Know the distinctions between assault & aggravated assault in Texas. Learn penalties, defenses, legal implications
The word “assault” can be used to describe various types of crimes. Generally, when we think of this word, we think of a physically violent crime. Though this is correct in many situations, an assault does not always mean physical contact. Since there are different levels of this crime, and each state has its own definition, we’re going to discuss how two of the most common types of assault differ in Texas: simple assault and aggravated assault.
Difference Between Assault and Aggravated Assault in Texas
While assault in some states may only include crimes with physical contact, simple assault can include threats in Texas. To better understand how it’s defined, let’s take a look at the official definition. The Texas Penal Code states that:
A person commits an offense if the person:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the
- intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the
person’s spouse; or
- 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
Example: Some people wonder, how can an assault occur if no one was physically harmed? Let’s take a look at an example. If a person points a gun at someone and the victim is afraid that you are going to physically harm them, then the person with the gun has committed an assault. This is because they are threatening the victim, even if they leave without physically harming them.
Typically, the punishment for a simple assault that results in minor injury is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable with a maximum of 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of no more than $4,000. However, the crime can be charged as a third-degree felony if the victim was: a pregnant person, a public servant, a security officer, an emergency services personnel (e.g., EMT or firefighter), a government employee, or a contractor at a correctional or rehabilitation facility. The punishment for a third-degree felony is up to 10 years in a Texas prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
On the other hand, an aggravated assault is a more serious crime as it is typically more violent than a simple assault. The Texas Penal Code defines it as someone who:
- causes serious bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse; or
- uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
An aggravated assault offense is a second degree felony, which is typically punished with a $10,000 fine and 2-20 years in prison. The offense is elevated to a first-degree felony under certain circumstances: the victim is an on-duty security officer or process server, inhabits the defendant’s household, is related to the defendant, is dating the defendant, is a public servant acting in line with his or her office, is a witness or informant, or the defendant is in a vehicle and discharges their gun at a building, vehicle, or home without knowing if it was inhabited and causes serious bodily injury to the victim. As a first-degree felony, aggravated assault is punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to life in prison.
Role of an Attorney in Assault Cases
There are several ways that lawyers can defend a defendant in an assault case. Some strategies they might use include:
- Arguing that the defendant acted in self-defense: If the defendant can show that they were acting in self-defense or in defense of others, this can be a valid defense to an assault charge.
- Challenging the evidence against the defendant: Lawyers can challenge the evidence against the defendant, including any eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, or forensic evidence. This may involve questioning the credibility of witnesses or pointing out any inconsistencies in the evidence.
- Negotiating a plea bargain: If the evidence against the defendant is strong, a lawyer may work to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. This may involve pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
- Claiming that the defendant did not have the required mental state: In order to be convicted of assault, the defendant must have acted with the intent to cause harm or with reckless disregard for the safety of others. Lawyers may argue that the defendant did not have the required mental state for an assault charge.
- Raising defenses based on the specific circumstances of the case: Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, lawyers may raise other defenses that are specific to that case. For example, if the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the assault, a lawyer may argue that the defendant did not have the required mental capacity to form the necessary intent for an assault charge.
If you’ve been charged with assault, it’s important that you have an experienced lawyer to help prepare your defense. At AMS Law Group, we have assault and aggravated assault lawyers who specialize in this area of law. Contact us for a free, no-obligation, and confidential consultation. If we decide to work together, we will thoroughly investigate the case and provide you with the best possible defense.