If you or your loved one have been charged with aggravated assault in the state of Texas, you could be facing serious and long-lasting consequences, including heavy fines, incarceration, and a felony on your criminal record. Without the aid of an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer, your chances in court could be slim — especially as prosecutors are particularly zealous to prosecute this class of cases.
At the Law Office of Brian J. Newman, we stand ready to assist you in your hour of need. Attorney Brian J. Newman has a long track record of successfully defending against the charge of aggravated assault in the Fort Worth area. For a free legal consultation, call us 24/7 at 817-231-0023, and we will be happy to get started on your case.
Below, to help you better understand the legal process, we offer an overview of how the crime of aggravated assault is handled in the state of Texas.
What Is "Aggravated Assault?"
Assault and battery crimes are dealt with in Title 5, Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code. Whereas, in many states, "assault" and "battery" are listed as distinct offenses; in Texas, they are treated together as a single offense.
The elements of the crime of "assault and battery" in Texas include:
- Intentionally or recklessly touching or threatening to touch another person, whether directly or by means of a weapon.
- Causing or threatening to cause imminent bodily injury to another person.
- Doing the above actions when you knew or should have known that such actions would likely cause bodily injury or be understood as offensive/provocative.
Note that no actual injury must occur for it to count as assault. It is only necessary that the offender acted in a way that would reasonably be expected to cause the victim to fear such injury was imminent.
"Aggravated assault" has the same elements of the crime as simple assault and battery, but it adds either the use of a "deadly weapon" or the infliction of "serious" bodily injury. The victim's status and the perpetrator's intent can also raise the charge from simple to aggravated assault. Finally, if an assault incident occurs inside of the victim's home, it is of an aggravated status. Sexual assault is usually charged as a separate crime, but in some cases, it could be charged as aggravated assault as well.
In more detail, here is what constitutes assault as "aggravated" under Texas law:
- Assault with a deadly weapon means that a weapon was used that was capable of causing extreme bodily harm or death. Firearms and knives generally qualify, but any weapon used in a lethal manner, such as a baseball bat or broken bottle, could also qualify.
- The degree of injury inflicted raises the bar to aggravated assault if the injury was life-threatening, easily could have been, or permanently crippled or disfigured the victim.
- Assaults on law enforcement officers, fire fighters, security guards, and certain other classes of persons are aggravated if the perpetrator knew or should have known of the victim's status and that person was on duty at the time. Assaults motivated by bigotry over things like race or religion are often charged as aggravated as well.
- The relationship between the victim and the perpetrator can also make assault qualify as aggravated. If a person living in the same house, a blood relative, a foster child or foster parent, or a dating partner, for example, are assaulted, the closer relationship makes it aggravated assault.
- The intent of the offender to inflict serious bodily injury or death, even if he/she fails to do so, can make it aggravated assault. Acting with reckless indifference to the safety of others around you, while a kind of "lack of intent," still raises simple assault to aggravated assault. An example might be randomly shooting off a gun in a populated area and "accidentally" wounding someone in a nearby building or a passerby.
- Finally, in the state of Texas, assaults involving strangulation or suffocation attempts are also counted as of an aggravated status, due to the extreme violent nature of this method of assault.
A case of assault and battery in Texas can range from a Class C misdemeanor to a first degree felony, depending on the details of the case. The defendant's past criminal record will also influence the sentence. A misdemeanor assault could be fined by as little as $500, but felony assault can incur from 2 to 20 years in state prison and a $10,000 maximum fine.
In Texas, as in all other U.S. states, aggravated assault is a felony-level offense. It is normally a 2nd-degree felony, which is punishable as mentioned just above, but when a 1st-degree felony, aggravated assault is punishable by the $10,000 fine and by 5 to 99 years in state prison.
Typically, first-time offenders will have hope of receiving a degree of leniency, even if convicted. Repeat offenders, however, will tend to get the high end of the sentencing range.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
To gain a conviction of an aggravated assault, the prosecution must first prove beyond doubt the basic elements of any assault and battery crime: that the defendant intentionally threatened and/or made physical contact with the victim in a way the he/she knew to be potentially harmful.
To prove the assault was aggravated, they need only prove any of the many elements listed above: that a deadly weapon was used, that serious bodily injury was inflicted, that an on-duty police officer was assaulted, or that someone in a close relationship with the perpetrator was assaulted.
The specifics of aggravated assault cases vary greatly, and there are many factors and complexities to take into account. Defense strategies will vary accordingly. However, some of the most common defenses used are as follows:
- Self-defense: The threat or use of force to defend yourself against imminent bodily harm is not assault but an act of self-defense. The force used, however, must have been appropriate to the threat at hand. And there must have been a reasonable fear of suffering imminent physical harm. Finally, there can not have been any provocation done by the defendant to the victim, which led to the victim retaliating before being assaulted.
- Defense of others: The same factors and limitations that apply to defending oneself also apply to defending another person from imminent threat of bodily harm. This is true whether it was one or more than other people at risk and regardless of one's relation to those he/she intervenes to defend.
- Defense of property: In some cases, you are entitled to act with physical force to defend your property from being stolen or damaged. Again, the force applied must be reasonable given the threat level. In cases of disputed ownership, it is not permitted to "solve the dispute" by assaulting the other person and seizing the property, but if something has just been stolen (like a wallet, purse, important documents, or an automobile), one can justifiably use reasonable fore to recover it.
There are also cases in which mistaken identity and other less common defenses may be appropriate, and a good defense attorney will carefully sift through the facts of each case to find the strongest possible defense. And when a dismissal or acquittal is not possible, an experienced attorney will know how to fight on and negotiate to get the charge reduced and/or to obtain a lighter sentence.
At the Law Office of Brian J. Newman, we know how to anticipate and counter the prosecution's next move and build a solid defense against every variety of aggravated assault charge. Brian J. Newman will fight with both legal acumen and undying tenacity to secure the best possible outcome to your case.
For a free consultation on the details of your case, call us anytime 24/7 at 817-231-0023.