Assault Versus Aggravated Assault and Related Penalties
Simple assault and aggravated assault are two different criminal offenses in Texas.
Simple assault involves minor injuries, touching, and words or behavior that are considered threatening. When someone commits aggravated assault, however, that person is 1) causing another person serious bodily injury, including a spouse; or 2) exhibiting or using a deadly weapon while assaulting the other person.
Sentencing guidelines are available for the courts to use depending on the type of assault and contributing factors.
- Felony or misdemeanor assault – Assault can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. Simple assault is typically a misdemeanor. Aggravated assault can be a misdemeanor or felony charge based on the court’s discretion.
- Class C misdemeanor – Simple assault that involves only threats of offensive contact or an injury is considered a class C misdemeanor. The penalties can include up to a $500 fine but no jail time.
- Class A misdemeanor – If the assault causes someone’s bodily injury, the charge increases to a class A misdemeanor. Maximum sentences are a fine of $4,000 and one year in jail.
- First-degree felony – Aggravated assault involving domestic violence with a deadly weapon that causes serious harm is a first-degree felony. The sentence includes five to 99 years or life in prison and a maximum of a $10,000 fine.
- Aggravated felony assault of a public official – Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony charge. A second-degree felony conviction could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and two to 20 years in prison. However, the charge can increase to a first-degree felony if the victim is a public official, such as a government agent, juror, or attorney at law
Domestic Assault Charges
According to Texas Family Code § 71.0021, dating violence is a non-self-defensive act a person commits. The act must be against an applicant for a protective order or victim:
- With whom the offender had or has a dating relationship; or
- Because of the applicant’s or victim’s dating relationship with or marriage to an individual with whom the offender has or is in a dating relationship or marriage.
Additionally, the act:
- Must have been meant to result in bodily injury, sexual assault, physical harm, or assault; or
- Is a threat that reasonably places the applicant or victim in fear of imminent physical harm, sexual assault, bodily injury, or assault.
A dating relationship means the two parties are in a continuing relationship of an intimate or romantic nature.
Domestic assault can involve more than romantic partners. Under state law, domestic assault can be between people in a domestic relationship, such as:
- Child of a current or ex-spouse
- Adopted or blood relative
- Foster child or parent of a foster child
Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault
Texas Penal Code § 22.011 considers an offense to be sexual assault if a person knowingly or intentionally:
- Causes the penetration of another person’s anus or sexual organ by any means without that person’s consent;
- Causes the penetration of someone’s mouth by the perpetrator’s sexual organ without the other’s consent; or
- Causes a person’s sexual organ without their consent to penetrate or contact the perpetrator’s or someone else’s anus, mouth, or sexual organ.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.021, aggravated sexual assault occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly:
- Causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person without their consent by any means;
- Causes the penetration of another person’s mouth with the perpetrator’s sexual organ without the person’s consent; or
- Causes someone else’s sexual organ without their consent to contact or penetrate someone else’s mouth, anus, or sexual organ, including the perpetrator; or
- Regardless of whether the perpetrator knew the child’s age while committing the crime, knowingly or intentionally:
- Causes penetration of the child’s anus or sexual organ by any means;
- Causes penetration of the child’s mouth by the perpetrator’s sexual organ;
- Causes the child’s sexual organ to penetrate or contact someone else’s anus, mouth, or sexual organ, including the perpetrator’s;
- Causes the child’s anus to contact another person’s anus, mouth, or sexual organ, including the perpetrator’s;
- Causes the child’s mouth to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the perpetrator’s; and
- The perpetrator causes bodily injury, attempts to cause death, or causes the victim fear of bodily injury or death; or
- The victim is a disabled or elderly individual or under 14 years old, regardless of whether the perpetrator knows the victim’s age while committing the crime.
Potential Assault Defense in Austin, Texas
Your Austin assault defense attorney will use a defense strategy that works best for the unique circumstances of your case. The most common defenses used against assault charges in Texas include:
- Self-defense – Using physical force to protect yourself against someone’s threats or acts of violence is justified. Your assault defense lawyer could argue that assault was necessary to prevent the other person from harming you.
- Defense of others – Using physical force to defend other people is also a valid argument against an assault charge. There must be evidence that someone was a threat to a third party, and you acted to defend them from injury.
- Mutual combat – You could use the mutual combat defense against an assault charge if the victim consented to the fight and knew about the risks but participated anyway, or serious bodily injury or a threat of injury did not result from the conduct.
- Necessity – Arguing that the assault was necessary to protect yourself from harm is a valid defense strategy. Necessity justifies illegal behavior only if you reasonably believed your actions were essential to avoid injury, and the harm you caused does not outweigh the harm you sought to avoid.
- Duress – Someone might have threatened you to force you to commit the assault. Duress would be a strong defense against assault charges if a person threatened you with serious bodily injury or imminent death if you failed to perform the assault.
- Insanity – Pleading insanity means you had a mental defect or disease when you committed the crime. Effectively, you did not know your conduct was wrong or illegal.
- Mistake of fact – A mistake of fact defense doesn’t deny your participation in the assaultive offense. However, it does indicate that a mistaken belief caused you to commit the crime.
- Involuntary intoxication – Involuntary intoxication typically occurs when someone tricks you into taking an illicit substance or drugs them without their knowledge. An intoxicated person does not know the actions they engage in are wrong.
- Castle doctrine – Texas Penal Code § 9.01 is the Castle Doctrine. It states that you can use reasonable force while defending your property, such as a vehicle or home. Instead of retreating, you have a legal right to act in self-defense. A personal threat of bodily injury isn’t a requirement for this law to apply.
Other Potential Strategies for a Better Outcome
The prosecutor’s job is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your assault and battery lawyer must create doubt so the jury cannot proceed with a guilty verdict. However, there are times when the evidence doesn’t successfully allow for a dismissed case or not guilty verdict. Sometimes, pursuing alternative defense strategies to alter the way the case proceeds is necessary. For example, your assault and battery attorney could file a motion to suppress evidence if law enforcement illegally obtained evidence against you.
You have various Constitutional rights after an arrest. One is the right against unlawful searches and seizures. That means officers must use a valid search warrant to enter and search a person’s home, motor vehicle, or another area. Suppose law enforcement did not legally gather the evidence the prosecution plans to use against you at trial. In that case, your criminal defense lawyer could get it thrown out so the jury won’t see it.
Another option while defending against an assault charge is negotiating for a lesser charge. Instead of facing felony assault charges, your criminal law attorney could ask the prosecutor to drop the charges down to a misdemeanor so you can serve a shorter prison sentence. Alternately, your criminal defense counsel might ask for a reduced sentence based on the specific terms of the arrangement.
The options available in your case will depend on the type of assault you were charged with and the various factors involved in the assault and battery.
Talk to Our Austin Assault Defense Lawyers Today
You should not try to fight assault and battery charges in Texas without an experienced team in your corner. At Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., our lawyers are committed to providing solid criminal defense throughout Travis, Hays, and Williamson counties.
If you were arrested or charged with assault, contact us today for your confidential consultation with an Austin assault defense attorney.