By: Mark Diaz
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How An Assault Conviction Can Affect Your Life
Nobody wants a criminal charge on their record. In fact, even a single conviction can turn a person’s life upside down and cause rippling effects that last well beyond any formal sentence. Even so, many people still fail to appreciate these consequences when facing criminal charges. Maybe it’s because you’ve never been in trouble before, or maybe you simply are unaware of how a conviction can affect you. For instance, if you have been charged with “assault,” you likely don’t understand the intricacies of the charge and the often harsh consequences that follow it. As such, here is a brief overview.
Misdemeanor Assault and Battery
In some parts of the United States, “assault and battery” refer to two distinct crimes. Usually, assault refers to threatening someone with imminent bodily harm, while battery is when you actually make physical contact. Texas law does not actually have a separate criminal offense for battery. Instead, there are different degrees of criminal assault that a person can be charged with depending on the facts and circumstances of their case.
The law regarding assaultive offenses in Texas can be found in Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code. Some of the most common assault charges in Texas are:
- Class C Misdemeanor Assault
- Class A Misdemeanor Assault (Assault Causing Bodily Injury)
- Assault on a Peace Officer (Third-Degree Felony)
- Aggravated Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury (usually Second-Degree Felony)
- Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon (usually Second-Degree Felony)
- Assaultive offenses against people in protected classes can be found in Section 22.04 of the Texas Penal Code, which includes Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual.
Class C Misdemeanor Assault
A person commits a Class C misdemeanor assault if he or she “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.” Tex. Penal Code § 22.01(a)(3).
Class A Misdemeanor Assault (Assault Causing Bodily Injury)
Class A misdemeanor assault occurs if a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused “bodily injury” to the complainant. Tex. Penal Code § 22.01(a)(1). The Texas Penal Code defines “bodily injury” to mean: “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” Basically, did it cause the person any amount of pain – if so, then “bodily injury” is satisfied under the law. In effect, this means that the prosecutor only has to prove that the alleged victim experienced pain.
Assault on a Public Servant
The same assault offense elements stated above apply in cases where it is a police officer who is assaulted or the alleged victim. However, because the alleged victim is a public servant, those cases are often charged as a Third-Degree Felony, Assault on a Public Servant. This offense carries a punishment range of no less than 2 years in prison and no more than 10 years in prison.
Aggravated Assault in Texas
Under § 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code, you’ll find the offenses of Aggravated Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury and Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. These cases are normally charged as Second-Degree Felonies and carry a punishment range of no less than 2 years in prison and no more than 20 years in prison.
A person commits the offense of Aggravated Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury if he or she commits an assault that causes “serious bodily injury.” The law defines “serious bodily injury” as bodily injury that creates: (1) a substantial risk of death or that causes death; or (2) serious permanent disfigurement; or (3) protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
A person commits the offense of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon if he or she uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of an assault. “Deadly weapon” means a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury, or anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. In effect, a “deadly weapon” can be a variety of things – including a person’s hands or any other instrument used that fits the above definition.
Injury to a Child, to an Elderly Person or to a Disabled Person
Charges of Injury to a Child, Injury to an Elderly Individual, or Injury to a Disabled Person are felonies, although the degree of felony depends upon the actor’s level of intent and the extent of injury to the alleged victim. Generally speaking, the offense level for this charge begins at the Third-Degree Felony level and goes up from there.
An assault arrest alone can be life-changing for many, if not all. After something like this happens to our clients, they often ask us if their lives will ever truly be the same? The reality is that many Texans find there are long-term collateral consequences to an assault conviction. Every person’s situation is different, of course, but here are some of the more common problems that individuals face following a conviction.
If you currently work in a profession that requires a state license, the licensing authority may revoke that license if you are convicted of felony assault. You can even lose your license for a misdemeanor assault conviction if it is considered a “crime of moral turpitude.” Keep in mind, there are a lot of professions subject to professional licensing in Texas. We are not just talking about doctors and lawyers. A conviction could mean you are unable to work as a barber, architect, or even as a real estate agent.
Even if you work in a non-licensed profession, many employers are reluctant to hire individuals with any recent criminal record. Texas does not prevent employers from conducting criminal background checks on job applicants. And even when an employer has no formal policy against hiring convicts, they may informally prefer applicants with “clean” records.
As with employment, nothing in Texas law prevents a landlord from using criminal history to screen job applicants. So, you can be legally denied the ability to rent an apartment if you have an assault conviction. At the same time, landlords may not use criminal history as a pretext or cover for illegal forms of housing discrimination. For instance, a landlord cannot have a policy of only refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans or immigrants with an assault conviction.
Conviction of a felony and certain misdemeanor charges can render a person ineligible for many common forms of federal educational assistance, including student loans. This can make it financially impossible to attend college. In addition, some colleges may use a criminal conviction as grounds for denying admission to their programs.
A felony conviction automatically deprives you of the right to vote in elections. Felons may also not serve on a jury or hold any public office. A felony or misdemeanor conviction can also restrict your right to possess or carry firearms under both state and federal law. The federal government may also deny or revoke your passport if you have a criminal record, meaning you would be unable to legally travel outside of the United States. And if you are an immigrant living in Texas, an assault conviction can result in the loss of your legal status and possibly lead to your deportation.
Particularly when your assault conviction involves a family member, that can significantly impact any pending legal cases regarding divorce or child custody. A judge could factor your conviction into any decision to award custody or visitation rights. Remember, in these cases, the court must look at what is in the “best interest of the child,” and any history that suggests violent behavior on your part may be cited against you.
Speak with a Galveston Assault Lawyer Today
The best way to avoid the long-term consequences of an assault conviction is not to be convicted in the first place. This may be easier said than done depending on the strength of the prosecution’s case against you. One thing we can say, however, is that your chances of a more favorable resolution to your assault charge will greatly improve if you work with an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney. If you are facing an assault charge and need qualified legal representation, contact attorney Mark Diaz today at (409) 515-6170 to schedule a consultation.