with a criminal defense attorney yet, it’s time to pick up the phone. Many attorneys, including the Hampton Law Firm, offer a free consultation that allows you to share details of the case.

Once your case has been reviewed you will likely receive advice on how you should approach the next steps and whether the firm is willing to take on your case.

Know What You Are Up Against

There is more than just one type of assault charge in Texas. Know what type of charge you are facing and how that may impact your potential sentence.

Prosecutors can ask a judge to stack additional charges against you when evidence of aggravating factors or additional crimes comes to light during the trial.

  • Threatening bodily harm is a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Causing bodily injury to a victim (with no aggravating factors) is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Intoxication assault (causing serious bodily injury to another due to intoxication) is a felony in the third degree.
  • Dating violencecrimes start at a felony in the third degree.
  • Strangulation is a felony in the second degree.
  • Aggravated assault against a significant other or a public official is a first-degree felony

Not sure if aggravating factors were present in your case? Talk to a criminal defense lawyer for more information on what charges you may face.

Tell Your Defense Attorney Everything

We mean everything. Even if it’s incriminating or embarrassing. If you don’t bring it up before your trial, the prosecutor will. Don’t let your attorney be blindsided.

Remember, even a misdemeanor conviction can put you behind bars for months at a time. Do not put your life on hold because you were accused of assault. Build a strong defense strategy and fight back.

Contact a Defense Attorney for Assault Charges in Fort Worth

Call now to schedule a free case review with Jeff Hampton, an award-winning defense attorney. When you are facing charges for a violent crime like simple assault or more serious felony charges like assault with a deadly weapon or assault of a public servant, your defense team matters. A conviction for assault can land you in prison from anywhere between 180 days to over 20 years depending on how it is classified by the judge. When you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer, call the Fort Worth assault lawyer trusted by residents of Tarrant County for over a decade. Call our office now at 817-435-2909 to schedule a free consultation and we can start building your defense.