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Assault: The Texas Crime

The Texas crime of Assault covers everything from bar fights to inappropriate touching. “Simple” Assault is the fundamental Assault offense, but depending on the actors, victims, the type of force and the amount of damage, a “simple” assault offense can be enhanced by state attorneys to a much more serious criminal charge.

Have you been charged with Assault in Texas? Call criminal defense lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

An Assault charge requires some form of intention, knowledge or recklessness. Any kind of bodily injury endured by a victim may meet the injury requirement, whether it was caused knowingly or recklessly. Mere threats or offensive contact only constitute a criminal Assault offense under Texas law when someone acted either intentionally or with knowledge of the act. In Texas, Assault does not require the contact to leave a mark.

Other more serious Assault charges include Sexual Assault, Intoxication Assault, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault and Injury to a Child.

What is the Texas Assault law?

In Texas, Assault is described in Section 22.01(a) of the Texas Penal Code:

A person commits an offense if the person:

(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;

(2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or

(3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

What does reckless mean?

The word “reckless” is defined in Section 6.03 of the Texas Penal Code as “disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur.”1 The state’s attorney has to prove recklessness to a jury. The attorney will usually ask the jury to use its “common sense” in determining whether a particular behavior was reckless. A defense attorney can challenge the state attorney’s assertion that an action was reckless.

How can an Assault charge be enhanced?

A simple Assault charge in Texas can be punished as a Class C Misdemeanor, Class B Misdemeanor, Class A Misdemeanor, third degree felony or second degree felony. The Assault in PC 22.01(a)(1) (“intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse” – known as “Bodily Injury Assault“) starts at the Class A Misdemeanor level, but the punishment can be enhanced to a higher punishment class under certain circumstances.

Bodily Injury Assault can be punished as a third degree felony if the assault was committed against a peace officer2 or a person with whom you have a dating or familial type relationship.3 However, the assault against a police (or peace) officer enhancement requires that the assault have a connection with the officer’s official duty (see footnote 4), and the “family violence” felony enhancement requires either a prior history or an allegation that the assault involved contact with the throat, neck or mouth4. This is known as the “Assault Family Violence” charge. If the charge is Assault Family Violence, and the person is found to have prior Assault Family Violence convictions and the person is also found to have restricted breathing in the instant offense, then the Family Violence Assault charge can be enhanced to a second degree felony.5

The Bodily Injury Assault charge can also be enhanced to a third degree felony if the assault is proven to be committed against a government contractor, security officer or emergency responder.6

The Assault described in PC 22.01(a)(2) (“intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse” – “Threat Assault“) and the Assault offense described in PC 22.01(a)(3) (“intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative” – “Offensive Contact“) are punished less severely than Bodily Injury Assault. Both Threat Assault and Offensive Contact start at the Class C Misdemeanor level.7

However, Threat Assault and Offensive Contact can be enhanced if the assailant is found to have committed the assault against (1) an elderly person, a Class A Misdemeanor, or (2) a sports participant if the assailant is not also a sports participant, a Class B Misdemeanor.8

How much jail time can I get for Assault?

The amount of jail time you can get for assault depends on the offense level for the specific type of assault offense. See the FAQ above to learn more about the different kinds of Assault Charges & Enhancements

Assault Bodily Injury starts as a Class A Misdemeanor but can be enhanced to a third degree felony for repeat or serious Family Violence or assault on a peace officer, government contractor, security officer or emergency personnel. Assault Bodily Injury is a second degree felony for repeat serious Family Violence. Both Threat Assault and Offensive Contact start at the Class C Misdemeanor level but can be enhanced to a Class B Misdemeanor for Sports-Participant Assault or a Class A Misdemeanor for Assault on an Elderly person. Learn more about the range of punishment for felonies and misdemeanors

Understanding your defense options

Many of our clients were arrested and charged with assault when they were only trying to defend themselves. Self-defense is a defense against an assault charge in the state of Texas, but this defense should be asserted, and the best defense will include investigation into the circumstances, the background of the alleged victim, surveillance footage, witness interviews and more investigative fact-collection. Read more about Defenses to Assault under Texas law

Another frequent defense in assault charges is mistaken identity. In defending our clients against assault charges, we conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the facts of the case and regularly subpoena records and interview witnesses.

If you are accused of assault, you will inevitably have to face both the complaining witness and the police officers who investigate the case. We will prepare a thorough and aggresssive defense that takes into account all of the facts and circumstances, and we can use all of the resources that are available to the state–and even resources that the state never thought to use.

There are also certain specific defenses under state law, including

  • Consent
  • Inapplicability to Certain Conduct

How is my best defense to an Assault charge?

There are many defenses to a simple assault charge, and you should consider all of them with your criminal attorney. In addition to the possibility that you just didn’t commit the assault, you may be eligible for an affirmative defense like self-defense or consent. Learn more about defenses to Assault in Texas

What is the difference between Simple Assault, Aggravated Assault and Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

Simple Assault is defined in Section 22.01(a)(1) of the Texas Penal Code and requires either bodily injury, offensive contact or a threat of imminent harm. The punishment level of a Simple Assault charge varies from a Class C Misdemeanor to a Second Degree Felony.

Aggravated Assault, under Texas law, requires serious bodily injury or the use of a deadly weapon. The punishment level for Aggravated Assault is a felony of the second degree by default, but it can be enhanced to a felony of the first degree if the Aggravated Assault (1) is a Family Violence Aggravated Assault (2) involves a peace officer or security officer or witness in one of various ways or (3) involves a motor vehicle in various ways. Learn more about the Aggravated Assault offense in Texas

Assault with a Deadly Weapon is a type of Aggravated Assault that is defined in Penal Code 22.02(a)(2) as a simple assault (as defined in 22.01) but where the assailant also “exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.”

What does this mean: ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJ, ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJURY, ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJURY FAMILY VIOLENCE, ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJ DATE/FAMILY/HOUSE?

Assault offenses appear on the court docket as:

ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJ
ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJURY
ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJURY FAMILY VIOLENCE
ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJ DATE/FAMILY/HOUSE

Simple Assault is marked on the court docket as “ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJURY” or “ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJ” when the simple assault is alleged to have resulted in some kind of bodily injury to the victim. “ASSAULT CAUSES BODILY INJURY FAMILY VIOLENCE” is a Family Violence (aka domestic violence) case. See the FAQ above to learn more about the different kinds of Assault Charges / Enhancements

What is “Assault by Threat“?

Assault by Threat is the type of assault described in subsection (a)(2) of the definition of assault as described above. This offense is closely related to the offense of Terroristic Threat, but there are many more ways in which you can be charged with Terroristic Threat. In addition, Assault by Threat requires a specific intent to harm, and the harm must be imminent.


Legal References:

1Texas Penal Code Section 6.03(c) – “A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”

2Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(b) – “An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the offense is committed against: (1) a person the actor knows is a public servant while the public servant is lawfully discharging an official duty, or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant”

3The relationship must be as described in Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(b)(2) – “a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code.”

4Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(b)(2)(A) – “it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has been previously convicted of an offense under this chapter, Chapter 19, or Section 20.03, 20.04, 21.11, or 25.11 against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code; or (B) the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.”

5See Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(b-1) –

Notwithstanding Subsection (b)(2), an offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree if:

(1) the offense is committed against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code;

(2) it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has been previously convicted of an offense under this chapter, Chapter 19, or Section 20.03, 20.04, or 21.11 against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code; and

(3) the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.

6See Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(b)(3)-(5):

(3) a person who contracts with government to perform a service in a facility as defined by Section 1.07(a)(14), Penal Code, or Section 51.02(13) or (14), Family Code, or an employee of that person:

(A) while the person or employee is engaged in performing a service within the scope of the contract, if the actor knows the person or employee is authorized by government to provide the service; or

(B) in retaliation for or on account of the person’s or employee’s performance of a service within the scope of the contract;

(4) a person the actor knows is a security officer while the officer is performing a duty as a security officer; or

(5) a person the actor knows is emergency services personnel while the person is providing emergency services.

7Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(c)

8Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(c)(1)-(2):

(1) a Class A misdemeanor if the offense is committed under Subsection (a)(3) against an elderly individual or disabled individual, as those terms are defined by Section 22.04; or

(2) a Class B misdemeanor if the offense is committed by a person who is not a sports participant against a person the actor knows is a sports participant either:

(A) while the participant is performing duties or responsibilities in the participant’s capacity as a sports participant; or

(B) in retaliation for or on account of the participant’s performance of a duty or responsibility within the participant’s capacity as a sports participant.

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