We get angry sometimes, and when we do, we can yell, scream, or hit another person. This is assault. Even if you never touched someone, it can still be assault. If you have been charged with assault, getting a smart, aggressive criminal defense attorney can be the key to a successful defense. Don't play these types of charges off as though they aren't anything, because they are. These types of charges can carry serious penalties.
Carl Ceder, an experienced criminal defense attorney representing clients through the Dallas and Fort Worth metro area, understands just how serious assault charges can be. He also knows how to defend against them. Each case is different, and so below is only an overview of assault charges. If you want answers to questions specific to your case, contact Carl Ceder today.
What is Simple Assault in Texas?
Assault is governed by Texas Penal Code Ann. § 22.01, which defines the offense as a crime that occurs when a 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.
So, you don't even have to touch a person to be charged with assault. Simple assault is a misdemeanor charge ranging from Class C, Class B, and Class A misdemeanors – of course, the more serious the offense, the higher the classification. For example, a Class C assault charge is likely one where a person felt threatened but the alleged offender never touched the alleged victim. Assault can also be charged as a felony when there are aggravating circumstances present.
What is Aggravated Assault in Texas?
Assault is an offense that becomes much more serious when it's aggravated. Aggravated assault is an offense committed when a person commits simple assault combined with one of the following acts:
(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.
In the last situation, a deadly weapon can include things like firearms designed to be weapons as well as objects not meant to be weapons, like:
- baseball bats
- hammers and other tools
- scissors or kitchen knives
- glass bottles.
Aggravated assault is typically charged as a second-degree felony except in some circumstances it is charged as a first-degree felony. Aggravated assault charged as a first-degree felony happens when:
- the assault is undertaken with a deadly weapon and the alleged offender causes serious bodily injury and the alleged victim is a family member, household member, or a current or former intimate partner;
- the assault is committed against a security officer or a public service working in their official capacities at the time of the assault;
- the assault is committed in retaliation of a witness or informant; or
- the assault is committed with a motor vehicle, such that a person in the vehicle shoots at a building or another vehicle with reckless disregard and seriously injures an occupant.
How Should You Plead in Dallas or Fort Worth in an Assault Case?
You should never plead guilty or no contest in assault charges. See below, but the penalties can add up. Plus, if you plead guilty – even by way of a plea deal – you will likely end up with a criminal record. That criminal record leads to collateral consequences that can stick with you for the rest of your life, meaning you could have problems finding a job, retaining a job, getting child custody, securing good housing, among other things.
You should always plead not guilty first and then speak to an attorney. Carl Ceder will review your case and outline your options. You may have a viable defense, and trial may be the best way to defend against the charges. In some circumstances, a plea deal may be your best option, and in that scenario, you may still end up with a criminal record, but attorney Ceder will negotiate aggressively on your behalf and only suggest accepting a deal if it is in your best interest.
In sum, pleading not guilty is your best chance of getting the best outcome in your case. Pleading guilty may seem like the thing to do if you think the charge is of no consequence, but there are always consequences to a guilty plea, and the first consequence is giving up your right to defend yourself. Contact Carl Ceder to learn more before you make a decision that can have life-changing implications.
How Can Assault Charges be Defended against in Texas?
The important thing to know about assault charges is this: you can successfully defend yourself against them. The prosecutor must prove every element of the offense – it is the State's burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Aside from the burden of proof, which attorney Ceder will challenge every step of the way, you may also have a viable defense. Here's an overview of some ways your assault case can be defended.
Challenging the Elements of the Crime
In the more serious assault charges, that means proving things like state of mind, bodily injury, and serious bodily injury. These things have specific definitions that must be satisfied.
State of Mind
Assault requires that you have a certain mental state in order to have committed the crime: intentional, knowing, or reckless. An intentional state of mind can result in a higher classification of the crime while recklessness results in a lower classification. Texas Penal Code § 6.03 defines each mental state and the elements that the prosecutor must show to render a conviction.
(a) A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.
(b) A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.
(c) A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.
Texas Penal Code § 1.07(8) defines what constitutes bodily injury. Bodily injury
means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
It's important that this definition sets no minimum for the bodily injury – a scratch or a broken nose will suffice.
Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is defined under Texas Penal Code § 1.07(46) and
means 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.
Serious bodily injury is determined on a case by case basis and is determined without considering medical treatment. So, if medical treatment saves a person's life, the injury still constitutes serious bodily injury if the injury could have caused death without medical intervention.
Asserting Self-Defense, Defense of Property, or Defense of Others
A common and viable defense in assault cases is self-defense, which is governed by Texas Penal Code § 9.31. It could also include defense of property or defense of another person who was in harm's way. Self-defense is justified when the force was immediately necessary to protect you against the aggressor's use of or attempt to use unlawful force. But self-defense defenses can be complicated and you must effectively admit to the crime, so it is important to speak to an experienced attorney before asserting this defense.
You could have an affirmative defense, according to Texas Penal Code § 22.06, if the alleged victim actually consented to the assault unless that consent is a condition to be initiated into a criminal street gang. As in self-defense, this defense can be tricky as well and requires that the:
- conduct did not threaten or did not result in serious bodily injury; or
- victim knew the conduct was a risk associated with his or her occupation or medical treatment.
Denying the Charges
In any assault charge, you can deny the charges. There may have been a mistake in identity. You may have an alibi that can be proven. There could be other reasons, too, that can prove your innocence.
What are the Penalties are Associated with Assault?
If convicted of assault or an assault-related crime, the sentence will be determined by the classification of the offense. The following is the range of penalties in terms of incarceration and fines associated with each classification.
- Class B misdemeanors carry an incarceration penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanors carry an incarceration penalty of up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
- State jail felonies carry an incarceration penalty of between 180 days and two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felonies carry an incarceration penalty of between two and ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-degree felonies carry an incarceration penalty of between two and twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- First-degree felonies carry an incarceration penalty of between five and 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
What Criminal Offenses are Related to Assault?
Assault crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies. They are all dependent on the facts and circumstances. Some offenses related to assault are briefly described below.
Deadly conduct is a Texan crime governed under Penal Code § 22.05. It occurs when
(a) A person commits an offense if he recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.
(b) A person commits an offense if he knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of:
(1) one or more individuals; or
(2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied.
This offense is charged as either a class A misdemeanor in the first instance and a third-degree felony in the second instance.
Assault becomes domestic violence when the criminal act is committed against
- a family member,
- a former or current intimate partner, or
- a member of the household.
Domestic violence is not governed by a specific statute but acts more like an aggravating circumstance. Convictions of domestic violence tend to carry harsher sentences than simple assault cases.
Injury to Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Person
Injury to Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Person is an offense governed under Texas Penal Code § 22.04. This offense typically occurs when a person
intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission, causes to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual:
(1) serious bodily injury;
(2) serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or
(3) bodily injury.
This offense is classified as a felony, but it can be a state jail felony or even a first-degree felony – it all depends on the facts and circumstances.
Terroristic threats is an offense in Texas governed by Penal Code § 22.07. This crime involves a person threatening to harm another person or property with the intent to:
(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance, or other public place;
(4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;
(5) place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
(6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.
Depending on facts and circumstances, this offense is charged as a Class B misdemeanor, Class A misdemeanor, a state jail felony, or a third-degree felony.
Contact an Aggressive Assault Criminal Defense Attorney in Dallas/Fort Worth TX Today
Getting charged with an assault crime can be serious. You need to strong legal representation if you want to fight. Contact Carl Ceder to schedule a consultation today.