Some states have separate charges for assault and battery. Not Texas. Under the law, everything here is termed “assault.”
In this post, we’ll detail the differences between the two acts and tell you how Texas breaks down its assault laws to account for each type of act.
Assault Charges in Texas
According to the historical definitions, assault is a term for when an individual threatens another person with bodily injury, and battery is committing the actual bodily injury against someone else.
Under Texas law, a charge of assault may or may not involve battery, but both acts are grouped together as “assault.” Legally, assault in our state is defined as “intentionally or knowingly” threatening someone with physical injury, or “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” causing physical injury to another. It also includes any physical contact reasonably known or believed to be perceived as provocative or offensive by another person.
Even if the “battery” part of assault does not occur, you can be charged with assault if the alleged victim reasonably felt that bodily harm was imminent, or if they were offended by physical contact you instigated.
Here’s an example. A man picks up a baseball bat during an argument with his wife. He pulls it back as if he is planning to hit her, but never makes physical contact. However, his actions create an immediate fear in her that she is going to be hurt. The charge of assault will apply whether he touches her with the bat or not, because the threat has been made.
Does this mean you’re getting the same charge for threatening someone as you would for actually hurting them? Not quite.
While both acts are “assault” in Texas, our state acknowledges the vast difference in actions by breaking assault down into several different degrees, each with specific consequences.
Breaking Down Texas Assault Laws
Simple assault is a class C misdemeanor. This charge involves the threat of bodily injury or engaging in provocative or offensive physical contact with no other mitigating factors.
If an assault is committed in relation to a sports participant during or in retaliation for a sports performance, a class B misdemeanor charge applies.
If an individual causes bodily injury to someone else or causes physical contact against an elderly person in a provocative or offensive manner, a class A misdemeanor applies.
A third degree felony charge will apply if an act of assault is committed against a public servant, security officer, emergency services worker or government worker on duty; against a family member, household member, or dating partner and prior convictions apply; or if the act involved choking.
A second degree felony charge will apply if an act of assault is committed against a family member, household member, or dating partner and a prior offense against the same person resulted in a conviction, and if the act involved choking.
A first degree felony charge will apply if an act of aggravated assault is committed against a partner in a domestic relationship, police officer, security guard, public official, informant, witness, or emergency services worker. Aggravated assault is an act that involves the use of a weapon or results in serious bodily injury.
Penalties for a Texas Assault Conviction
The penalties for the offenses described above are shown below.
Class C misdemeanor
Fine of up to $500
Class B misdemeanor
Up to 180 days in jail and fine of up to $2,000
Class A misdemeanor
Up to one year in jail and fine of up to $4,000
Third degree felony
Up to 10 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000
Second degree felony
Between two and 20 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000
First degree felony
Between five years and life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
Seek Legal Help for a Texas Assault Charge
Whether you are being accused of threatening someone or causing physical harm, assault cases can be complex. They often involve one person’s word against another’s. An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you navigate your situation if you have recently been charged with assault.
A knowledgeable lawyer will know how the law applies to your case and what options are available to you. It may be possible to get your charges and penalties reduced, or even to have the charges dropped or dismissed altogether.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation. We will work to protect your reputation and your freedom.
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.