What Makes an Assault a Felony in Texas? Legal Questions Answered
A set of factors determines the levels of assault in the state of Texas. The first element has to do with the relationship that exists between the people in the altercation. The context of the assault and whether a weapon was used will be the other main determining factors.
Someone has to deliberately cause harm or threaten another person for a potential assault to take place. When they are involved in physical contact, and there's a serious bodily injury, the chances of them being charged with a felony increase. The context of the altercation is everything; that's why something as simple as testimony from a police officer can make or break a case.
Assaulting a family member, a police officer, a security officer, or any public servant can also increase the severity of the charges. Any of these situations can turn a simple assault charge into a felony in Texas. Sparks Law Firm can answer questions such as Can assault charges be dropped in Texas?
The Legal Definition of Assault
This is the definition of assault in Texas according to the state penal code.
"A person commits an offense if the person: Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another."
Once an assault charge has been filed, it'll reach the local District Attorney's office; in this case, it would be the Fort Worth DA. The District Attorney's Office will then determine whether to emit an aggravated assault charge against the accused. Even if the accuser would like the charges dropped under Texas law, the District Attorney can choose to proceed with the case.
The Types of Assault Charges in Texas
There are only three types of assault charges in Texas. Those are assault by contact, assault with bodily injury, and aggravated assault. Each of these three can range from a class C misdemeanor assault up to a first-degree felony. Sparks Law Firm has more insight on what happens when you press charges on someone for assault in Texas.
As was previously mentioned, it's not only the severity of the physical harm that will determine how the assault is qualified. Many of the first-degree felony assault charges in Texas involve domestic violence incidents. If the assault is perpetrated with a deadly weapon, that also contributes to the degree that it'll fall under.
Simple vs. Aggravated Assault
The difference between simple assault and aggravated assault comes down to the action that takes place in each case. In simple assault, there's usually only a threat of physical harm towards the alleged victim. These cases usually qualify as a Class B misdemeanor at the most.
In an aggravated assault situation, there's physical contact and a clear intent to cause harm. These aggravated assault cases are more likely to bring forth felony charges. When that's the case, there's an actual possibility that the accused will see jail time.
Simple Assault Penalties
The biggest fine that people found guilty of simple assault under Texas law pay costs around $4,000. There's also a possibility of spending a year in jail. Most people who end up in jail over a simple assault charge either couldn't pay the fine or were on probation.
When the altercation isn't deemed too serious, the person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. In these situations, the biggest fines go up to 500 dollars. Most assault cases in the state are classified as a Class A misdemeanor.
What's the Maximum Penalty for Assault Charges?
The maximum penalty for assault in Texas is given out to those whose assault is deemed a first-degree felony. Life in prison is the worst punishment that these offenders can receive. When their crime is considered a first-degree felony, they'll see no less than five years in prison.
There's also a fine that people found guilty have to pay. They can't be charged more than $10,000 in a first-degree felony charge.
Domestic Violence as a Category of Assault
Putting a family member or a romantic partner in a situation of imminent physical harm puts the accused in a worse position every time. Domestic violence issues can turn a class a misdemeanor into a felony charge instantly. The DA's office will heavily investigate any assault charge involving domestic violence.
When there's a relationship between two people involved in an assault case, that becomes one of the aggravating factors that will put authorities on high alert. Family violence is heavily scrutinized because of the proximity that the two people involved in the case may have to each other.
The last thing that authorities want is to force the alleged victim to remain close to the person who committed the alleged assault. Especially in situations where there was some type of altercation involving a deadly weapon.
Sexual Assault Charges
In Texas, most sexual assault instances are classified as a second-degree felony at the minimum. The severity of the act will determine whether it can be classified as a first-degree felony. When the act is classified as aggravated sexual assault, and the accused becomes a convicted sex offender, the minimum sentence is two years.
Multiple factors can make sexual assault charges much worse for the accused. Any interactions with minors are heavily penalized because of the minor's inability to legally consent to the action. Like with the other assault cases, the context of the actions will heavily determine the outcome of the case.
Anyone who is found guilty of any form of sexual assault in Texas has to register as a sex offender. That's something they have to do on top of the sentence that they'll be handed.
There's one thing that any person who's been charged can do, and that's to contact a criminal defense attorney. An assault attorney in Fort Worth from Sparks Law Firm will be able to review the case and any interactions with arresting police officers. When it comes to aggravated assault cases, a poor defense can lead to many years in prison.
That's why it's very important to have an experienced defense attorney prepare the case. Otherwise, the accused will likely be at the mercy of the District Attorney and the judge. There are different instances where a person commits assault in self-defense, which could be a major part of the case.