A person does not have to strike someone else to be charged with assault in the state of Texas. While physical contact certainly can be assault, the law takes a broader view of this particular crime. Any action that leads someone else to feel credibly threatened with violence can result in an assault charge, leaving the defendant in need of a good legal defense strategy.
Tommy W. Hull PC is a Midland defense lawyer who has a deep understanding of the rights defendants have and the strategies to defend them in court. Drawing on his experience on the other side of the aisle as a prosecutor, Attorney Hull is committed to giving all his clients the vigorous defense that justice requires. He serves Odessa and all of Midland County. Call today at (432) 223-0044 or contact him online to set up a free consultation.
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Penalties for Assault in Texas
The broad definition of assault leads to a wide range of possible sanctions for those who are convicted. There are three categories of misdemeanors–A, B & C, with A being the most serious. There are three categories of felonies, 1st, 2nd & 3rd, with a 1st-degree conviction bringing the potential for the stiffest sentence.
On the low end–a Class C misdemeanor, someone convicted of assault might be fined $500. The high end of a 1st-degree felony comes with a minimum five-year prison sentence, along with the possibility of a longer sentence.
This means the circumstances of each specific assault are going to matter a great deal in sentencing. Assault charges can be grouped into two very broad categories–simple assault and aggravated assault.
Under simple assault, the defendant may have inflicted physical harm on someone, but the damage from the assault was not considered severe. This type of assault can cover incidents that don’t involve violence–i.e., inappropriate touching of a sexual nature or generally engaging in behavior likely to provoke violence.
Many cases of simple assault are classified as misdemeanors, but both Class A & B misdemeanors carry the possibility of jail time, ranging from six months to a year.
Furthermore, simple assault can be upgraded by the prosecution to a third-degree felony if the victim is a pregnant woman, a government official, a security officer or a first responder. If the prosecution can make even a third-degree felony charge stick, a defendant faces a maximum of ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Under aggravated assault, the injuries done to the victim are considered more serious–broken bones, other forms of disability, serious disfigurement, etc., and include incidents where a deadly weapon was at least shown during the attack. Under assault, the credible threat of a gun, knife or other type of weapon need not be actually used. All that’s necessary is that a victim have a credible belief in a threat, either implied or expressed.
Depending on the circumstances, aggravated assault can be charged as a first-degree felony, which opens the door to a possible life prison sentence.
All of these possible sentences are bad enough in their own right. What they don’t include is the possibility that a victim might also bring a lawsuit in civil court seeking financial restitution. A criminal conviction of the defendant naturally makes the odds of a civil jury awarding substantial financial damages to the plaintiff more likely.
Furthermore, even beyond jail time and financial loss, a conviction permanently scars the defendant’s record and leaves them with a long road to rebuild their life and place in the community after the sentence is served.
How to Defend Against Assault Charges in Texas
The burden of the prosecutor is to show that the defendant acted “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly”. The prosecutor must prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt and secure a unanimous verdict in that regard from a jury of 12 people. Therefore, a possible starting point for a defense strategy is to challenge that the action was intentional, knowing, or reckless.
Self-defense is always a viable defense, and it’s not uncommon for assault charges to be rooted in an incident where there were words and actions exchanged on both sides. It’s quite possible the defendant themselves was at risk–or at least credibly believed themselves to be at risk. Under Texas law, people have a right to defend themselves, other people and their property.
It’s important to note that if self-defense is invoked, the burden lies on the prosecution to disprove it, not on the defendant to prove they had just cause for their actions. Burden of proof is an extremely important element in any criminal trial and that burden lies with the prosecution.
Attorney Tommy W. Hull knows this well. A former prosecutor himself, he understands what an assault defense lawyer needs to do in all the events leading up to the trial, and then in court itself. Our system of justice is structured to favor the defendant, but too often, those defendants lack the kind of counsel that makes prosecutors reach the very high standards of proof that are required under the law. When you call Tommy W. Hull, P.C., you’ll get someone who does their homework and fights hard.