If you’ve been arrested for assault in Texas, just know that it’s not the end of the world. While assault is a serious offense, understanding the law and available defenses will help protect you and your future.
What is Assault?
Generally, when we think of assault, physical violence and injury comes to mind. But, in Texas you can be charged with assault for a lot less. Under Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code, you will be charged with assault if you:
(1) Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to someone else, including your spouse.
(2) Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly threaten someone else, including your spouse, with imminent bodily injury.
(3) 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.
It is important to note that “bodily injury” is defined as “physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.” Texas Penal Code Section 1.07(8). Thus, one of the requisites for assault is that the other person feels pain. For example, you are in a heated argument with a friend and poke him in the chest. This causes him pain, and he calls the police. You are subsequently arrested for assault.
You need not make physical contact with another person to be charged with assault. If you tell someone that you are going to beat them up, and that person has a reasonable fear that you are able and about to do it, you have committed an assault.
Assault also falls under the purview of an “offensive touching.” Let’s say that while at work, you go up to a colleague and place your hand on her shoulder. She may not feel pain by the contact, but if she regards it as offensive, you could be charged with assault.
What are the Penalties for Assault in Texas?
In Texas, Assault can be charged anywhere from a Class C ticket all the way up to a first-degree felony. The charge will depend upon factors such as:
- Person Assaulted—an assault committed on a stranger, spouse, roommate, elderly, or public official will be charged differently.
- Level of Injury—normally, a simple assault that results in minor injury will be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine. If the assault involves serious bodily injury, it will be charged as a felony.
- Use of a Weapon—if you use, or brandish, a weapon while committing an assault, you will be charged with aggravated assault. This is a second-degree felony with a penalty of 2 to 20 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
- Prior Offenses—if you’ve previously been convicted of assault, the prosecutor may use that conviction to enhance any subsequent assault charge. For example, a second assault domestic charge is a third-degree felony if you have a previous conviction for assault domestic.
As you can see, there are various factors that influence a charge for assault and the resulting penalties. Sometimes, the police will arrest you for one type of assault, but the District Attorney’s office will charge you with another type. It is always a good idea to speak to your attorney about your charge to understand what is exactly at stake.
What are the Defenses for Assault?
Assault cases are not always cut and dry. A skilled defense attorney will employ a multitude of defenses to combat the prosecutor’s allegations.
In order to be convicted of assault, the prosecutor must prove that your actions were intentional, knowing, or reckless. These are called “mental states,” which is one of the elements for assault. Let’s say you were sleepwalking and shoved your roommate when she tried to wake you up. Since your actions were unintentional, and you had no idea that what even occurred, you do not meet the mental state element for assault.
Remember that being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not a defense to assault (or any other offense). Refer to the previous example. Instead of sleepwalking, you were drunk and shoved your roommate. The state will be able to sustain a conviction for assault under these facts.
The Texas Penal Code also allows for certain legal defenses against an assault charge. A legal defense, or affirmative defense, is a defense in which you admit committing the crime, but argue that you had a legal reason. In an assault case, you may argue that the assault was necessary to prevent someone from harming you or someone else, or to prevent someone from stealing your property.
Assault charges can be complex and difficult to navigate. Contact me to discuss your case so that I can help assess your options moving forward.