Assault is one of the most frequently committed crimes in the United States, and here in Texas, assault charges are on the rise.
In the first quarter of this year from January to March, Fort Worth experienced a spike in violent crimes. Homicides increased 69 percent; sex offenses increased 24 percent; and aggravated assault increased 15 percent.
If you find yourself facing assault charges, it’s important to understand what your specific charge means and how you can fight back against it.
What Is Assault Under Texas Law?
Many people think of assault as hit and hurting someone. What they don’t know is that you don’t have to actually make contact with another person in order to be convicted of assault. Merely threatening someone can also be considered assault.
So let’s look at Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code, which discusses different assaultive offenses, to find the legal definition of assault in Texas.
A person commits simple assault if he or she:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;
- Intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
- Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
So any physical contact can count as assault if it intentionally causes bodily injury or provokes the other person. Moreover, simply threatening another person with bodily injury also counts as assault.
If you cause bodily injury to another, assault is a class A misdemeanor, the most serious of misdemeanor offenses, and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
If you threaten another with bodily injury or make physical contact that provokes them, assault is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine.
Assault can also be elevated to a third degree felony – punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine – if the victim is a public servant, government worker, or if domestic violence is involved.
A person commits aggravated assault if he or she commits an assault and also
- Causes serious bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse; or
- Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
“Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. It can be elevated to a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison depending on the specific circumstances – such as involving domestic violence – of the alleged crime.
Beating an Assault Charge
The most common defense against assault charges is that you acted in self-defense. For self-defense to be valid, you need to show that there was a threat of harm, you had a real fear of harm, you didn’t provoke or harm anyone first, and there was no chance to avoiding the situation.
Other common assault defenses include that you were protecting another person or property, or that the alleged victim actually consented to the assault.
Regardless of your situation, if you find yourself facing assault charges, the best thing to do is contact an experienced Texas assault attorney. Your skilled lawyer will listen to the facts of your case and determine the best defense strategy depending on your unique situation to get your charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped.
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.