By: Mark Diaz
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Why You Need A Lawyer For First-Time Assault Charges In Texas
An assault charge in Texas is a serious matter. Even if it is a first-time offense, you can be charged with a felony if certain aggravating factors are present. But with the help of a proven criminal defense attorney, your assault case can have a favorable outcome.
Mark Diaz & Associates has top-rated assault lawyers in Galveston County who will aggressively fight the charges against you. Mr. Diaz and his associate attorneys have the vital courtroom experience and know-how to fight the assault charge in the most effective ways possible.
Table of Contents
What Is Assault?
In Texas, assault means knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly causing bodily harm to someone. Assault does not require you to make physical contact. Simply threatening an individual with harm is enough for assault to be charged. An assault charge can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances and the victim.
How Texas Assault And Battery Laws Differ
Many states treat assault and battery separately. In these states, assault happens when a person threatens another with bodily harm. If there is physical contact, battery has occurred. In Texas, all of these incidents are charged as assault, whether or not physical contact was involved. Even simply verbally threatening someone can be enough to be charged with assault.
There are several types of simple assault charges, and the offense you are charged with depends on the situation. In the least, you face a Class C misdemeanor and a possible permanent criminal record. You can be accused of this crime if you threaten someone with harm or make physical contact but do not cause pain/injuries. This might sound like a minor crime, but it will be on your criminal record indefinitely if you are convicted, so you need an excellent defense attorney.
Felony assault charges can be filed if you assault a police officer, judge, paramedic, social worker, or firefighter. Furthermore, assaulting your romantic partner or a member of your household can also a felony depending upon the specific circumstances.
How Aggravating Factors Worsen The Situation
The court also will check if there were aggravating factors in your case that could worsen your first-time assault charge. These aggravating factors can produce an elevated charge, also known as aggravated assault, which is a first-degree felony. Some aggravating factors are:
- Causing serious bodily injury
- Using a gun or other deadly weapon during the incident
- Assaulting the victim during the commission of another crime, such as robbery
- Raping or sexually assaulting the victim
You may wonder what a ‘serious bodily injury’ is in an aggravated assault case. The law says that an injury is serious when it creates a severe risk of death or causes serious permanent disfigurement or a long-term loss or impairment of any bodily organ or member. So, if you scratch someone’s arm, this is not a severe injury. But if your assault damages their arm to the point of causing permanent impairment of that arm, this would qualify as a severe injury.
If you are convicted of assault for the first time, the penalties depend on the harm done and whether aggravating factors were present. At the least, you can get fined for simple misdemeanor assault. For worse violations, the punishments are:
- Third-degree felony assault: Maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Commonly charged if you attack a government employee, security officer, emergency service personnel, or public servant.
- Second-degree felony assault: Two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Commonly charged for threatening someone with a deadly weapon.
- First-degree felony assault: Five years to life, plus potential fines. For attacking a police officer, security officer, informant, public servant in the line of duty, or a crime witness.
Can A First-Time Assault Charge Be Dropped?
Under state law, a victim can express their desire to drop the assault charge. However, the prosecutor could proceed with the case even if the victim wants to drop the charge. The decision to proceed rests with the prosecutor or the state of Texas.
How Do You Defend Against A First-Time Assault Charge In Texas?
The first thing to remember is that the prosecutor has the burden of proof. They must prove you are guilty of assault beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the case, there are many potential defenses to your charge.
For example, acting in self-defense could be an effective defense or the alleged victim’s injuries could have been caused outside of the incident. You could also argue that the other party consented if the incident was a street fight.
Self-defense is a popular way to fight an assault charge, but remember that the burden of proof then shifts to you. You have to show that you faced a threat when you acted and that the use of force was necessary to defend yourself. The prosecutor then has to prove that your actions were not self-defense.
It is often simpler to argue self-defense when the assault happened on your property, such as in your vehicle or home. Texas’s Castle Doctrine states that any actions you take to defend yourself on your property are presumed to be legally necessary, assuming you did not provoke the attack.
When self-defense is not a viable legal option, there could be other ways to fight the assault charge. If you were coerced to commit the assault, this could be a valid defense. This could be if you were threatened if you did not commit the act.
Texas Assault Charge FAQs
If you were charged with first-time assault in Texas, you probably have many questions. Some of the most common questions that Mark Diaz & Associates receive are:
Will I Be Charged With Misdemeanor Or Felony Assault?
How you are charged depends on the facts of the case, including the alleged victim. You could be charged with a felony if the victim was a family member, romantic partner, or a public servant, or if another aggravating factor is present. If you have questions about the level of your charge, call Mark Diaz & Associates today.
What If The Alleged Victim Was Not Injured?
The alleged victim does not have to be physically harmed for you to be convicted of assault. Simply making a threat or touching them can be enough for a misdemeanor charge. Many defendants plea ‘no contest’ when faced with a Class C misdemeanor assault charge to avoid hiring an attorney. But you still could wind up with a criminal record, so hiring a criminal defense attorney is recommended.
Is Self-Defense A Viable Defense For Assault?
Yes, but depending upon the specific circumstances if the case. Self-defense can be effective for yourself or a third party depending upon the facts. For example, you can claim self-defense if you assault an intruder in your home. Or, if someone attacks your daughter in public and in your presence, you may have the right to assault them to the degree necessary to stop the attack against your daughter.
Can You Get Rehabilitation Instead Of Jail For An Assault Conviction?
If you are convicted of first-time assault, it is possible to get treatment as an alternative to jail but this would be through some type of probation. Therapy, rehabilitation, and anger management classes are possibilities while a person is on probation in some cases.
What Does Assault By Contact Mean?
If you knowingly or intentionally make contact with another person in a way they find offensive, it is called ‘assault by contact.’ Common examples are pushing or spitting on someone.
Can I Harm My Defense After An Assault Charge?
Yes. How you act after the arrest matters. Use care with what you say and do as the case proceeds. A common mistake by many first-time assault defendants is saying too much to the police.
You should say as little as possible to the police during and after your arrest. Nothing you say will help, so it is best to remain silent and call your lawyer. Remember, the police cannot use your silence against you, but whatever you say to them can be used against you.
What Kind Of Bond Conditions Can You Get For An Aggravated Assault Charge?
Bond conditions for aggravated assault depend on the circumstances, the judge, and the prosecutor assigned to your case. Typical bond conditions for these charges limit your ability to travel, owning a gun, or using drugs or alcohol. You also may have a no-contact order that prohibits you from contacting the alleged victim. You also could be required to wear a GPS device that tracks where you are.
How Long Will An Assault Case Take?
The length of an assault case depends on its resolution. A dismissal can happen anytime, but there are a lot of factors that play into resolving a case so expect the case to last at least a couple to a few months. If the matter goes to trial, resolving the case could take more than a year.
Contact Our Assault Lawyers In Galveston County
Even if it is your first assault charge in Texas, you face jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record. A felony charge is possible if it is aggravated assault. Also, your arrest and conviction could show up on your permanent record. So, there is no time to delay retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney. Speak to one of our assault lawyers in Galveston County at Mark Diaz & Associates today for a free consultation about your case by calling (409) 515-6170.