Basically, any conduct that causes bodily injury, threatens bodily injury, or causes offensive physical contact may be an assault. The Texas Penal Code states:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person: (1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse; or (3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
A typical assault case involves an altercation that results in some sort of bodily injury. Most people usually think an assault involves a fight that results in a black eye or a busted lip. Interestingly, though, the definition of "bodily injury" in Texas is not what you'd expect. That's because "bodily injury" is defined as "physical pain." So if it hurts, then it's a Class A Assault. The range of punishment for a Class A Assault is up to a year in county jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
WHAT IS AGGRAVATED ASSAULT?
An assault can become a felony under certain circumstances. Chapter 22 defines Aggravated Assault as:
(a) A person commits an offense if the person commits assault as defined in Section 22.01 and the person: (1) causes serious bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; or (2) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
"Serious bodily injury" is defined as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. (PC 1.07(46)). An aggravated assault is typically a 2nd degree felony, but may be filed as a 1st degree felony if the complaining witness is a family member, public servant, or in retaliation against a witness or a person who has reported a crime. (PC 22.02(b)(2)).
WHAT IS ASSAULT - FAMILY VIOLENCE?
Class A Assault becomes a much more serious offense if committed against a family member. Such a charge will include language that the person is related to the Defendant, that they live together, have a child together, or that they have (or have had) a dating relationship. This broad language makes it possible to charge siblings for family violence, or to charge roommates in the same apartment.
The range of punishment is the same, it's still a Class A misdemeanor, but the collateral consequences can be far-reaching and devastating. Employment, child custody, immigration, and gun ownership are all impacted by a family violence conviction.
CAN A FAMILY VIOLENCE CASE BE A FELONY?
Family violence cases can become a felony if you have a prior family violence conviction, or if you are alleged to have choked or strangled ("impeded the normal breathing or circulation of blood") the complaining witness.
An Assault-Family Violence can also be charged as a 1st degree felony if the defendant uses a deadly weapon and causes serious bodily injury to a family member. Firearms are considered, by definition, deadly weapons, but anything, depending on its use or intended use, can be considered a deadly weapon.
WHAT IS STRANGULATION?
If you are alleged to have "impeded the normal breathing or circulation of blood" of the complaining witness, you may be charged with "Strangulation." In Travis County, law enforcement and emergency services personnel have been trained to ask complaining witnesses a series of questions including whether the defendant put their hands around their neck, they lost consciousness, what the defendant said during the incident, and if the defendant has ever done something like this before. They are looking for evidence to file a felony case on an assault. This gives the State a lot of leverage in plea negotiations and it can make taking an assault case to trial prohibitively risky for a defendant.
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