By: Mark Diaz
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Aggravated Assault With Deadly Weapon Against Federal Agents
Even if you do not have a legal background, there are some points of criminal law that are pretty straightforward and obvious when it comes to whether certain acts are a violation of the law or not. As such, the following information about aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a federal agent may not come as a shock:
- Violations of federal statutes are typically more severe and lead to harsher punishment as compared to state law.
- When the victim of aggravated assault is an employee of the US government and/or any of its agencies, the charges will be extremely serious.
Reports on Crime in the United States indicate that around 821,000 people are arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon every year. The majority of these offenses do not involve a federal agent, but the circumstances are extremely serious for the percentage that do. The offense is a felony in most cases, and US prosecutors will typically seek something close to the highest punishment as authorized by the law.
If you were charged with aggravated assault on a federal agent, retaining a Galveston County federal criminal defense lawyer is a top priority. An overview of the crime, defenses, and other strategies for obtaining a positive outcome is also helpful.
Overview of Aggravated Assault Offenses
You will be in a better position to understand the severity of the charges when you know the basics of how the specific assault crimes work. Simple assault is the use of force or violence to cause injuries to someone else. It may include threats when there is a present intent and ability to commit an act of violence. Therefore, simple assault may or may not involve harm to the victim, but the offense is charged the same.
Aggravated assault is an assault in which:
- The defendant used a dangerous weapon with the intent to cause bodily injury, instead of merely threatening with it
- The act caused serious bodily injury to the victim
- The crime involved strangulation, choking, or suffocating the victim
Aggravated assault of a federal agent is when the offense is committed against an employee or official as designated by law. It may turn into an assault while you resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with these individuals when they are performing their official duties.
Application to Federal Agents and Employees
Aside from the elements of an assault case, you should also be aware of who could be a victim of criminal misconduct. The federal government encompasses hundreds of agencies and subdivisions falling under the three branches. All officers and employees are covered by the laws.
Your encounters with officials from a wide range of federal agencies could lead to criminal charges, including agents from:
- TSA and airport security
- Federal judges, court officials, and bailiffs
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
- The Internal Revenue Service
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Social Security Administration
- US Attorney General’s Office
- Federal correctional officers
Classification of Assault Crimes and Sentencing
Being a federal crime, assaulting a government agent is covered by federal court opinions, laws in the US Code, and court procedural rules. An important aspect of these cases is that the federal sentencing guidelines apply. In short, the guidelines work from the base offense, along with a review of the defendant’s criminal history, and aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
The penalties for assault offenses involving government officials are based upon the severity of the crime.
- Simple assault against a federal agent listed above is punishable by up to a year in prison and fines up to $100,000, but only if the offense did not involve physical contact. As mentioned, threats alone may be sufficient to lead to assault charges. You could be arrested for verbal comments, taunting, gestures, and other acts that indicate the intent and ability to mount an assault.
- When simple assault does involve physical contact with the victim OR the intent to commit another felony, the penalties increase.
- By law, if you make physical contact with a federal officer and you did so with the intent to commit another felony (regardless of whether there is actual bodily injury or not), then this is classified as a serious assault. Assuming there was no deadly weapon used, this is a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
- Serious assault with a deadly weapon or when serious bodily injury is caused is the most serious type of assault against a federal officer. This occurs when you make physical contact with the officer and do so with a deadly weapon or cause serious bodily injury to the officer in the process. Serious assault with a deadly weapon is classified as a Class C felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
Collateral Consequences for Criminal Cases
The punishment for a conviction on aggravated assault charges is harsh, but some ramifications might surprise you. Collateral consequences are the legal disabilities and financial implications that stem from a criminal case.
Records regarding an arrest and conviction for the most part remain a part of your criminal history indefinitely. This information will show up whenever you are subject to a background check. In some situations, you may be required to disclose your criminal history under penalty of perjury.
If you are convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a federal agent, there will be a felony on your record. The offense is also considered a violent crime. These details could impact your life in several ways:
- You might have difficulties with employment or be disqualified for a professional license.
- If you have an existing professional or business license, it could be suspended or revoked.
- You could be ineligible for certain loans or it may impact your ability to obtain housing.
- A conviction for a violent crime could affect child custody and your rights as a parent.
- You may not qualify for public benefits.
- You cannot vote in elections or hold public office until your rights are restored.
Options for Defending Aggravated Assault Charges
One solid strategy for fighting assault allegations is meticulously picking apart the government’s case. The prosecutor must establish each of the elements of assault, plus all factors for aggravated assault. The government must prove all elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction. This is the highest-burden there is under United States law; simply one reasonable doubt as to one of the required elements may result in an acquittal.
The law on assaulting a federal agent is strict and there isn’t much latitude granted under the law by way of defenses. Even so, that doesn’t mean defenses don’t exist and the charges can’t be fought by your criminal defense attorney. Some common legal defenses on these charges can include:
- Lack of intent
- Possible self-defense or defense of others
However, in many aggravated assault cases, a complete defense is not possible. Fortunately, you can still pursue other alternatives for resolving the charges. In a case where the prosecutor’s evidence is weak, you may be able to negotiate a plea agreement. You will have to plead guilty to the charges, which means you may not be able to avoid collateral consequences. Still, a reduced sentence is an advantage.
Timeline of a Federal Criminal Case
To put things into perspective as to when defense strategies are important, a description of the criminal process is useful. Your Galveston County federal criminal defense lawyer will take advantage of all opportunities at each stage:
- Arraignment: This is your first court appearance, during which the judge will read the official charges and you will be asked to enter a plea. Another important part of the arraignment is arrangements for pretrial release. You may qualify to remain out of jail until trial, which enables you to work closely with your attorney on defense strategies.
- Pretrial Court Hearings: There may be several hearings throughout the criminal process, often involving evidence. Your defense lawyer will work to keep illegally obtained evidence out of court and will seek all information the prosecution intends to use at trial.
- Motions: When you want the court to grant a specific request, you must raise it by motion. If you have defenses, your attorney will file motions to support your case when applicable.
- Trial: The court will set a trial, during which the prosecution will present all evidence for the government. Your lawyer will cross-examine all witnesses for the prosecutor, question witnesses for your side, if any, and introduce evidence for your defense.
- Sentencing Hearing: If you are convicted, there is still an opportunity to make a positive impact on your case and convince the judge to be lenient.
Call Now to Speak to a Galveston County Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
As you can see, getting arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against federal agents is a serious matter. Defenses may be available, but timing is everything when it comes to presenting them in court. You put your rights at risk if you do not have experienced legal representation on your side.
To learn how our team supports your needs, please contact criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz. Our firm serves clients in Greater Houston, Galveston County, and the surrounding region, so we can meet with you to discuss strategy. You can schedule a no-cost consultation with our Galveston County federal criminal defense lawyer by calling 409-515-6170.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties, including but not limited to, Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.