Have you or a loved one been arrested and charged with the crime of deadly conduct in Fort Worth or a surrounding city of Tarrant County, Texas? If so, you need to hire an experienced and aggressive team of criminal defense attorneys to defend your freedom and resolve your case to ensure that you are able to clear your good name of these criminal charges.
One of the most common allegations that prompt deadly conduct charges occurs when someone wields a gun or other weapon in a public location. Another common allegation is when someone discharges a firearm in the direction of another person or building in a reckless fashion.
While the charge of deadly conduct is related to assault, it can be far more serious and the penalties you are facing will reflect this severity. When considering who to hire as your criminal defense attorney, you should hire an experienced criminal attorney that has specific knowledge of how to negotiate and obtain favorable results in the county you have been charged in Texas. You will also want to make sure that the deadly conduct lawyer advises you of what options are available, what the consequences of a guilty finding are and who knows the best possible defenses for the deadly conduct charges you are facing.
If charged with deadly conduct in Fort Worth, Texas, you will have to appear before a Tarrant County judge in district or county criminal court. Call 817-826-9905 now to schedule a free consultation with The Hampton Law Firm. Jeff Hampton and has team of criminal defense lawyers have the experience of bringing many cases to trial and an impressive record of obtaining favorable results from his clients.
What Constitutes Deadly Conduct in Texas?
Under Texas statutes, deadly conduct is considered an assault charge. Depending on the severity of your actions, you could be facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge.
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 22.05, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you recklessly engaged in conduct that placed another person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury OR you knowingly discharged a firearm at or in the direction of (1) one or more individuals; or (2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building or vehicle is occupied.
“Recklessness” is defined under Texas criminal law as one who is aware of the circumstances but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist, or the result will occur.
“Serious Bodily Injury” is defined under Texas criminal law as a permanent loss of use or protracted loss of use of a bodily member or organ. For example, loss of hearing, eyesight, permanently crippled.
Under Texas deadly conduct law, there is a presumption of recklessness and danger if the accused knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of another, regardless of whether the accused believed the gun to be loaded.
The differences between a misdemeanor and a felony are:
- Misdemeanor deadly conduct– in most cases, attempted or the threat of aggravated assault is considered misdemeanor deadly conduct. This means your conduct has risen to a level of putting a person in fear of serious bodily injury. In effect, this means you could face these charges if you wield a firearm in a public place; you know the action is intimidating to those around you and you also understand your behavior is considered risky and could cause harm to another person. Under Texas law, a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge is punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor. The range of punishment on a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas is up to 1 year in county jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
- Felony deadly conduct– if you are wielding a firearm and it is discharged in the area of a home, vehicle, school, or other dwelling, you are putting the inhabitants in danger. Your actions could cause serious bodily injury or death if someone is accidentally shot. Whether you were aware there was anyone in the dwelling or vehicle becomes a difference of legal opinion and may also be used as a defense; in effect, you acted recklessly because you knew the danger of firing your weapon, you knew if someone was inside the dwelling or vehicle they could be injured. Under Texas criminal law, a felony deadly conduct charge is punishable as a third-degree felony. The range of punishment on a third-degree felony is up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Possible Defenses in Deadly Conduct Cases
If you have been arrested for deadly conduct in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas, the first priority you should have is to hire a criminal attorney with the experienced and track record to formulate a criminal defense strategy to protect your freedom and your future. The second priority you should have is to educate yourself on the legal defenses available for the crime of deadly conduct so that you are prepared to partner with your criminal defense attorney in your defense.
There are quite a few possible defenses for deadly conduct charges in Texas, because it is common for people to carry firearms in this state, and everyone makes mistakes. Let us examine a few common defenses we have used in helping clients get their deadly conduct case dismissed:
Lack of Criminal Intent
As we discussed previously, the State of Texas will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you recklessly engaged in conduct that placed another person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury OR you knowingly discharged a firearm at or in the direction of (1) one or more individuals; or (2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building or vehicle is occupied. As you can see from the underlined sections, there must be an element of recklessness or knowing action.
What if the firing of the gun was accidental? What if something happened by mistake or accident? Guns can falter or fire unexpectedly. For example: You may have been cleaning a handgun and it accidentally discharged, which could seem threatening but was merely an accident.
We had another case where a client was falling to the ground with a weapon in her hand, which caused an accidental discharge of the gun. In this situation, we argued that the firing of the gun was unintentional and therefore should be dismissed. In fact, in this situation, the best deadly conduct lawyers prepare a packet of evidence to present to a grand jury to possibly have the criminal case dismissed.
Another example of the defense of lack of criminal intent is when a weapon was discharged but it was not knowingly fired in the direction of an individual. What if the action was not “knowing?” For example, we had a client arrested and charged with deadly conduct for taking target practice at a remote area near grain silos. He and has friend were out shooting their pistols and there was someone near the silos that called the police. In this situation, although the gun was fired, it was never done so “knowingly” in the direction of an individual. This was a good example of a deadly conduct case that should have been, and ultimately was, dismissed.
Lack Of Imminent Danger Of Serious Bodily Injury
For the misdemeanor deadly conduct case, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you recklessly engaged in conduct that placed another person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. What if your conduct may have arguably been reckless but a reasonable person under the circumstances would not have been in fear of imminent danger of serious bodily injury? This is a critical point because the prosecutor must prove both criminal intent AND imminent danger of serious bodily injury. If the State of Texas is unable to prove this element of the crime, your deadly conduct case will be dismissed, or you will be found not guilty by a jury.
Grand Jury Presentation For Felony Deadly Conduct Cases
What if you have been charged with a felony deadly conduct case and one of these criminal defenses applies to your situation? What can your criminal attorney do? The number one tactic to get your felony deadly conduct case dismissed quickly is for your criminal defense lawyer to prepare an evidence packet to be presented to a grand jury.
A grand jury is a Texas Constitutional requirement that mandates a panel of twelve citizens to determine if probable cause exists for a felony case. A grand jury has the option to keep your deadly conduct case as a felony, lower it to a lesser misdemeanor offense, or no bill your charge. A no bill is the equivalent of a dismissal and a complete exoneration of the charge. However, if your criminal defense attorney does not make a presentation to the grand jury, the grand jury will only hear one side of the story. It is critical you consult with your criminal lawyer to ensure this strategy is used in your legal defense.
Speaking to a criminal attorney as soon as possible is critical. Your criminal defense lawyer for deadly conduct charges will discuss the charges with you and attempt to determine how to best proceed with prosecutors and if necessary, in court.
What is the Punishment for a Deadly Conduct Conviction in Texas?
Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, you will have a life-long criminal record if convicted of the charges in Court.
Jail Term for a Misdemeanor Conviction. Clearly a misdemeanor offense is less serious, but the consequences are still nothing to take lightly. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge, you could face up to a year in jail.
Prison Term for a Felony Conviction. If you are convicted of a felony deadly conduct charge, you could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. However, make note that if you are found guilty of felony deadly conduct charges, you may have to spend a minimum of two years in jail before you are eligible for release.
Lose Firearm Possession Privileges. A felony conviction for deadly conduct in Texas will also mean you will lose your rights to a firearm for an additional five years after all terms of your incarceration and probation have been met.
Fines. You will also be facing fines if you are found guilty; a misdemeanor conviction could mean fines of up to $4,000 and a felony conviction could mean fines of up to $10,000. Keep in mind, you could also face an additional probationary period of one year; during that time even a minor criminal charge will be considered a violation of your probation.
Keep in mind, one of the most important pieces of evidence the prosecutor has against you is the witnesses or potential victims in the area when you were arrested. In many cases, since no one was injured, they will likely not want to pursue charges. Your deadly conduct defense attorney will discuss your case with prosecutors and do everything possible to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced; this may be an easier task if the witnesses or potential victims refuse to testify against you.
Contact a Defense Lawyer for Deadly Conduct Charges
When you are facing any type of criminal charge you need a skilled attorney at your side. Not only will an attorney help build and launch a strong defense, but they can also look for and exploit faults in the prosecutor’s case to reduce or dismiss charges when possible.
Do not take the risk of going to jail, losing your rights to own a firearm or otherwise risk your future because of deadly conduct charges.
Contact defense attorney Jeff Hampton and his team of Former Prosecutors with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials in the courts of Tarrant County, Texas, and other courts in the North Texas area. Do not hesitate to call us at the Hampton Law firm at 817-826-9905 immediately after your arrest and avoid discussing any aspects of your arrest with the arresting officers.