Can Your Child Face Assault Charges for a Texas School Fight?

By May 23, 2018October 15th, 2021Assault, Juvenile Crimes

4 Ways To Defeat A Juvenile Assault Charge In Texas (2021)

Updated October 7, 2021; Original Post: May 23, 2018 AssaultJuvenile Crimes

charged with a crime linked to a school fight, what should you do? Below, we’re going to detail the law, penalties, and what legal options are available to you and your child.

Rising School Violence Trend Spans the Nation

With school violence on the rise, school administrations are turning to law enforcement for help more often than in past decades. Legal consequences may be given for significant assaults – like a recent school fight and shooting in Mansfield, Texas that led to a gun being pulled and people being seriously injured and taken to a local hospital. What started as a fight between students became tragically violent when one of the students was carrying a gun and pulled it out and began shooting across the room, causing injuries to bystanders. In fact, four people were injured and one victim was critically injured.

Another example that occurred several years ago was the one in La Porte, Texas in 2016 where several teenagers were charged with assault after a fight between five males resulted in one student being sent to the hospital for injuries.

Other incidents of school violence around the country include the following:

  • Three high school students in North Carolina were arrested for multiple incidents of fighting. Forty local officers were called in to break up the large fight.
  • In Oregon, a fight broke out between middle school students. The police broke up the fight and told the students to go home. However, the police were called back to the scene less than an hour later because the fight had continued and escalated. Two teenagers were taken into custody and faced disorderly conduct charges. One teen allegedly waved a handgun during the second fight.
  • Eleven students in Arizona were charged with aggravated assault after a conflict with staff and teachers. The teens allegedly used broomsticks as weapons in the fight.

Why School Administrators are Using Legal Intervention

Your child’s school may have policies that involve a trip to the principal’s office and detention or suspension for school fighting. However, with school assaults increasing, don’t be surprised if your child’s school administration turns to law enforcement for backup.

As in the Mansfield, Texas, and Arizona example above, many school administrators fear that fights could spread to the teachers and staff. That’s one reason why schools are involving police help.

Additionally, with school shootings becoming more prevalent, many school administrators are taking tougher measures to keep fights under control. In the Oregon example above, a teen allegedly flashed a handgun. This kind of violence has zero tolerance in public school districts, and police are often called in for stronger enforcement.

How Texas Assault Laws Apply to School Fights

Depending on the seriousness of the fight, a child younger than 18 years old can still be tried as an adult. Penalties will be filed according to the level of assault.

Class C misdemeanor

An Assault causing offensive physical contact or threatening bodily harm can be charged as a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.

For example: two high school children walk down the hallway and start arguing with each other and this leads to pushing up against one another. Suddenly, one of them pushes the other. The school resource officer gets involved and the police are called. After interviewing the alleged victim of the push, it is determined he was not injured (no pain or proof of physical injury), however, he claims he was “offended” by the push. This would be an example of the child being charged with Assault By Contact, a Class C misdemeanor.

Class B misdemeanor

Assault on a sports participant during or after a sports performance faces a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000.

Class A misdemeanor

An Assault causing bodily injury to another person is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. Bodily injury is defined as “pain.” There is no requirement by the prosecutor to prove that any bruising or visible injury occurred. If the alleged victim claims “pain,” this could provide enough evidence for a probable cause warrant for arrest. However, it is critical to remember that the State of Texas must prove that the offender acted intentionally or knowingly. Accidental contact would not qualify as an assault under Texas law.

For example: two high school students become angry at each other and begin swinging fists and miss each other. Then, one of the students grabs the other by the shoulders and throws him against the lockers. There is no visible injury – no bruising or scraping or scratches. If the alleged victim tells the police he felt “pain,” the offender could be arrested for the crime of Assault Bodily Injury, a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.

Third degree felony

An Assault on a public servant is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This crime possesses the same elements as a Class A misdemeanor Assault with the additional requirement that the alleged victim was a public servant.

For example: two high school students begin fighting with each other. As they are swinging fists at each other a school resource office and police officer arrive to attempt to break up the fight. As the assault between the students is being broken up, one of the students swings and misses the other student and hits the police officer in the nose, causing pain and bodily injury. It is highly likely that the offending student would be charged with the 3rd degree felony charge of Assault Public Servant. However, it is important to remember, if the State of Texas must also prove criminal intent to sustain a conviction.

Second degree felony

An Aggravated assault charge will apply if a weapon was used, or serious bodily injuries occurs during the assault. An Aggravated Assault is a 2nd degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that causes a permanent loss of use or protracted loss of use of a bodily member or organ. If someone is crippled, blinded, loses their hearing, or is disfigured, they could be facing an Aggravated Assault Serious Bodily Injury charge.

What if a fight took place where a weapon was present but there were no injuries? In this situation, you could still be facing an Aggravated Assault by Threat. Under Texas law, if the use of the deadly weapon caused the alleged victim to be in fear of serious bodily injury or death, a charge of Aggravated Assault by threat could be filed based solely upon the alleged victim’s word.

For example: two 18-year-old students are hanging out at an after-school function, and they begin to argue. The arguing turns physical, and they begin punching at each other. During the assault, the offending student pulls out a gun and tells the other student to back off. No shots were fired, and he did not directly threaten the student. However, the police were called and when they arrived, they immediately arrested the student with the gun because they believed him to be the aggressor. Why? Because the alleged victim is going to say that he felt in fear of serious bodily injury or death when he saw that gun. Is that reasonable? Not necessarily. Is there an argument for self-defense? Possibly!

Defenses for Texas Assault Charges

When facing assault charges as an adult or juvenile, it is important to understand the criminal defenses available to you under Texas criminal law. An aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney will know these defenses and make the best use of them to provide you a favorable result to your assault charges.

Self-Defense

If you are being accused of assault in Texas and were attempting to defend yourself, you may be able to use the argument of self-defense. Under Texas criminal law, if someone places you in fear of immediate serious bodily injury or death, you have a right to defend yourself. However, the force used to defend yourself must be proportionate.

For example: If someone comes at you trying to punch you in the face, you cannot pull out a gun and shoot them claiming self-defense. Using lethal force is never justified to repel non-lethal force. You may punch the person back or use other non-lethal means to prevent them for attacking you, but you cannot use lethal force under Texas self-defense law.

Additionally, you are not permitted to claim self-defense if you were the first aggressor in the assault. For example: if you get angry at someone and start pushing and then punching someone, you are not able to claim self-defense for your future actions if you were the one that instigated the assaultive behavior.

If your experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney can use self-defense in your assault case, it will require you to admit that you did assault the alleged victim. However, upon admitting to the conduct, the burden will shift back to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions were NOT in self-defense. Failure by the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions were NOT self-defense will result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.

For example: if you are in a criminal jury trial and you take the witness stand and admit that the only reason you punched the alleged victim in the face was because the alleged victim was swinging and pushing at you; this will cause the State of Texas to prove that your actions were NOT self-defense. This can be a difficult task for the prosecution because they will be required to prove a negative. This can be an effective defense tactic with assault cases in Texas.

No Criminal Intent – You Did Not Act Intentionally or Knowingly

An essential element the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt on an assault case is that you acted with criminal intent – you acted intentionally or knowingly in your behavior. What if the contact was accidental? What if it was a mistake? If there was no criminal intent to strike someone, you do not have a crime.

For example: if you are walking in an office building and you open a door and quickly slam the door behind you and have no idea there was someone behind you, even though there may have been an injury to that person, the contact was accidental and there will be no proof that you acted intentionally or knowingly. However, if you know that someone is directly behind you and you time the slamming of the door to correspond with hitting that individual, you now have the necessary criminal intent to be charged with assault in Texas.

Fort Worth Juvenile Crimes Lawyer

Get Legal Help for Texas Assault Charges

If your child has been charged with assault, it’s imperative to contact a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

At The Hampton Law Firm, we are a team of 5 Former Prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experience and over 500 criminal jury trials. We will review your case for free to determine what options may be available to get the charges reduced or dropped. Reach out to us today for your free consultation.

About the Author:

After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.

(817) 877-5200
Consultation