Assault in Texas is defined in Penal Code Chapter 22 and covers everything from a class C offensive touching to a first-degree aggravated assault punishable by up to life in prison. The degree and severity of Texas assault charges depend on the offender’s mental state, the extent of the injury, and certain characteristics of the alleged victim. In this article, we will break down the different types of Texas assault charges and answer some frequently asked questions about criminal assault in Texas.
In Texas, the definition of assault is very broad and covers a wide range of behavior. Obviously, punching someone in the face or hitting someone with an object constitutes assault. But did you know you can be charged with assault even if you didn’t actually touch another person? For example, if you spit on someone, you can be charged with Class C misdemeanor assault. If you threaten to beat up someone while holding a bat, you could potentially be charged with a second-degree felony assault.
It is certainly possible. If you acted recklessly or were negligent and someone got hurt, you could be charged with assault – even if you “didn’t mean to.” Assault, like most other criminal offenses in Texas, requires some sort of mental state. In Texas, culpable mental states include intentionally, knowingly, recklessly and criminal negligence. Under Texas Penal Code §6.03 a person acts:
As mentioned, Texas assault charges can range from a Class C ticket to a first-degree felony that can land someone in jail for the rest of his or her life. Here’s the breakdown of punishments ranges:
When people think of assault, they typically think of a violent confrontation between two or more people. Texas, however, has enacted laws in which a person may be charged with assault in situations where aggravating factors, like violence or physical contact, are not present. A person commits a simple assault, or misdemeanor assault, by:
The punishment for misdemeanor assault depends on the facts of the case.
For example, a person who simply threatens another with bodily injury or causes offensive contact commits a class C misdemeanor assault, punishable by a maximum $500 fine. This is referred to as assault by contact and can stem from spitting on someone or poking them in the chest.
A person who causes bodily injury to another commits assault bodily injury (ABI), which is a class A misdemeanor, punishable up to one year in jail, up to a $4,000 fine, or both.
For example, on December 3, 2020: Emmanuel Duron, a Texas high school football player was ejected from a game by a referee. When the opportunity presented itself, Duron ran onto the field and blindsided the referee, knocking him to the ground. Duron was charged with a class A misdemeanor assault because he caused bodily injury to another. Had he threatened to hit the referee or touched him in a manner which was considered offensive, Duron would have instead committed a class C misdemeanor assault.
The punishment for assault bodily injury, generally a class A misdemeanor, can be increased or “enhanced” based on a variety of characteristics of the alleged victim. For example, intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a public servant, government official or paramedic is increased to a third degree felony. The following are assault bodily injury charge enhancements:
Assault on a Public Servant
It’s a third-degree felony to assault a public servant (juror, government official, attorney, public notary, etc.) who is lawfully discharging an official duty or in retaliation against an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant.
Assault on a Peace Officer or Judge
If the assault is committed against a person the actor knows is a peace officer or judge while he or she is lawfully discharging an official duty or in retaliation of an official duty, the offense is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
Aggravated assault is one of the most common felony assault charges in Texas. Aggravated assault is codified in § 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code. An assault becomes aggravated if the defendant:
In Texas, serious bodily injury is defined as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Examples of serious bodily injury include:
It is important to note that not all serious injuries rise to the level of serious bodily injury.
As mentioned, in Texas, a person can be charged with a second-degree felony without actually hurting someone. Simply threatening another, while holding a weapon, could result in an aggravated assault charge.
In Texas, deadly weapon is defined as a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury, or anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Weapons under this definition may include knives, clubs, bats, bricks, guns, and tire irons. A person’s hands or a pillowcase can be considered a weapon under this definition.
Generally, aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, but § 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code states that a person commits aggravated assault in the first-degree if the violent offense is committed:
In Texas, assaults accounted for 96 percent of all family violence incidents in 2018, with simple assaults accounting for 75.1 percent. When an assault causing bodily injury is against an intimate partner, family member, or household member, it is classified as an assault family violence offense.
The first time someone commits assault bodily injury against a family member (ABI-FM), it is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
If someone commits aggravated assault against an intimate partner, family member, or household member, the punishment range increases to a first-degree felony – which, aside from capital punishment, is the most severe punishment range a person can face in Texas.
If an offender commits an ABI-FM twice, within 12-months, the offense is classified as Continuous Violence Against the Family, a third-degree felony. A person can be convicted of this offense without either assault having resulted in a conviction or even an arrest. Additionally, the two assaults need not have been committed against the same victim.
Furthermore, an offender who commits an ABI-FM will face a third-degree felony if the offender has been previously convicted of at least one family violence offense in the past.
In 2009, the Texas Legislature enacted a law which enhanced an ABI-FM from a class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony when the offense is committed by:
Any subsequent convictions of assault by strangulation are a second-degree felony. If, however, the offender has a family violence conviction on his or her record, a first-time assault by strangulation offense is automatically a second-degree felony.
Common forms of strangulation are:
In Texas, a person can also be charged with assault by strangulation by suffocating, or attempting to suffocate, another. For example, by covering someone’s face with a pillow or placing a plastic bag over someone’s head, subsequently restricting the person’s access to air.
The severity of simple assault drastically increases if the victim is a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual because these individuals cannot always protect themselves. In Texas, this offense is taken seriously which is why a defendant found guilty of this offense could spend up to 99 years in prison.
Texas Penal Code § 22.04 states that a person commits this offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, causes a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual: serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury.
In certain situations, parents and caretakers may be criminally charged with injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, by omission if they had a duty to act or had assumed care of the alleged victim.
For example, in October of 2020, a severely malnourished, 12-year old child was found in Conroe, Texas. The child, weighing in at roughly 50 pounds, had been deprived of food by his mother and her boyfriend. The couple plead guilty to injury to a child by omission, a first-degree felony, and were each sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Furthermore, owners, operators, and employees of institutional care facilities may face criminal charges if the alleged victim is a resident of their facility when the injury occurred. In Wichita Falls, a North Texas State Hospital employee pled guilty to injury of a disabled person. The young man physically assaulted a resident of the group facility which resulted in a three-year sentence, suspended to probation.
The punishment range for injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual varies from a state jail felony to a first-degree felony based on the intent of the alleged offender and the extent of injuries sustained by the alleged victim:
Texas Penal Code §22.04(c) defines:
Indecent assault is a relatively new offense found in the Texas Penal Code § 22.012 in September of 2019. A person commits indecent assault, a class A misdemeanor, if without the other person’s consent and with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the person:
Prior to the enactment of this offense, touching another person without consent was classified as a class C misdemeanor. The offense was equivalent to that of a traffic ticket, with no jail time repercussions. Indecent assault was enacted to fill a gap in sexual assault offenses, and it did just that. Despite being a serious offense, indecent assault is not a registerable offense. This means that a person convicted of indecent assault is not required to register as a sex offender.
There are a number of affirmative defenses that can be used to negate criminal culpability:
If you or a loved one are facing Texas assault charges, it is crucial to have a tenacious and skilled representation. Call today for a complimentary strategy session with an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney. Call us at (817) 203–2220 or reach out online.