By: Mark Diaz
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What Are the Penalties for Assault Causing Bodily Injury in Texas?
No matter what circumstances led to an arrest for an assault in Texas, you could be facing serious punishment if you are convicted on the charges. Assault has many forms in Texas, but regardless of the form, they are all considered a violent crime. As a result, you can expect that jail time, fines, and other penalties could very well be part of your sentence should you be convicted.
The Texas criminal statute on assault creates several different offenses, and the charges vary depending on numerous factors. Unless you have a legal background, it can be difficult to decipher the offense termed assault causing bodily injury, let alone understand the penalties you face for a conviction.
Texas is harsh on all violent crimes, so you can be sure that police will enforce the laws by making arrests and prosecutors will aggressively pursue the charges. Knowing that the government is represented by skilled attorneys who will fight to obtain a conviction, it is critical to level the playing field by retaining an assault and battery lawyer in League City. To get an idea of potential sentencing, it may be helpful to check out the following overview of assault charges in Texas.
Summary of Texas Assault and Battery Laws
Before getting to the penalties for a conviction, you should appreciate how the statute works and the government’s burden in an assault case. At the outset, note that while other states distinguish assault and battery as separate crimes, in Texas they are both incorporated in the chapter of the Texas Penal Code called assaultive offenses. As such, you will not find the term ‘battery’ in the Texas Penal Code, rather you will find various types of assaults. There are three ways to be charged with an assault:
- Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another person when the offender knows or should know that the touching will be offensive.
- Intentionally or knowingly threaten to cause bodily injury, even without contact. (**Note: there are various different offenses that are very similar but have entirely different punishments and ramifications**)
- Intentionally or recklessly causing physical injuries to another person, otherwise termed assault with bodily injury.
The prosecution must be able to prove each and every element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. As you can see, each type of assault requires that the prosecutor prove that your conduct was intentional, knowing, or reckless. Aside from proving the state of mind of the accused, the prosecution must also have facts specific to prove the other aspects of the offenses listed above. In Texas, bodily injury is not necessarily what you might think. There does not have to be an actual injury, only that the alleged conduct caused pain to the individual.
Criminal Proceedings for Texas Assault and Battery
Aside from a legal overview, some information on the timeline of a criminal case is helpful for knowing what to expect. An arrest will typically trigger the criminal process and should motivate you to retain a lawyer right away. From there, additional steps in the proceedings may include:
- The arraignment is your first appearance, in which the charges will be read in court and you will be required to enter a plea. You can also address the issue of bond so you can be released pending a trial date.
- There are many activities during pretrial stages, and one important tactic is the use of motions by both the prosecutor and defense attorney. It may serve as an advantage in your case to compel evidence or have inadmissible evidence tossed, or request that the court dismiss the charges for lack of evidence.
- Pretrial may also include discovery to obtain documents, other evidence, and deposition testimony from witnesses who might be called at trial.
- The court will eventually set your case for trial, and some of the proceedings may be familiar. Leading up to the trial date, the prosecutor and defense counsel will go through the jury selection process. As the trial gets underway, both sides will make opening and closing arguments. The prosecutor will put on its case-in-chief first by calling witnesses and presenting exhibits. Your lawyer will have the opportunity to cross-examine during this stage, and you will present your case once the prosecution rests.
- After both sides complete their case, the jury will be sent to deliberate. Jurors will return with a verdict, which will be followed by sentencing if the finding is guilty.
Penalties for Assault in Texas
With a basic grasp of how the laws apply and the stages of the process, you can better understand the framework for punishment after being convicted of an assault charge. Each form of assault listed above has different punishments and ways they can be enhanced.
Number 1 and Number 2 are both Class C Misdemeanors which are punishable by a fine only in an amount up to $500. However, if the alleged victim is elderly or disabled the crime is enhanced to a Class A Misdemeanor which if convicted you face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Number 3 is a Class A Misdemeanor in the absence of aggravating factors. However, the charge for assault with bodily injury can be even more serious under certain circumstances described in the statute.
If the assault causing bodily injury involves family violence, or in other words, involves a person who is a family or household member or someone in a current or previous dating/marital relationship; a first-time offense is still a Class A Misdemeanor but there are collateral consequences such as not being able to ever own or possess a firearm in the future.
Assault causing bodily injury can be enhanced to a Third Degree Felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 if the assault is against:
- Someone with a family or household member or someone with whom you have had a dating relationship, AND you have been convicted for assault family violence in the past.
- A person who is a public servant lawfully doing his or her job.
- A person you know to be a security officer or EMT performing his or her duties.
- A person that was choked in connection with the assault.
- A pregnant person.
Additional circumstances can lead to assault with bodily injury being further enhanced to a Second Degree Felony. A conviction for a Second Degree Felony is a minimum of two years and up to 20 years imprisonment, plus a possible fine of up to $10,000. The most common example of this is Aggravated Assault. This crime occurs when the accused is alleged to have caused serious bodily injury or used a deadly weapon in the commission of the offense, regardless of whether it was just a threat or if no serious bodily injury was caused.
Another example is when the alleged victim is a family or household member, or someone you dated, the crime may be enhanced. However, the prosecutor must show that you were previously convicted for a similar offense against one of these individuals and that there was evidence of choking.
It should also be noted that the Legislature recently changed the law now making it a Second Degree Felony if it is an assault against a peace officer or judge who was performing an official duty of his or her employment.
The most serious form of assault with bodily injury encompasses the act itself and the status of the victim. You could be arrested for a First Degree Felony by committing aggravated assault against someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, a public official, or other individuals listed in the statute. The mandatory minimum prison term for a conviction is five years, but your sentence could include life in prison.
Defense Tactics and Strategies in Assault Cases
Considering the harsh penalties for a guilty verdict, you will no doubt want to avail yourself of all options for fighting assault charges. Your first priority should be retaining a League City assault and battery attorney who can assist by:
- Exposing weaknesses in the evidence, whether physical exhibits or the credibility of a witness.
- Using motions to your advantage, such as by requesting the court to force the prosecutor to turn over evidence, toss illegally obtained evidence, or dismiss for lack of evidence.
- Negotiate potential plea agreements with the prosecutor, which is often an option when the evidence is weak.
- Presenting legal defenses, such as self-defense, a lack of intent or knowledge, absence of injuries, necessity; to name a few.
Questions to Ask Your League City Assault and Battery Attorney
It is clear that retaining legal counsel is critical to defending charges for assault causing bodily injury. However, you may not know where to begin with your search, and finding the right fit is crucial. You will certainly want to know about education and admission to practice law in Texas, but other considerations are also important. You can narrow down candidates and make an informed choice by asking the following questions:
What is your experience with criminal law in general and, specifically, assault cases? You want to know that your lawyer has spent considerable time defending these cases, including time in the courtroom.
How do you plan on fighting assault charges in my case? Even after getting some basic information from you, an attorney should have the knowledge and skills to provide a few strategic ideas.
What factors work for and against me? Because they impact your defense strategy and give you an idea of what to expect, ask about the strengths and weaknesses in your case.
Who will be the primary contact at your office? You want to feel confident that your lawyer will be the point person handling your case, so make sure your communications will not be handed off to a paralegal or administrative staff.
Call Now to Speak to a Skilled Assault and Battery Lawyer in League City
This information should clarify some of the confusion regarding state laws on an assault causing bodily injury, but there are many additional details that you should entrust to an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. With solid legal representation, you may be able to avoid harsh penalties or obtain a favorable outcome.
To set up a free consultation, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz by calling (409) 515-6170. We serve clients throughout Galveston County and Greater Houston in a wide array of criminal matters, and we look forward to working with you.