Fights break out daily among middle and high school students across North Texas. They occur at school, after school, sporting events, parties … the list goes on. Many of these fights begin and end quickly with no serious, long-term consequences – other than a trip to the principal’s office or a call to a parent.
If police are contacted, however, it can be a completely different story. Fighting – even among teens – is a crime in Texas. It’s called assault, and a charge can bring serious consequences if not handled properly by an experienced juvenile defense attorney. In this article, we will discuss misdemeanor juvenile assaults in Texas and what you should do if your child has been accused of or arrested for fighting.
At Varghese Summersett, we are fortunate to have one of the best juvenile assault defense attorneys in Texas on our team. Lisa Herrick is a highly-renowned attorney who is Board Certified in Juvenile Law. This means she is an expert in juvenile law and has a wealth of experience in representing minors accused of assault.
Who is considered a juvenile in Texas?
In Texas, children between the ages of 10 and 16 are considered juveniles for purposes of criminal prosecution. Once a teen turns 17, they are considered an adult and will be handled by the adult criminal justice system.
The juvenile justice system is much different than the adult system, in that the focus is on rehabilitation and treatment rather than punishment. If a juvenile is accused of committing a misdemeanor assault, he or she will be handled by a juvenile court or municipal court, rather than the adult criminal justice system.
What is misdemeanor assault for juveniles in Texas?
In Texas, most juvenile assaults are misdemeanors (as opposed to felonies). Under Texas law, there are four types of misdemeanor, or simple, assaults. They are defined in Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code, but we also offer some hypothetical situations that may help to illustrate the different offenses.
- Assault by Contact: A juvenile commits assault by contact if he or she intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with a person who will perceive it as offensive or provocative. Examples of assault by contact would include spitting on someone, shoving them, or poking them in the chest. Even though it didn’t cause bodily injury, offensive physical contact can still be considered assault in Texas.
Hypothetical Scenario: Two 14-year-old middle school students are playing basketball in the gym. An argument breaks out, and one of the boys pushes the other and spits on him. The coach breaks it up and calls the school resource officer. The school resource officer determines that the teen committed assault by contact and issues a ticket.
- Assault by Threat: A juvenile commits assault by threat if he or she intentionally or knowingly threatens an individual either verbally or non-verbally, with the threat of imminent bodily injury.
Hypothetical Scenario: Two 16-year-old girls get into an argument in the school cafeteria. One of them stands up, points her finger at the other girl and yells “If you don’t leave me alone, I swear I’m going to beat your a– in front of everyone.” The school resource officer is called and determines that the teen committed assault by threat and issues a ticket.
- Assault Bodily Injury: A juvenile commits assault bodily injury if he or she intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. Bodily injury is defined as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. A visible injury isn’t required. If the victim felt pain that’s enough to constitute bodily injury.
Hypothetical Scenario: Two 15-year-old boys get into an argument at an off-campus homecoming party. One of them punches the other in the face, causing a busted nose and visible bruise and redness to his eye. A parent at the party calls the police. The police arrive and take the teen into custody for assault bodily injury.
- Assault Bodily Injury Against a Family Member: A juvenile commits assault bodily injury against a family member if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a parent, sibling, roommate, or boyfriend/girlfriend.
Hypothetical Scenario: A 15-year-old teen is playing video games at 2 a.m. when his 24-year-old brother comes in and abruptly turns the game off, causing him to lose. Furious, the teen starts yelling and starts punching him. Wanting to resolve the situation by not sure how, the mother calls the police for help. The teen is taken into custody for assault bodily injury against a family member.
What is the punishment for misdemeanor juvenile assault charges?
When police get involved, teens face legal punishment for juvenile misdemeanor assault (as well as possible discipline by their parents, school, coaches, etc.) The legal ramifications could include probation, fines, and for more serious offenses, possible placement in a residential or treatment facility. Here’s a look at the penalties for misdemeanor juvenile assault in North Texas.
- Assault by Contact and Assault By Threat: Both are Class C misdemeanors, punishable by a ticket with a maximum $500 fine. Even though this is a municipal ticket, it is extremely important not to just pay the ticket, which will result in a conviction that could leave the juvenile with a criminal record. An experienced juvenile defense assault attorney can help resolve the ticket in a manner that will hopefully result in a dismissal and keep the child’s record clean.
- Assault Bodily Injury and Assault Bodily Injury Against a Family Member: Both are class A misdemeanors punishable by probation, and in some cases, placement in a residential or treatment facility up until the child’s 18th birthday. Deferred Prosecution Probation (DPP) may also be an option for a first-time offender, which would result in no admission of guilt and a dismissal upon successful completion. An experienced juvenile defense attorney will work to resolve the case in a manner that will not negatively impact the child’s future.
** Confinement in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), which is the prison for juveniles, is not a possible punishment for misdemeanor juvenile assaults
Why are fights common among teens?
Teenagers get into fights for various reasons, some of which make sense while others do not.
- Bullying: Students who feel targeted or bullied by their peers may engage in physical altercations as a way to defend themselves or assert their power.
- Peer pressure: Teenagers may feel pressure to conform to the behaviors of their peers, including participating in fights.
- Substance abuse: Substance abuse can impair judgment and increase impulsiveness, leading to violence.
- Jealousy: Jealousy or possessiveness over a romantic partner can often lead to physical altercations.
- Mental health issues: Teenagers with undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions may be more prone to violent behavior.
- Family conflicts: Family conflicts and stress can spill over into a student’s behavior at school, leading to fights.
- Territorial disputes: Teenagers may engage in fights to defend their territory or defend their reputation.
What are possible juvenile assault defenses?
Every case is different, but there are some common defenses that may be raised in a juvenile misdemeanor assault case, including but not limited to:
- Self-defense: If the juvenile was acting in self-defense and was protecting themselves or others from harm, this can be a valid defense.
- Defense of property or a third person: If the juvenile was defending their property or another person, this can be a valid defense.
- Consent/Mutual Combat: If the victim consented to the physical contact that led to the assault charge, it’s possible it could be used as a defense. Often times teens horse around, and both parties are equally culpable.
- Accident: Sometimes assault accusations stem from accidental contact, such as during a sports game or physical activity. If no intentional contact was made, this could be used as a defense.
- Lack of evidence: Sometimes there is not enough evidence to prove assault beyond a reasonable doubt, and if this is the case a good lawyer can use that lack of evidence to your advantage.
It is important to note that these defenses may not be applicable in every case, and the specific circumstances surrounding each case will determine the validity of each defense. An experienced juvenile assault defense attorney can advise the juvenile and their family on the best defense strategy for their case.
Why do I need an experienced juvenile assault defense attorney?
When it comes to your child, it’s important not to leave anything to chance. This is especially true when it comes to juvenile assault charges. An experienced juvenile assault defense attorney can help you protect your child’s future and make sure they get the best possible outcome.
An experienced juvenile assault defense attorney will have in-depth knowledge of juvenile laws, processes, and procedures, as well as alternative resolutions and diversion programs. A seasoned attorney will also provide guidance and support throughout the legal process, giving the juvenile and the parents peace of mind during what can be a challenging time.
Juvenile law is a very nuanced, specialized area of law. You wouldn’t want a general practitioner handling a major surgery; the same holds true for juvenile assault defense. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and make sure your child’s rights are protected every step of the way.
Child arrested for juvenile misdemeanor assault? Contact us.
If your child was ticketed or arrested for juvenile misdemeanor assault in North Texas, your next step is to call an experienced juvenile assault defense attorney. At Varghese Summersett, we understand that juveniles make mistakes and are not immune to making poor decisions in their moment of anger or frustration. We also know that mistakes should not define them for the rest of their lives.
Board Certified Juvenile Defense Attorney Lisa Herrick has devoted her career to helping juveniles who have found themselves in legal trouble. With extensive experience navigating the juvenile justice system, Lisa knows how to get the best outcome for her clients and their families. Call 817-203-2220 today for a free consultation with Lisa.