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In 2018, there were 807,410 aggravated assaults reported to police in the US, and 73,656 of them were in the state of Texas. Aggravated assault is a more serious crime than simple assault, and as such, carries stiffer penalties.
If you are facing aggravated assault charges, you’ll want to understand exactly what aggravated assault encompasses and what penalties you might face if you get convicted.
Read on to learn all that you need to know about aggravated assault and its consequences.
What Is Aggravated Assault?
In the state of Texas, a person commits aggravated assault if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause severe bodily injury to another person (including their spouse) or uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the assault.
Someone acts recklessly if they act without regard to the results of the action. Even if you don’t mean to cause harm, if you act in such a way that disregards others and puts them at risk, you are reckless.
Serious bodily injury in Texas is an injury that causes death or presents a significant risk of death, causes permanent disfigurement, or causes impaired function or functional loss of a bodily organ. Serious bodily injuries most likely require hospitalization, surgery, and long periods of physical therapy or rehabilitation afterward.
A deadly weapon includes inherently dangerous items, such as a firearm, knife, brass knuckles, or another item that could cause serious harm depending on how the offender uses it. These items could include chairs, baseball bats, ropes, or metal pipes or tools.
Aggravated Assault vs. Simple Assault
Although many people use the term “assault” to encompass all types of assault, there are differences. While aggravated assault requires severe bodily injury and/or the use of a deadly weapon, simple assault does not.
Simple assault is intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person or a threat to do so. In Texas, simply threatening someone without actually making physical contact is assault.
Simple assault is a Class A misdemeanor and the punishment could include up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000. If you threaten someone but do not make any physical contact, it is a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine but not jail time.
An aggravated assault is a second-degree felony in Texas. The potential punishment could include two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. There are also circumstances that could increase penalties.
In the following situations, aggravated assault is a first-degree felony and could result in a life sentence in prison:
“Domestic violence” is somewhat of a misnomer, as the victim and offender don’t necessarily have to live together. Relationships that fall under this category include:
- those with a dating relationship (a dating relationship includes individuals who have or have had in the past a relationship of a romantic or intimate nature)
- former spouses
- individuals who are parents of the same child (whether they’ve ever been married or not)
- foster child and foster parent (regardless of whether they currently live together)
Any aggravated assault that falls into this category will be punished more severely.
The Victim Is a Public Servant or Security Officer
Penalties are harsher for aggravated assaults where the victim is a public servant. In Texas, public servants include teachers, firefighters, politicians, even jurors and grand jurors. Although the statute is pretty broad, it’s most often used when the victim is a police officer.
In order to charge an offender for the higher offense, the offender must have known that the person was a public servant, such as seeing a police officer in uniform. They also must be in the line of duty.
If you get into a fight with an off-duty police officer at a bar, for example, and the fight has nothing to do with their job as an officer, then that requirement would not have been met. Security officers are included here as well, as long as you are aware they are a security officer and they are in the course of performing their job.
You can also be charged with first-degree felony aggravated assault if the victim is a witness, prospective witness, or informant who has reported a crime.
You Are In a Motor Vehicle
Lastly, shooting a firearm from a motor vehicle is also considered more serious. If you shoot at another motor vehicle, building, or house and cause serious injury to a victim or victims, this is also considered first-degree aggravated assault.
If you have been charged with aggravated assault, it is wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can advise you on your best course of action and guide you if you want to use a justification defense, like self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property.
Self-defense can be used to justify your actions if someone is injured while you are defending yourself. To successfully argue self-defense, you will have to prove that the assault was justified because the other person acted violently or made threats of violence against you.
It also must be the minimum amount of force possible to protect yourself. In other words, you can’t use extreme force like a firearm to defend yourself against someone who is unarmed. Your response must be proportionate to the violence or violence that was threatened.
Defense of Others
You might justify an aggravated assault if you were trying to protect others. Just as you can defend yourself, you can defend others against violence or a threat of violence.
Defense of Property
Texas law also allows you to defend your property, such as your home or car. If you catch someone breaking into your home to steal your possessions, you can use force to stop them.
Hire an Experienced Attorney to Defend You
If you are facing aggravated assault charges, it’s wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney who has experience with these types of cases.
They will help you navigate the criminal justice process as well as advise you on the different outcomes you face. Given the potential serious punishments you could face, don’t try to defend yourself in court.
Get in touch with us today for a case consultation.