Class C Assault: Assault by Contact or Threat

Texas Criminal Law

Under certain circumstances, the Texas crime of Assault can be classified as a “Class C” misdemeanor. Instead of making an arrest, police often issue citations for Class C assault, and defendants are required to return to court to answer the complaint. However, police are increasingly often making arrests for Class C assaults because of departmental policies that require police officers to arrest someone if they respond to a domestic disturbance.

On citations and in court documents, Class C Assault is often referred to as “Assault by Threat” or “Assault by Offensive Contact.” As these descriptions imply, you don’t have to cause any physical pain or even touch someone to be convicted of Class C Assault. Class C Assault is actually a very serious charge, as explained below. It is even more serious if the Family Violence enhancement is added. You should never plead guilty to a Class C Assault without the advice of an attorney. However, if you have already plead guilty, you may be able to withdraw your plea if you act very quickly after the plea.If you have a professional license, have a pending family law case, are a federal employee or need to pass a federal background check – skip down to learn about why it’s important to hire a lawyer who understands the connection between expunctions and Class C Assault under special conditions.

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What is the current Class C Assault law in Texas?

Class C Assault is described in Section 22.01(a)(2) and (3) of the Texas Penal Code as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if the person: …

(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.

How can I be charged with a Class C Assault?

A Class C misdemeanor assault charge can be filed against you based solely on the words of the accuser. Because of this, people are often surprised when the police suddenly show up and make an arrest or write a citation without even hearing from them. This is a common police department policy for responses to an alleged assault.You can be charged for a Class C assault based on words alone (threats), or based on physical contact that someone merely finds offensive or provocative.If the prosecuting attorney believes from the statements or police report that each element of 22.01(a)(2) or (3) has been met, you can be charged with Class C assault.

What is the punishment for Class C Assault?

A conviction for Class C Assault misdemeanor under Texas Law is punishable by a maximum fine of $500.[2] Although the fine is relatively low, the collateral effects of having an assault conviction on your record may have serious severe effects. For instance, many employers and private businesses will exclude people convicted of an assault charge from employment. Class C Assault convictions may also have an impact on your concealed carry permit or ability to own or purchase a firearm.A family violence finding may also be added to a Class C Assault. This will increase the collateral consequences of the conviction as described below.

What is Assault Family Violence?

Family Violence is defined in Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code as

(1) an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself;

(2) abuse, as that term is defined by Sections 261.001(1)(C), (E), (G), (H), (I), (J), (K), and (M), by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or

(3) dating violence, as that term is defined by Section 71.0021.

This Texas law broadly construes “family violence” to cover more than just violence by family members. People who are dating the accused or who had previously dated the accused[3] can all be considered family violence victims, and even people who were roommates or former roommates[4] of the defendant can be considered family violence victims. Any such finding can be used to enhance the standard assault charge to Assault Family Violence.

What are the consequences of a family violence charge?

In addition to having a fine imposed and having a conviction permanently on your criminal record, a Class C assault conviction with a finding of family violence can have other ramifications, including:

  • A prohibition on owning or possessing firearms and ammunition
  • Restrictions on trade or professional licenses
  • An enhancement on future family violence misdemeanors to felonies
  • Denial of child custody and visitation rights
  • Exclusion from applying for nondisclosure of records

Can I get a Class C Assault off my record?

If you have been charged with a Class C Assault and are convicted, your conviction will remain on your record barring special circumstances. However, if the charge is dismissed, you may be able to get an expunction of the arrest from your criminal record, which can remove all record of the incident from government and public records. But not all expunctions are created equal – and not all dismissals are treated the same. Make sure to read our expunctions post for more information about the differences between expunctions.You should always hire a criminal defense lawyer to handle your Class C Assault case. And if you have a special need to ensure that your record remains crystal clear (for instance: you have a pending a divorce or child custody case, or you have a security clearance, or you have a job that requires a license or are subject to regulation, like nurses, physicians, engineers or plumbers, or if you have a pending immigration case or if you have any need to pass a federal background check or you are a federal employee), then you should hire a lawyer who has expertise in high-stakes misdemeanor cases.

^1. Texas Penal Code §22.01

^2. See Texas Penal Code §12.23

^3. Texas Family Code §71.0021(a)(1)(A)

^4. Texas Family Code §71.006

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