By: Mark Diaz
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What Are The Penalties For Aggravated Assault With A Deadly Weapon In Texas?
Aggravated Assault With A Deadly Weapon
A closer look at the terminology alone should tell you that the penalties for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Texas are serious. “Aggravated” essentially means the punishment is enhanced compared to other versions of the crime, and the use of a “deadly weapon” means the offender employed a device capable of killing another human being.
This violent offense is always a felony, and a conviction could even lead to life behind bars. So that is just another point that should put things into perspective in terms of the severity of the aggravated assault charges.
Some statistics reveal that punishment is not the only concern. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the number of reported aggravated assaults has risen more than 16% in recent years. Authorities have been cracking down in response to the spike, making almost 25,000 arrests for aggravated assault.
If you were charged with this offense, you can expect that prosecutors will aggressively pursue the allegations. Therefore, it is important to even the playing field by retaining a Galveston County criminal defense lawyer to fight for your rights. A look at the laws on aggravated assault and some background information is also helpful.
Essential Elements the Prosecutor Must Prove
Before getting to the circumstances that elevate the offense and types of weapons, you should understand the basics of the charge of assault. To get a conviction, the government must prove that a person intentionally, knowingly:
- Caused bodily harm to a victim.
- Threatened a victim with imminent bodily injury.
- Caused physical contact with a victim, when the defendant knew or should have known the act would be offensive.
These acts are relatively minor, and two of them may not even cause actual injury. Aggravated assault involves acts that are more violent and/or extreme but require the State to have to prove more than just an assaultive offense. For a guilty verdict, the prosecutor must first prove all essential elements of an assault charge as described above. Then, the government must have evidence showing that the defendant either:
- Caused serious bodily injury to the victim; OR
- Used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
Still, you should always keep in mind that the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to every element of the crime. The prosecutor first needs sufficient evidence to prove a simple assault, as well as one of the two additional factors that make the crime aggravated assault.
Note that the definition of a deadly weapon in Texas includes more than just firearms. It also encompasses any item that has the potential to cause death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, a deadly weapon may also be:
- A knife or boxcutter.
- A baseball bat or club.
- A bomb, explosives, or another incendiary device.
- A motorized vehicle.
- Brass knuckles.
- A sword or machete.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Texas
For comparison purposes, you should know that assault is typically charged as a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $4,000 fine. However, the penalties increase in severity considerably based upon the surrounding circumstances:
Aggravated Assault: Both aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury AND aggravated assault with a deadly weapon are Second-Degree Felony charges. If convicted, the mandatory minimum sentence is 2 years in prison, though a judge or jury could order up to 20 years.
First Degree Felony Aggravated Assault: There are additional factors that could elevate aggravated assault charges to a First-Degree Felony. Examples include:
- The defendant used a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault and caused serious bodily injury to a family member, a current or former dating partner, or member of the household.
- Aggravated assault against a witness to a crime, a security officer, a police officer, or another public servant who is performing official duties.
- Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, when the defendant was inside a motor vehicle and he or she:
- Knowingly discharged a firearm into or in the direction of a building or other vehicle.
- Acted with reckless disregard on whether the building or vehicle was occupied.
- Caused serious bodily harm by discharging the gun.
If convicted for a First-Degree Felony, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and maximum incarceration of 99 years.
How Collateral Consequences Affect Your Future
After serving a sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Texas, many individuals are shocked to learn about the additional ramifications of a conviction. These are the legal disability and implications that follow you, and they are more extensive when convicted of a felony. For instance:
- You may be unable to exercise key civil rights, including the right to vote, hold public office, and possess firearms.
- You may be required to disclose a felony conviction when applying for a job, public benefits, housing, and other scenarios. Doing so could disqualify you, while the failure to disclose might lead to additional penalties.
- Even if not required to disclose information about a conviction for aggravated assault, the information could be uncovered through a background check.
Also, you should note the special case of aggravated assault against a family member. Upon an arrest that is linked to domestic violence, the criminal court will issue a magistrate’s order of protection, also known as an injunction or protective order. The document will prohibit you from contacting or communicating with the victim, but an order of protection could also require you to stay away from that person. This includes a residence that you share so, to many people, losing your home is also a significant collateral consequence.
Legal Help With The Criminal Process
There is a substantial amount of information to absorb about an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and it can be confusing trying to keep the different essential elements and penalties straight. Because of the complications and possibility that you could spend decades behind bars, retaining a Galveston County criminal defense attorney. You will need advice and counsel at every stage of the proceedings, including:
Arrest: Your lawyer will probably not be present at the moment of your arrest, but having legal representation is important if you are being questioned or interviewed by police. You have the right to remain silent, but officers can be tricky in getting you to provide information. Your attorney will prevent these tactics from turning into self-incriminating statements that could be used against you in court.
Arraignment and Bond Hearing: During this first court appearance, the judge will read the allegations of aggravated assault and ask you to enter a plea. In addition, the arraignment is when you have the opportunity to arrange bail for your release pending trial. Bond hearings are more complicated with violent felonies like aggravated assault.
Pretrial Hearings and Motions: There is considerable activity leading up to trial, and your attorney might have grounds to file a motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds of police misconduct, a lack of evidence, or other defenses.
Trial: If the aggravated assault charges are not dismissed or resolved via plea bargaining, the case will go to trial. The prosecutor will go first in terms of presenting exhibits and witness testimony, and your criminal defense lawyer will take every opportunity to cross-examine. Once the government rests, you will have a chance to present defenses to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, such as:
- Self-defense or the defense of others.
- Lack of intent, knowledge, or reckless disregard, i.e., state of mind elements.
- You did not cause bodily injury, make threats, or make offensive physical contact since the prosecution must first establish the elements of simple assault before moving to the aggravated version.
- Though a deadly weapon was in your possession, you did not use or exhibit it.
- The item you allegedly used or exhibited is not a deadly weapon.
Sentencing: If the jury returns a guilty verdict, it is likely that you will be taken into custody and a sentencing hearing will be held at a later date. Having an attorney is also crucial at this stage since the punishment for aggravated assault ranges considerably. Your objective would be to stay as close to the mandatory minimum as possible, possibly with evidence of your good moral character, assistance with authorities, lack of a criminal record, and other proof.
Consult With A Galveston County Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away
From this overview, you can see that aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is one of the most serious offenses under Texas criminal law. Knowing the severity of the penalties, it is crucial to have experienced legal representation throughout the proceedings.
For additional information on fighting aggravated assault charges, please contact the Houston, TX offices of Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz. You can call (409) 515-6170 to set up a free initial consultation with a skilled Galveston County defense lawyer. After we review the details of your case, we can get started on a strategy for obtaining a favorable outcome.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm Located in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.