What kinds of assault charges are there, and how do they affect you?
Momentary Lapse, Lasting Consequences
One of the most common charges brought against individuals is assault. Many who have never been in trouble with the law, after a night of drinking or an episode of emotions run high, take actions in a moment that threaten to undo years of professional development and reputation. Others are wrongfully accused by overzealous police. A conviction for assault has the potential to block where you can live, limit professional development, and interfere with family rights and relationships. If you have been charged with assault, getting more information is a powerful first step to managing your exposure to the criminal justice system.
Elements of the Offense
Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.01, a person commits assault if he:
1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another,
2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, OR
3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when he knows the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
The ABCs of Assault
Class A and higher:
Assault is a class A misdemeanor (most serious) if it falls into the first bullet point above. It can even escalate to a third degree felony if it is against a police officer, a family member (involving repeated acts or choking), government contractors, security officers, or emergency responders. An act under bullets two or three above against an elderly person is also a class A.
Most assaults fall into class A or class C, but the Code states that assault is a class B misdemeanor in rare sports cases. If an actor who is not a participant carries out an act described by bullets two or three above against someone playing sports, it raises the charge from a class C to a class B. So, to all the sports fans out there: tone down your actions towards the referee and players, and sit back and enjoy the game!
Finally, if an act falls under the second or third bullet above with no other qualifiers, it is simply a class C misdemeanor (least serious level). However, even a class C assault conviction can take away your chance to rent certain apartments, hold back professional development, and show up on criminal records searches for years to come. Those who find that information won't know the entire background of your case, but will just see the word "assault" listed next to your name.
As alluded to previously, assault can escalate from "simple assault" to "assault family violence" if it is against a family member or someone sharing the same household or dwelling. This more serious charge carries greater penalties, stricter enhancements related to potential future crimes, and more serious connotations in the eyes of society. The law defines "family violence" under the Family Code as assault towards a member of the family (by blood) or household. It also includes "dating violence," which the Code defines as assault towards someone with whom the actor is in an intimate dating relationship. A common defense goal is to have the "family violence" language stricken from a charge if possible because of how serious it is, or better yet, get the charge dismissed altogether.
Have You Been Charged with Assault?
Whether you have been charged with assault class A, B, or C, felony assault, or assault family violence, it is imperative to contact a skilled and aggressive attorney as soon as possible to advocate for your best interests. Police and prosecutors pressure you to plead guilty and accept the harshest punishment allowed. An attorney can fight for your best interests and take the case all the way to trial if needed.
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