By: Mark Diaz
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Is Assault On A Family Member A More Serious Crime?
Being charged with assault in Texas is a serious situation. Depending on the circumstances, you face anything from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. The county prosecutor will work tirelessly to put you in jail, so you need a robust criminal defense strategy immediately. Our criminal assault lawyers in Galveston at Mark Diaz & Associates can defend you against these charges aggressively.
Overview Of Texas Assault Charges
Texas law states you have committed assault if you knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person, including your spouse. It also is assault if you intentionally or knowingly threatened another person with imminent bodily injury, including that person’s spouse. Last, it is assault if you intentionally or knowingly caused physical contact with another person when you knew or should have known they viewed the contact as provocative or offensive. The misdemeanor charge classifications are as follows:
- Class C misdemeanor: If you threatened someone with bodily harm or engaged in physical contact offensively or provocatively, and there were no other aggravating factors. Up to a $500 fine.
- Class B misdemeanor: If you commit assault against a person who is a sports participant during a game or performance and you are not participating yourself in the sporting event but instead a spectator. Up to 180 days in jail and fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanor: If you cause bodily injury to someone and no aggravating factors are present such as, serious bodily injury, a deadly weapon used or a previous conviction for family violence. Up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
It is a third-degree felony if the person is a public servant and they are engaged in their public duties. Also, if the act is committed against a family member or someone you are dating and you have a previous family violence on your record. Your punishment range for this level offense is up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. So, you can see that committing assault against a family member is a more serious crime in Texas. If you have been charged with this crime, you should find the best criminal defense attorney immediately.
It is a second-degree felony if you assaulted the offense a family member, household member, or someone who you are in a dating relationship with, you were previously convicted of a similar offense, and you impeded the normal breathing of the other person (meaning, you strangled them). The punishment range for this offense is two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
It is a first-degree felony if you commit aggravated assault against someone with whom you have a domestic relationship – meaning, you caused serious bodily injury in commission of the assault, also, you used a deadly weapon in the assault against the family member. The punishment range for this level offense is five years to life in prison.
How Can A Charge Be Enhanced In An Assault Case?
There are various ways that an assault in Texas can turn into felony assault. Domestic violence assault is increasingly frowned upon in Texas, and if it is committed against a husband or wife, it will almost always be at least a Class A misdemeanor, plus a domestic violence or family violence finding.
Does The Victim Have To Be Injured For An Assault Charge?
There must be bodily injury for a charge to stick in Texas, but the scope of bodily injuries is broad. It means anything that causes pain. So, a slap across your spouse’s face that does not break the skin could be assault because it hurts. But the state would still have to prove that the slap happened.
What Are Possible Defenses In A Texas Assault Case?
Assault cases involving family members are aggressively prosecuted, but defenses are available. A good defense is there is not enough evidence to prove the assault happened. The question is whether the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened. If proven, then the next question is if your action was justified.
Also, a misdemeanor assault happens in Texas if you knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly cause bodily harm to someone. The state has to show that the assault occurred, and that there was no justification. Remember, you can defend yourself in Texas if someone hits you. So, you may be able to use reasonable force if unjustified force is used against you – but keep in mind, every situation is different and fact-specific. Consult with an experienced attorney always when this question is being raised.
You also can claim the defense of others for an assault charge. If you thought you had to protect someone else, you could say that your actions were reasonable to prevent that harm.
Another defense to an assault charge is consent. If you can prove that the person consented, such as a fight, you can say that you were not to blame.
Some of the possible techniques your criminal defense attorney will use against a Texas assault charge are:
- Probe for weaknesses in the evidence, whether physical exhibits or witness testimony.
- Use motions to your advantage, such as asking the court to force the state to provide evidence to the defense, suppress illegally obtained evidence, or dismiss the case because of lack of evidence.
- Negotiate a plea deal with the state prosecutor, which could work when there is weak evidence of the assault.
- Use one or more of the above legal defenses, such as consent or self-defense.
Habitual Felony Offender Enhancement
Assault and aggravated assault have harsh penalties in Texas. But these punishments can be increased if the criminal court finds you are a habitual offender. These offenders may be subject to the ‘three strikes law’ in Texas. This is where you can face an enhanced penalty if you commit severe felonies and have two previous convictions for felonies. If this is the situation you find yourself in, it’s more of a reason why you need a skilled defense attorney fighting for you. You could be looking at a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.
What Are The Criminal Proceedings For An Assault Case?
It also may be helpful to understand how the assault criminal proceedings will unfold. If you are arrested, it will initiate the Texas criminal process, and you should retain an attorney immediately. Here are some of the steps in the process to expect:
- The arraignment is your initial court appearance. This is where you will hear the charges against you and enter a plea. Your attorney also can discuss bond so you can get out of jail pending the trial date.
- A lot goes on during the pretrial stages; a critical defense tactic is using motions. It could help your case to compel evidence or have specific evidence tossed.
- The pretrial process also could have discovery to obtain critical documents, assorted evidence, and depositions from witnesses who could be at the trial.
- Eventually, the case will be set for trial. Before the trial date, the state prosecutor and defense counsel will select a jury. As the trial starts, both sides will offer opening and closing statements. The prosecutor will make its case first by calling witnesses and showing exhibits. Your attorney will have the chance to cross-examine their witnesses. You will present your case when the defense rests.
Why The Right Defense Attorney Is Critical
An assault case can significantly impact your life if you are convicted. Just misdemeanor assault carries up to a year in jail. But remember that the consequences of a criminal conviction will haunt you for years after you get out of jail. An assault conviction will appear on your background check when applying for a job.
Unfortunately, few significant employers want to hire someone with a serious misdemeanor or felony on their record. You also may need help being accepted into college or renting a house or apartment. If you are convicted of another crime later, your earlier conviction could lead to enhanced penalties.
Contact Our Criminal Assault Lawyers In Galveston
Were you charged with assault against a family member? You face a serious criminal charge that could result in jail time and a lifetime criminal record that cannot be sealed or expunged. Do not delay contacting our criminal assault lawyers in Galveston at Mark Diaz & Associates at (409) 515-6170.