Class C Assault: Assault by Contact or Threat

Texas Criminal Law

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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. However, police are increasingly often making arrests for these offenses because of departmental policies that require police officers to arrest someone in every domestic disturbance call.

On citations and in court documents, the Texas Class C Assault offense is often referred to as “Assault by Threat” or “Assault by Offensive Contact.” As these names imply, you don’t have to cause any physical pain at all or even touch someone to be convicted. Nonetheless, Class C Assault is actually a very serious charge, as explained below.

It is even more serious if prosecutors charge you with the Family Violence enhancement.

You should never plead guilty to a Class C Assault without the advice of an attorney. However, if you have already pled guilty, you may be able to withdraw your plea if you act very quickly after the plea.

If you have a professional license, a pending family law case, or if you are a federal employee or need to pass a federal background check, it’s important to understand the special conditions of expunctions related to Texas Class C Assault.

Have you been charged with Class C Assault? Book a consultation to discuss legal representation with attorneys Paul Saputo and Nicholas Toufexis today.

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What is the current Class C Assault law in Texas?

Texas law currently defines Class C Assault 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.

This offense is part of the law defining the crime of Assault in Texas. The Texas Penal Code defines Assault in Section 22.01. Subsection 22.01(a) describes Class A mismdemeanor of Assault – Bodily Injury, while (a)(2) and (3) describe the Class C misdemeanors of Assault by Threat and Assault – Offensive Contact.

All Assault crimes are subject to the self-defense and defense of third persons doctrines.

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 story 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 with a Class C Assault based on the content of your words alone (threats), or based on physical contact that someone finds offensive or provocative. If the prosecuting attorney believes 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 a Class C misdemeanor Assault under Texas Law is punishable by a maximum fine of $500.[2]

Although the fine is relatively low, the collateral effects of having any Assault conviction on your record may have severe negative consequences. For instance, many employers will refuse to hire anyone convicted of Assault, and many private businesses refuse to contract with anyone who has an Assault conviction. Class C Assault convictions may also have an impact on your concealed carry permit or ability to own or purchase a firearm.

Texas courts may also make a finding of family violence related to any Class C Assault. This finding increases the severity of the collateral consequences.

The enhancements applicable to Class C Assault

All Class C Assault charges can be enhanced to the Class B misdemeanor level if the state can prove that the victim was a sports participant (and the assailant was not a participant).[3]

Assault – Offensive Contact can be enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor when it is committed against an elderly person.[4] And, as of 2017, both Assault – Offensive Contact and Assault by Threat can be enhanced to the Class A misdemeanor level if the offense was “committed against a pregnant individual to force the individual to have an abortion.”[5]

The law generally allows courts to grant probation in Class C misdemeanor assault cases.

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[6] can all be considered family violence victims, and even people who were roommates or former roommates[7] 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 are convicted of any Assault offense, the 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 lawyer to represent you if you are accused of any Assault crime. 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.

What is “Assault by Threat“?

Assault by Threat is the type of assault described in subsection (a)(2) of the definition of the Assault law. This offense is similar to the offense of Terroristic Threat, but there are many more circumstances in which you can be charged with Terroristic Threat than which you can be charged with Assault by Threat. Also, Assault by Threat requires a specific intent to harm, and the harm must be imminent – those requirements do not apply to the offense of Terroristic Threat.

^1. Texas Penal Code §22.01^2. See Texas Penal Code §12.23^3. Penal Code Section 22.01(c)(2)^4. Penal Code Section 22.01(c)(1)^5. Penal Code Section 22.01(c)(3), as enacted by HB 2552, 85th Texas Legislature (RS), Section 18, effective September 1, 2017^6. Texas Family Code §71.0021(a)(1)(A)^7. Texas Family Code §71.006

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