It turns out that simple assault in Texas isn’t quite so simple. When someone hears the term “simple assault” they may think of scenarios from a barroom brawl on television, but it’s much more complicated than that.
The reality of simple assault in Texas is that it can involve a large variety of scenarios involving multiple people and multiple actions.
Here’s what you need to know about a simple assault charge in Texas, including the laws surrounding it, the penalties associated with it, and defenses against it in case you ever find yourself facing charges.
What Is Simple Assault in Texas?
Assault in Texas isn’t limited to physical altercations. In fact, Texas law defines assault as carelessly, knowingly, or deliberately:
- Causing bodily injury to someone else
- Threatening another with bodily injury
- Causing physical contact with someone else in a way that is offensive or confrontational
As you can see, the types of actions listed above are more than simply getting in a fight or punching someone. Simple assault charges can be filed for actions such as poking someone in the chest with your finger, shouting threats, or shoving someone – among other things.
The key to a simple assault charge is that the action must be intentional, reckless, or done knowingly. So, accidentally bumping into someone is not grounds for being charged with simple assault, but shouting threats at them and then accidentally bumping into them just might be.
Can a Texas Simple Assault Charge Be Upgraded?
Simple assault charges can be upgraded in some circumstances. A good example is if a person is hit and it causes a bone to break or causes bodily injury that requires hospitalization. Then simple assault charges can be upgraded to aggravated assault. Using a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime of assault can also lead to aggravated assault charges.
Texas Penalties for Simple Assault
There are a few different penalties for simple assault charges in Texas. It simply depends on the specific factors for the individual situation.
If there are no aggravating factors, say the use of a weapon, the simple assault can be charged as a Class C, Class B, or Class A misdemeanor. Convictions on these charges can result in penalties ranging from fines of $500 to $4,000 and up to six months to a year in prison.
When Charges Are Upgraded to Felony-Level Assault
If you have a previous assault conviction, the assault is perpetrated against a protected class, or you commit the assault against a domestic partner or family member, then you can also have your simple assault charges upgraded to a felony charge of aggravated assault.
This can result in a first- or second-degree felony which carries the following sentence ranges:
- Up to 20 years in prison for a second-degree felony as well as fines of up to $10,000
- Up to 99 years in prison for a first-degree felony as well as fines of up to $10,000
Civil Penalties Are Separate
You may be thinking that the punishments seem like no big deal, but it isn’t that simple. After being convicted of simple assault, the defendant may also have to face other things such as:
- A civil lawsuit from the injured party
- Community service hours to be completed
- Court-ordered anger management classes
Defenses Against Simple Assault in Texas
There are several defenses you can use to defeat a simple assault charge in court as long as you have a skilled and experienced attorney representing you. Some of the most common defenses against simple assault include:
- Defense of property – if you were acting in order to defend your property from another person during the assault, then that is a usable defense.
- Self-Defense – if you were protecting yourself or other people from harm, then you were acting out of self-defense
- Accident – If you didn’t intend to harm the other person, then it can be argued that the intention was not there to commit assault
- Consent – Sometimes the victim may have consented to the actions that were taken, which is a good argument against simple assault since with the consent of the other party you cannot be found guilty
- Mistaken identity – if you were not involved in the simple assault and committed no crime, then you may be found innocent if it can be proven in court
- Failure to prove elements – Remember, a simple assault must be perpetrated knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly to be proven. If you can prove that none of these elements were involved in the assault, then you may be able to escape conviction
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. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.