According to the Texas penal code, when you injure someone, you are committing an assault. In fact, even when you only threaten to injure another person, you can be charged.
This is different from many other states, which typically impose a separate charge of “battery,” if you make personal contact in a way the person regards as offensive or provocative. In Texas, both things are considered assault.
In all scenarios, the law requires an element of intent or recklessness to be proven in order for someone to be convicted. “Recklessness” is an act that is not necessarily committed with the intention to hurt someone else, but nevertheless presents an unjustifiable risk or is committed with complete disregard for any likelihood that injury could occur.
In most cases, unless you have a prior conviction for similar charges, you will only face misdemeanor penalties.
However, there are certain elements which may result in felony charges for aggravated assault, and in today’s post we want to talk about those elements, and the effect they may have on how your crime can be charged, prosecuted, and penalized.
WHEN SIMPLE ASSAULT BECOMES AGGRAVATED IN TEXAS
If an assault involves any of the following elements, your charges will automatically be classified as aggravated assault. If you have been charged with aggravated assault without one of these elements being clearly defined in your charging documents, a defense attorney can review them and help you understand your best course of action.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon. According to Texas law, any object designed or adapted to serve the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death may be considered a deadly weapon. There are obvious items like guns, knives, and rope, and some that must be proven to have been adapted or used as a deadly weapon – a car, a baseball bat, or a body part like teeth or fists.
Remember that physical harm is not a requirement for assault charges to be pressed against you. Simply brandishing a weapon in such manner than the victim believes they are in fear for their safety is enough.
So in either situation – physical assault or threat alone – if it involves a deadly weapon, chances are good you wind up facing aggravated assault charges.
Assault Resulting in Serious Injury. Texas Penal Code defines a serious bodily injury as one that proves to be “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.”
Most of the time, our thoughts go directly to things like broken bones and gunshot or knife wounds. Something that is going to cause major scarring or defects. However, a blow to the side of the head that causes traumatic brain injury or permanent hearing loss may be argued as aggravated assault resulting in serious injury as well.
Assault Involving Public Officials or Public Servants. The law is very specific about those who are protected under the Texas Penal Code and when.
- When an assault is committed by a public servant while working
- When an assault is committed against a public servant while on official duty
- When an assault is committed against a public servant in retaliation to an act of official duty
- When an assault is committed against a commissioned security officer while on duty
These regulations can sink you into pretty murky waters if, say, you end up in a physical altercation with a police officer, and certainly warrant the advice of an experienced attorney.
SIMPLE OR AGGRAVATED ASSAULT: THE DIFFERENCE IT CAN MAKE
Because simple assault normally yields a Class C misdemeanor charge (or Class A, when it involves an elderly or disabled person), most offenders end up paying a maximum fine of $500.
However, misdemeanor penalties can range from a couple hundred dollars and a few months in jail to a year behind bars, owing a fine of four grand. For even lower level felony convictions, you’re looking at 10 to 20 years of prison time and up to $10,000 in fines.
Quite a difference, no? In the simplest of terms, adding an element of aggravation to your assault charges can mean the difference between a relative slap on the wrist and decades in prison.
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.