Assault of a Public Servant Charges
Have you been charged with assault of a public servant in Tarrant County, Fort Worth, or somewhere else in north Texas? If the answer is yes, you need to hire an experienced and aggressive felony assault lawyer. Facing assault charges in a Texas criminal Court is frightening enough, but when the charges involve a public servant the stakes are even higher.
Assault of a public servant in Texas is a third degree felony, even if no physical contact occurred! There are many scenarios in which a police officer, security guard or firefighter could be injured accidentally. Furthermore, in some allegations of assault on a public servant there was never an injury or actual physical contact. In some cases a simple graze or defensive block to protect yourself can be twisted by law enforcement, and you can be falsely accused of assault on a public servant.
That’s why you need a strong criminal defense legal team on your side. An experienced and aggressive criminal lawyer for assault of a public servant charges is your strongest hope of reducing the charges or having them dropped altogether.
What is Considered Assault of a Public Servant Under Texas Law?
Texas Penal Code § 22.01 Assault (b) defines assault of a public servant as a 3rd degree felony in more detail below:
Texas Penal Code drills down further into the specific circumstances, presuming that the accused should know that the alleged victim was a public servant if they were wearing an easily identifiable uniform or badge.
The Texas Penal Code further lists out specific people that can be thought of as public servants: EMTs, paramedics, law enforcement and police, security guards, firefighters, and emergency room personnel.
However, there is one very broad generalization at the end of the section about how Texas defines emergency services personnel that is of particular concern. The law states that emergency services personnel includes people working in all of the positions above “and other individuals who, in the course and scope of employment or as a volunteer, provide services for the benefit of the general public during emergency situations.” This broad generalization in Texas Penal Code makes it too hard for some prosecutors to resist elevating simple assault charges to assault of a public servant, when the alleged victim is in fact not a public servant.
How Can Someone Get Charged with Assault of a Public Servant?
While the charges of assault of a public servant are serious, many times the alleged aggressor had little or no control over the circumstances leading up to the charges. A couple of scenarios that exemplify these circumstances include:
- An automobile accident– you’re involved in a car accident and sustained a head injury. You are frightened and confused and a paramedic is attempting to extract you from the vehicle. You begin thrashing around and in the process, elbowed the paramedic and broke his nose. Clearly this was an accident and not a deliberate attempt to cause harm. Nevertheless, the police arrive and see the paramedic with a bloody nose and now you are being charged with intentionally or knowingly assaulting a public servant.
- Altercation with others– you’re involved in an altercation at a backyard barbeque or in a pub and police step in to break up the altercation. In the process, one of the police officers gets elbowed in the face and suffers a black eye. This could be considered assault on a public servant and you could be facing additional felony charges in addition to disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct charges resulting from the initial altercation.
- Altercation during an arrest – while most people understand the dangers of lashing out at a police officer during an arrest, it can still happen. However, if you’re thrashing about to avoid being handcuffed and injure a police officer in the process, you could be charged with resisting arrest in addition to assault of a public servant. The key issue in this instance is whether the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted intentionally or knowingly with the intent to inflict pain to the police officer. Failure to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt will result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.
As you can see, each of these incidents is clearly different but each could result in felony charges being lodged against you.
What is Aggravated Assault of a Public Servant?
According to Texas Law, aggravated assault of a public servant occurs when a member of law enforcement, emergency services personnel, or emergency medical staff are assaulted with a deadly weapon or suffer serious bodily injury. If any of the hypothetical situations above include the use of a deadly weapon, the charges will be enhanced and the penalties can be far more severe.
In these cases, deadly weapons can include knives, handguns, explosives, and even a shod foot. If you’ve been charged with assault of a public servant and a weapon was involved, contact a criminal defense lawyer familiar with serious assault charges. They will need as much of a head start as possible to defend you against assault of a public servant charges.
What is the Punishment for an Assault of a Public Servant Conviction in Texas?
In Texas, simple assault of a public servant is considered a third degree felony charge and the punishment you’re facing if convicted is punitive. The possible prison time for a conviction is up to 10 years, plus an additional 10 years of probation and a fine of up to $10,000. Keep in mind, the maximum punishment means 25 years of being forbidden to own a firearm, 20 years of not voting and a lifetime of having to list a violent felony conviction on job applications. A result like this for a first-time offender is unacceptable. This places a premium on hiring a criminal defense law firm that has a proven track record of defending citizens of Fort Worth and the surrounding cities of Tarrant County, Texas from assault of a public servant charges.
If No Physical Contact Took Place Can I Be Convicted?
Yes. It is imperative to understand that only proving a threat of bodily harm is necessary for you to be convicted of assaulting a public servant, no physical contact needs to take place. How is this possible? If a police officer or other public servant alleges that your actions placed them in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death, you could face a charge of assault of a public servant.
In the event there is any type of weapon involved in the assault, the crime is enhanced to “aggravated” and the punishment is even more severe. If the charges are upgraded to aggravated assault of a public servant, you’re looking at a first-degree felony. If convicted, you could be facing life in prison; should the public servant lose their life, you could face the death penalty in Texas if found guilty. That’s why you need an experienced assault of a public servant lawyer.
What Possible Defenses are there for Assault of a Public Servant Charges?
One of the most important distinctions between simple assault charges and assault of a public servant is that the alleged aggressor must have known that the alleged victim was a public servant at the time of the incident. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you knew this, then the charges have to be at least lowered to simple assault (a misdemeanor in Texas) or dismissed altogether.
For example, if you’re involved in an altercation and an off-duty police officer was injured, often time the charges can be reduced from assault of a public servant to simple assault charges if the off-duty cop was not in uniform or wearing a badge. Therefore, it’s important to discuss the incident thoroughly with your criminal attorney; you cannot be convicted of assault of a public servant in Texas if you were unaware the person was a public servant.
There are a few other ways to dispute these charges, even when there are witnesses to the altercation. Someone in fear for their safety or the safety of a family member may claim they acted in self-defense; this strategy is considered an affirmative defense.
In an affirmative defense, you admit to the assault but offer justifiable reasons. In this situation, the justifiable reason was that you were attempting to protect yourself from a similar assault that was being perpetrated against you by the police officer. A police officer is not allowed to assault you and hurt you for no reason. We have seen examples of this police misconduct recently when citizens have been seriously injury or killed by unlawful actions by the police. You have a right to defend yourself from unlawful assaults perpetrated by the police.
Someone who has been drugged against their will, suffered a head injury that rendered them unable to logically understand the person was a public servant, or proving the act was unintentional may also be used as defenses. Your criminal defense attorney will discuss all possible options with you.
Let’s assume for a moment that you have a possible defense available to you on your assault of a public servant case. What should your criminal attorney do early in the process? The best assault lawyers in Texas know that the fastest way to get a felony assault of a public servant case dismissed is to review the state’s evidence and prepare a packet of evidence to present to a grand jury.
Under Texas criminal law, every felony in the State of Texas must be presented to a grand jury. The Texas Constitution requires that felony cases be presented to a grand jury to ensure that cases are adequately screened to protect the rights of the accused and ensure cases with little evidence to not make it into the criminal justice system.
Texas grand juries have three options when considering the merits of a felony assault of a public servant case: (1) True Bill the case and approve the felony charge and assign it to a criminal district court; (2) Reduce the charge to a lesser misdemeanor assault offense and assign it to a misdemeanor court; or (3) No Bill the case – the equivalent to an exoneration of the charges or dismissal. Unfortunately, many criminal defense attorneys fail to take advantage of the opportunity they have to present evidence to a grand jury. If your criminal attorney fails to present evidence to the grand jury, the grand jury will be left with only the prosecutor’s version of the events, which usually results in the felony case being true billed and assigned to a felony district court.
It is critical that you hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney that is familiar with the grand jury process and is ready and able to make a presentation of evidence to provide you the best opportunity to have your felony case reduced to a lesser charge or no billed by the grand jury.
Contact a Defense Lawyer for Assault of a Public Servant Charges
The first decision you need to make after being charged with assaulting a police officer, emergency services personnel, or other public servant in Tarrant County is who you’re going to hire to defend you.
If you’re facing assault of a public servant charges, call the Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905 now. Jeff Hampton and his team of Former Prosecutors have over 80 years of criminal law experience and have taken hundreds of cases to trial, resulting in favorable verdicts. You need a team of criminal lawyers with the acumen necessary to gauge the entire situation, form a strategic defensive plan, and unleash an offensive assault on the prosecutor’s case.
We offer free consultations and look forward to giving you a plan of action on how to get your life back. Keep your freedom! Protect your good name! Don’t be taken advantage of by the criminal justice system! Give us a call or fill out an online form to schedule a free case review.