Assault: Is It a Felony or Misdemeanor?
What started as a small scuffle or a minor altercation with a stranger has now blossomed into a legal problem that requires a Fort Bend criminal lawyer.
As you are probably aware, assault charges can fall into one of two categories:
- And misdemeanor
You must understand the distinction between the two, as the type of charges you face can have a significant impact on your future.
What Is Considered Assault Under Texas Law?
First and foremost, it’s essential to understand what constitutes an assault in Texas. Some states may treat “assault” and “battery” as two separate offenses. In those states, “assault” refers to the threat of bodily injury to another person, while “battery” refers to actual physical contact.
In Texas, the state charges both offenses as “assault,” even when actual bodily harm occurs. However, the criminal consequences for assault vary depending on the severity of injuries and whether they are physical or emotional.
Although a criminal defense attorney can help you better understand the charges you face and whether they’re legitimate, it helps to understand what actions constitute assault.
Those are as follows:
- Knowingly, intentionally or recklessly causing bodily harm to another individual or his or her spouse
- Knowingly or intentionally threatening another person or his or her spouse with imminent physical harm
- Knowingly or intentionally coming into contact with another person when you know that person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative
Classifying Assault in Texas
Though assault is a crime, no matter which way you look at it, some forms of assault are more severe than others. When will the Texas courts charge it as a misdemeanor, and when does it become a felony?
Assault is a misdemeanor in one of three instances. The first is if a person threatens to commit bodily harm to another or causes physical contact that another person construes as offensive or provocative. This crime is a Class C misdemeanor.
The second instance is if the offender assaults a sport participant during an event or in retaliation for a performance. This crime is a Class B misdemeanor.
The third and final instance in which assault is a misdemeanor is if a person causes bodily harm to another, and aggravating factors are not present, or if a person comes into contact with an older person and they construed the contact as provocative or offensive. This crime is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.
The severity of assault charges depends on the person against whom the offender commits the crime. For instance, if the victim is a public servant, government employee, or security officer who is performing his or her civil duty at the time of the assault, the offender faces third-degree felony charges.
If the victim is a household member, family member, or in a dating relationship or with the offender, and if the offender has a prior conviction for a similar offense, the crime is a third-degree felony.
The charge would elevate to a second-degree felony if the prior offense were against a member in the household, a family member, or someone with whom the offender has a dating relationship. If the offender commits assault by choking the victim, the crime is a second-degree felony.
If the victim is someone with whom the offender shares a domestic relationship (such as a spouse or child), the crime is a first-degree felony.
Assault is also a first-degree felony if the victim is a:
- Police officer
- Public official
- Security guard
- Emergency worker
- Or informant
Criminal Consequences of Assault
The consequences of assault can drastically affect your future and your life. A domestic violence attorney is your best chance at avoiding the devastating effects of a conviction. However, without a skilled lawyer on your side, you risk fines that range from $500 to $10,000. In addition to fines, assault comes with jail time. Misdemeanor assault carries a jail sentence of up to one year.
Third-degree felony assault comes with a prison term of up to 10 years. If convicted of second-degree felony assault, you face at least two years in prison and as many as 20. First-degree felony assault comes with a prison term of between five years and life.
Assault charges are serious. If you face assault charges of any degree, don’t hesitate, and find out how a Fort Bend criminal lawyer can help you and get started on your case today!