Sunday, April 15, 2012

Penalties for Assault and Battery in Texas


Assault charges in Texas can result from a simple threat or argument, a fistfight, or a violent attack with a weapon.  Assault charges range from misdemeanors to felony charges depending on the circumstances, and are taken especially seriously if injury occurs or if a weapon was used.  The penalties range from fines to prison terms depending on the severity of the assault and the circumstances of each case. Being faced with assault charges of any kind can have drastic negative consequences both personally and professionally.

Texas law defines assault as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

  • Causing bodily injury to another person, including the person’s spouse;
  • Threatening someone with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
  • Causing physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
You can be charged for kicking or punching someone during a fight, but you can also be charged with assault for only pushing or poking someone.  There does not even have to be physical contact with someone to be charged with assault.  If you threaten someone with bodily harm, and that person has a reasonable fear that you are about to do it, you can be charged with criminal assault.

The police may arrest you on the spot if they witness the act of assault.  Otherwise, they can write a citation for you to appear in court, or seek an arrest warrant.  There is an exception for domestic assault or domestic violence, when the police can arrest you immediately and remove you from the premises.

Simple Assault and Penalties

Simple assault that involves only threats or touching is usually considered a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, carrying a penalty of a fine of up to $500.  However, threatening assault against an elderly person is considered a Class A misdemeanor, carrying penalties of a fine of up to $4000 and/or up to one year in a county jail.  Threatening assault against a sports official, such as a referee or an umpire, is considered a Class B misdemeanor carrying penalties of a fine of up to $2000 and/or up to 180 days in a county jail.

The penalties for simple assault can be enhanced if certain factors are involved.  Simple assault that results in minor injuries is usually considered a Class A misdemeanor, but simple assault can be charged as a third degree felony if it is committed against someone the defendant knows is a public servant, government official, security guard or emergency services worker.  Simple assault can also be charged as a third degree felony if the defendant has a previous conviction for domestic assault or domestic violence and commits assault against a family member or a person that he or she has a domestic relationship with.  A third degree felony offense carries penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and/or up to 10 years in prison.

Aggravated Assault and Penalties

Assault is considered aggravated assault in Texas if serious injury is involved, or if a weapon is used while committing an assault.  Aggravated assault is considered a more serious crime than simple assault and carries harsher penalties.

Aggravated assault is usually considered a second degree felony in Texas, and carries penalties of a fine of up to $10,000 and from 2 to 20 years in prison.

Aggravated assault can be charged as a first degree felony if committed against someone the defendant has a domestic relationship with, and the State of Texas can enhance a domestic assault charge based on a previous affirmative finding of family violence.  Aggravated assault can also be charged as a first-degree felony if committed against a public official including a police officer, a security guard, an emergency services worker, or an informant or witness to a crime.  A first degree felony carries a penalty of a prison term from 5 to 99 years or for life.

Criminal assault charges of any kind are a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly.  The penalties for conviction are severe and can have profoundly negative consequences that can be damaging to one’s personal life and employment opportunities for many years.
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Author: Andrew Sullo
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