A Tyler man was sentenced to prison for an assault on a police officer with a knife. He will serve at least 17 years on the serious felony offense of aggravated assault of a public servant, even though the officer was never actually struck or injured.
A jury found Twenty three year old Jaime Guerrero guilty and he was sentenced under Judge Kerry Russell of the 7th District Smith County Court to 35 years in prison.
Guerrero’s crime is an interesting example of how who the victim is in a case can affect the seriousness of the charge and potential length of the sentence.
On January 31st of this year police were called to Guerrero’s residence by his mother. When they arrived, according to this report from the Tyler Dispatch, they found Guerrero speaking incoherently and sniffing paint in the backyard.
When police attempted to approach him, Guerrero ran, falling into a creek before pulling a knife on Officer Edgar Zapata, threatening that he would “scar him for life”.
While many people think an assault has to involve some type of physical contact, they are wrong. A threat like the one Guerrero made on Officer Zapata can constitute a misdemeanor assault, even if a weapon isn’t present.
However, because Zapata is a police officer, the charge is automatically elevated to a 3rd degree felony. This means that what would have been punishable by a fine is now punishable by several years in prison.
The prosecution in this case allegedly wanted Guerrero to serve the maximum possible sentence while his defense attorney argued that the incident was a mistake and he deserved a second chance.
Under Texas law, Guerrero will serve at least 17 years of the 35 year sentence. In addition to prison time, he is also sanctioned with a $2,500 fine.
Guerrero was looking at simple fine and misdemeanor conviction. However, the threat he conveyed was to a public servant, automatically elevating the charges. There are several circumstances that can elevate the severity of a charge under Texas law.
If you are facing criminal charges and not sure what you are up against. Or, if you are charged with a crime and the potential outcome has you frightened, you need the assistance of an experienced defense attorney.