OFFENSE AGAINST A PERSON
The Texas Penal Code includes several offenses that are categorized as "assault" in Chapter 22. For example, Assault-Bodily Injury, Assault-Threat, Assault-Offensive Contact, Assault on a Public Servant, Sexual Assault, Assault-Family Violence, and several "aggravated" offenses against a person, etc. Therefore, Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code covers a broad range of conduct, which, depending on the specific allegation, carry punishment ranges from a fine, to county jail, to decades in prison.
What is Considered an "Assault" in Texas?
Basically, any conduct that causes bodily injury, threatens bodily injury, or causes offensive physical contact may be an assault. The Texas Penal Code states:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person: (1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse; or (3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
Class A Misdemeanor Assault
A typical assault case involves an altercation that results in some sort of bodily injury. Most people usually think an assault involves a fight that results in a black eye or a busted lip. Interestingly, though, the definition of "bodily injury" in Texas is not what you'd expect. That's because "bodily injury" is defined as "physical pain." So if it hurts, then it's a Class A Assault. The range of punishment for a Class A Assault is up to a year in county jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
An assault can become a felony under certain circumstances. Chapter 22 defines Aggravated Assault as:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person commits assault as defined in Section 22.01 and the person: (1) causes serious bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; or (2) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
"Serious bodily injury" is defined as bodily injury that creates 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. (PC 1.07(46)). An aggravated assault is typically a 2nd degree felony, but may be filed as a 1st degree felony if the complaining witness is a family member, public servant, or in retaliation against a witness or a person who has reported a crime. (PC 22.02(b)(2)).
Class A Assault becomes a much more serious offense if committed against a family member. Such a charge will include language that the person is related to the Defendant, that they live together, have a child together, or that they have (or have had) a dating relationship. This broad language makes it possible to charge siblings for family violence, or to charge roommates in the same apartment.
The range of punishment is the same, it's still a Class A misdemeanor, but the collateral consequences can be far-reaching and devastating. Employment, child custody, immigration, and gun ownership are all impacted by a family violence conviction.
Family violence cases can become a felony, punishable by not less than 2 nor more than 10 years in prison if you have a prior misdemeanor family violence conviction.
If the defendant uses a deadly weapon and causes serious bodily injury to a family member, a Family Violence case can be charged as a 1st degree felony. Firearms are considered, by definition, deadly weapons, but anything, depending on its use or intended use, can be considered a deadly weapon.
First degree felony offenses are punishable by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years, and up to a $10,000 fine. (PC 22.02(b)(1)).
If you are alleged to have impeded the normal breathing or circulation of blood of the complaining witness, you may be charged with Strangulation. In Travis County, law enforcement and emergency services personnel have been trained to ask complaining witnesses a series of questions including whether the defendant put their hands around their neck, they lost consciousness, and if the defendant has ever done something like this before. They are looking for evidence to file a felony case on an assault. This gives the State a lot of leverage in plea negotiations and it can make taking an assault case to trial prohibitively risky for a defendant.
Contact a Resourceful Attorney Today
If you have been charged with an assault-related offense, contact an attorney who knows the law and the court system. There is a lot at stake if you are convicted. Fighting the charge is your primary chance of protecting your rights and securing your freedom. Contact the Slaughter Law Office today at 512-808-0280 for a free initial consultation.