If you have been charged with aggravated assault in Texas, you need to be informed about the charges you are facing. Below, we are going to detail the law and associated penalties and tell you how a knowledgeable criminal attorney can help.
Aggravated Assault Charges in Texas
Aggravated assault is defined by Texas Statutes 22.01 and 22.02 as such:
“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.”
Let’s break down the parts of that definition.
Intentionally or Knowingly
To act “intentionally” means to act in such a way that it is your “conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.” In other words, someone that picks up a weapon and points at another person and pulls the trigger acted with a conscious desire to cause the result of the person being injured by the weapon.
To act “knowingly” means to act in a manner that you are “aware that your conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.” For example, if someone shoots in the direction of someone knowing there are people around their target, it does not matter if they “meant” to shoot them. In that scenario, it is likely that they should have known that “their conduct is reasonable certain to cause the result.”
Recklessness is acting with disregard to the results of an action. For example, a reckless driver does not necessarily act with intent to harm but presents a risk of harm to the other driver with his or her reckless actions, such as speeding or tailgating.
Serious bodily injury
Serious bodily injury is described as such under the law:
- Presents a substantial risk of death.
- Causes death.
- Causes serious permanent disfigurement.
- Causes impaired function or functional loss of a bodily organ or member.
These types of injuries normally require hospitalization, surgery, or physical therapy for treatment.
Criminal Lawyer Tip: Serious bodily injury must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that establishes a permanent or substantial loss of use of a bodily member or organ. Many times, an injury can appear serious but be determined to NOT meet the Texas Criminal Law definition of “Serious Bodily Injury.” Because Aggravated Assault – Serious Bodily Injury is a felony charge, it must be presented to a grand jury for indictment. A good criminal lawyer can prepare a packet of evidence establishing the injury does not meet the requirements under Texas law. If the grand jury agrees, the aggravated assault charge could be lowered to a misdemeanor assault or be completely dismissed through a no bill.
A deadly weapon is a weapon that is inherently dangerous, such as a firearm, knife, or brass knuckles. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, other items like chairs, ropes, or baseball bats can be considered deadly weapons.
ANYTHING can be a deadly weapon if the manner of its use was intended to cause serious bodily injury or death. For example, grabbing a pencil and trying to stab someone in the eye would categorize the pencil as a deadly weapon under Texas law.
Aggravated Assault By Threat Charges in Texas
Under Texas law, you can be charged with Aggravated Assault if you “exhibited” a deadly weapon and the alleged victim claims to have been in fear of serious bodily injury or death.
If you are just holding a deadly weapon but the alleged victim tells the police they were scared for their life, you can be charged with aggravated assault. Here is where aggravated assault charges can get a little crazy. Here are a few examples:
- Defending Yourself When Someone Threatens You – what if someone else makes threats toward you and you have a concealed carry license? You pull out your weapon to prevent harm to yourself? Should you be arrested? Unfortunately, many times the police officers will question both sides and discover you were the one with the weapon and decide to arrest you based upon the other person’s word. Remember, probable cause to arrest can be established purely by the word of another person if the police choose to believe that witness. This is a good example of why you must fight a charge like this because the State of Texas will be required to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at a criminal jury trial.
- Road Rage – what if you are driving and someone cuts you off and force you off the road? What if they get out of the car and begin to charge you cursing and making threats? If you pull out your weapon to be ready for an encounter should you be charged with aggravated assault deadly weapon? NO! However, many citizens of Tarrant County, Texas are charged under this fact scenario. The police will see that you have the weapon in your possession and the other party is claiming that you placed them in fear for their life. Many times, the police will choose to arrest based upon a witnesses word alone.
Additionally, there may be many reasons people will claim aggravated assault deadly weapon. We have found that an opposing party in a divorce proceeding will sometimes claim an aggravated assault by threat to gain leverage in a family law proceeding.
Sometimes a person will make up a claim of aggravated assault deadly weapon to protect themselves. They may be afraid that if they do not claim you placed them in fear for their life, they may get arrested and face similar criminal charges.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault in Texas
Aggravated assault is normally a second-degree felony. A conviction will result in a prison sentence of two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
In the following situations, however, aggravated assault will be charged as a first-degree felony, and conviction can result in a prison sentence of five to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Use of a deadly weapon during assault which causes serious bodily injury to a family or household member, or someone with whom the offender has or has had an intimate relationship (domestic assault)
- Victim is a public servant or security officer working in his or her line of duty.
- Offender knows the victim to be a public servant, and acts in retaliation for the duties performed by the public servant.
- Assault against someone who reported a crime, an informant, or a witness.
- Offender shot a firearm from a motor vehicle at another motor vehicle, building, or house with reckless disregard for occupancy and causes serious bodily injury to victim.
The court may also require the offender to pay restitution to the victim for his or her medical treatment, counseling, and property damages related to the crime.
Fighting Aggravated Assault Charges
If you are convicted for assault charges in Texas, your consequences go beyond prison and fines. Your permanent record will be negatively affected. Your ability to find quality employment and housing may be hampered, and you will lose other rights such as the right to bear arms.
The value of quality representation by an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney cannot be underestimated.
With a skilled assault lawyer’s help, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped. A good assault lawyer will examine the witness statements and determine if they make sense compared to what happened at the scene.
As you can see from the examples above, there can be times when there is very little evidence to establish an arrest for aggravated assault deadly weapon. Because this charge is categorized as a felony under Texas law, it must be presented to a grand jury. You need to be aggressive EARLY in your criminal defense to make certain that favorable and exculpatory evidence is presented to the grand jury so that a NO BILL can be returned on your case.
What is a No Bill? A grand jury no bill is the equivalent of a dismissal. It is a finding that establishes you have been exonerated of the charges and provides the opportunity to have your criminal case file and arrest expunged from your criminal record.
Call today for a free case review. Your attorney will advise you on the best options available to fight back against your charges.