In Texas, assault charges range from a fine-only Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. I hear many people say that they were arrested for assault but don’t know what kind of assault until a lawyer sits down and explains to them the distinctions between the different charges.
This post seeks to help you understand the nature of your assault case and some of the collateral consequences of a conviction.
Defining Assault in Texas
Assaultive offenses are defined in Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code. Sexual assault offenses are also found in this chapter, but those are beyond the scope of this post.
Section 22.01 is the general assault offense. The statute prohibits “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly” causing bodily injury to another. However, you can also be charged with Class C misdemeanor assault even without ever making contact with someone else, as the law also makes it an offense to threaten someone with imminent bodily harm.
The more serious the injury or if aggravating circumstances were present, the higher the level of offense. For example, choking the victim is a third-degree felony. If serious bodily injury is inflicted or the State proves that a deadly weapon was used, the offense is enhanced to a second-degree felony. In other severe cases, it’s a first-degree felony.
The level of the offense also varies based on the relationship to the alleged victim.
For instance, it is a third-degree felony to assault:
- A public servant (police officer),
- On-duty security officer, or
- Emergency medical technician.
Causing serious bodily injury to an elderly person, disabled person, or child is a first-degree felony if the act was done knowingly and intentionally.
As you can see, many tiers of assaultive offenses exist.
The different levels of assault depend on the following:
- The severity of the injury caused,
- The relationship with the victim,
- The age of the victim, and
- The identity of the victim.
Understanding Assault Family Violence
One of the most common assault offenses is referred to as assault family violence. The crime carries some of the most debilitating collateral consequences.
“Family violence” is a term used to define the relationship between the actor and victim. If the relationship falls under the definition of section 71.002 et seq. of the Texas Family Code, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor, provided that bodily injury, as opposed to serious bodily injury, is caused.
If the Court makes a family violence finding, more consequences are added beyond the statutory punishment designated for a Class A misdemeanor. Once a family violence finding is made, the actor may never own or possess a firearm and may never be employed as a police officer under federal law. If the actor is ever charged with the offense again, the charge is automatically enhanced to a third-degree felony.
If a person is convicted of any assault, they are typically disqualified from most types of residential leases. This means that an assault conviction will prevent you from ever leasing an apartment or house.
Protective Orders in Assault Family Violence Cases
One of the most problematic consequences of an assault family violence charge or conviction is the issuance of a protective order. Two types of protective orders exist: emergency and permanent.
An emergency protective order may be issued before your release from jail. It can last between 30 and 60 days (90 days if a deadly weapon was used).
A permanent protective order imposes conditions to prevent you from going within a certain distance of an address or person. They limit interaction with the alleged victim by prohibiting any contact and limiting communication.
Violating a protective order itself is a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense.
Contact a Lawyer Today
Being charged with assault is extremely complicated and requires the help of a lawyer familiar with the nuances of the law and the applicable statutes.