Assault is a criminal charge involving violence, so the prosecution is going to take it very seriously, especially if a weapon was used, or it resulted in injury. In Texas, assault carries either misdemeanor or felony level penalties and punishments in Texas, depending on the circumstances.
Because simple assault is a misdemeanor, a police officer must see you commit the act before making an immediate arrest unless it involves domestic violence. Otherwise, the officer has to issue a notice to appear in court or write a complaint and seek an arrest warrant.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to hit someone, such as in a bar fight or a case of domestic battery, to be charged with assault. The Texas Penal Code defines simple assault three ways, two of which require little to no physical contact.
What is Assault?
Under the criminal laws of Texas, assault can be charged if you:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to someone else, including your spouse.
- Intentionally or knowingly threaten someone else, including your spouse, with imminent bodily injury.
- Intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
That means not only can you be charged for punching, kicking or choking someone during a fight, but if you tell someone you are going to beat them up, and that person has a reasonable fear that you are able and about to do it, you can be charged with assault.
Simply poking someone in the chest with your finger can be considered assault. Surprised about that? The police may arrest you on assault charges after an argument if they are called by neighbors, or just happen to be nearby.
In many cases, the police may arrest you with very little evidence if they feel you are being belligerent or difficult. That doesn’t mean you committed a crime, however, and you should seriously consider fighting the charges to keep your record clean. No one should be stuck with a permanent criminal record just for getting in a heated argument. Call us to get your case evaluated and to find out how we can defend you and keep your record clean.
Misdemeanor Assault and Felony Assault
Normally, a simple assault that results in minor injury is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $4,000. However, prosecutors can bump it up to a third-degree felony – 2 to 10 years in a Texas prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000 – in some cases.
If you are charged with simple assault, it can become a third-degree felony if the state proves that you:
- Committed the assault against a family member or someone with whom you are in a romantic relationship, and you have a previous domestic violence conviction.
- Knew the person was a public servant or government contractor carrying out official duties, or you committed the assault on a public servant in retaliation for doing his job.
- Knew the person was a security guard or emergency services worker, and you committed the assault while the person was doing his job.
When the assault involves only touching or threatening, it’s a Class C misdemeanor, for which the penalty is a fine of up to $500. But the criminal charge can become more serious under some circumstances with aggravating factors. For example, the assault becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the victim is elderly and becomes a Class B misdemeanor if the victim is a sports official.
Assault with a Weapon / Aggravated Assault
The stakes also go up if you are charged with causing serious injury or using a weapon while committing assault. Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, and the penalty is 2 to 20 years in a Texas prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravated assault can become a first-degree felony, with a penalty of 5 years to life, in cases of domestic violence, or if the assault was committed against a public official, security guard, informant, or witness to a crime.
See my sex offenses page for penalties for sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault.
What are the Defenses for An Assault Charge?
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for certain legal defenses against a criminal charge of assault or aggravated assault, and if we are unable to argue that you did not commit the assault, we may choose one of those affirmative defenses.
First, we can explore defenses that include disputing whether or not any assault in the legal sense took place or if the court can sufficiently prove it took place. And if there is evidence of an assault, what is the evidence that you committed it? Eyewitness testimony can be questioned if that is the supporting basis for the assault charge.
Alternately, an affirmative defense – a defense in which you admit doing it, but argue that you had a legal reason – in an assault case could be that you believed the assault was necessary to prevent the person from harming you or someone else or to prevent the person from stealing your property.
Contact us for a criminal case evaluation on any charge of assault in the state of Texas. We can help you assess your options and let you know what we can do to help you.