Deadly Conduct Is a Third-Degree Felony in Texas

November 11, 2023 | By Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys
Deadly Conduct Is a Third-Degree Felony in Texas

Texas has amended its laws to allow certain individuals over 21 to carry a handgun in a holster, either concealed or unconcealed, without a permit. While this is good news for some people, it also means you could face charges for deadly conduct if you use your weapon in a reckless, dangerous, or threatening way.

You need to understand all you can about a deadly conduct charge and the steps you should take if authorities arrest and charge you with the crime. Deadly conduct is a third-degree felony in Texas, and you could face serious penalties if convicted. You need to consult a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth as soon as possible after your arrest to help you answer the charges and build a solid defense.

What Texas Says About Deadly Conduct

Deadly Conduct Is a Third-Degree Felony in Texas

According to the Texas penal code, using a weapon in a reckless, threatening, or dangerous manner is a crime called deadly conduct. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor offense or a felony, but it depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime.

There are certain elements a crime must involve to be considered deadly conduct, however. Besides an offender engaging in reckless, dangerous behavior or otherwise knowingly discharging a weapon in the direction of people there are four distinct categories of circumstance that must exist for it to be a deadly conduct crime. They are:

  • Danger of harm
  • State of mind
  • Serious bodily injury
  • Discharging or brandishing a weapon

Learn more about each individual element below.

Danger of Harm

The danger of harm is when you know (or should know) that your conduct could or can put someone at risk of serious bodily injury. In other words, if any person could reasonably see that their actions can cause bodily harm, then that constitutes a danger of harm.

State of Mind

In order to be convicted of deadly conduct, a person’s state of mind must be examined. There are two specific states of mind that build a case for deadly conduct:

  • Recklessness – Acting recklessly or being reckless when you’re aware that the danger could lead to an unjustifiable and substantial risk of serious bodily injury.
  • Intent – It must also be established that you intended to use a firearm without thinking about the potential safety issues it could bring about or without concern for harm to others that these actions could cause.

Serious Bodily Injury

Serious bodily injury is any injury that can present a substantial risk of death or cause permanent disfigurement, impairment, or function.

Unlawful Discharge of a Weapon

Deadly conduct can be committed with a firearm if it’s brandished or fired in the direction of others or the home, building, or vehicle that they occupy. That means you can be charged with deadly conduct for aiming your gun at a building that has people in it.

Penalties for Deadly Conduct in Texas

Penalties for Deadly Conduct in Texas

If you engage in reckless conduct that poses the imminent threat of bodily injury, then it’s normally charged as a Class A misdemeanor for deadly conduct.

However, knowingly discharging a weapon that is aimed at another person, building, or vehicle, then it can be charged as a third-degree felony. In either scenario, you can receive any or all of the punishments outlined next.

Jail Time

Class A misdemeanors for deadly conduct normally carry a penalty of up to 12 months in jail. Third-degree deadly conduct has a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.


Class A misdemeanors carry with them the penalty of fines up to $4,000. Third-degree felonies can lead to an order to pay up to $10,000 in fines.


You may also receive probation in lieu of jail time for deadly conduct or a combination of jail time and probation.

What Are Some Defense Options for Deadly Conduct in Texas?

Defending against a charge of deadly conduct in Texas can involve various strategies, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. It's important to note that legal defenses should be tailored to the individual facts of each case, and you should consult an experienced defense attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation. Here are some common defenses that might apply to your case of deadly conduct in Texas:

  • Self-Defense: If your attorney can demonstrate that you reasonably believed the use of force was necessary to protect yourself or others from imminent harm, self-defense may be a viable defense. Texas law allows individuals to use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves under certain circumstances.
  • Defense of Others: Similar to self-defense, your lawyer may argue that you were protecting someone else from imminent harm, and the use of force, including deadly force, was necessary to prevent injury or death.
  • Defense of Property: Texas law allows for the use of force, but not deadly force, to protect property. Your defense might involve arguing that the level of force used was reasonable in defense of your property.
  • Lack of Intent: If the prosecution cannot prove that you acted with intent, this might be a viable defense. Deadly conduct charges often require a demonstration of intent to cause serious bodily injury or a disregard for human life.
  • Mistaken Identity: If there is doubt about your identity as the person who committed the alleged deadly conduct, your attorney might be able to build a defense based on mistaken identity.
  • Lack of Evidence: A good defense attorney will challenge the prosecution's evidence. If there is insufficient evidence to support the charges, your attorney may argue for a dismissal or reduction of charges.
  • Police Misconduct: If law enforcement officers violated your rights during the arrest or investigation, it could be grounds for a defense. For example, if evidence was obtained unlawfully, it might be excluded.
  • Duress or Coercion: If your lawyer can show that you were forced to engage in the alleged deadly conduct under duress or coercion, it may be a defense.

You may have other defense options, but you must work closely with a criminal defense attorney to assess the facts of your case and determine the most appropriate defense strategy.

What Should I Do After Being Arrested for Deadly Conduct in Texas?

If you were arrested for deadly conduct in Texas, you must consult a qualified legal professional for advice tailored to your specific situation. Here are some general steps you might consider:

  • Remain Calm: Stay calm and composed during the arrest and any interactions with law enforcement. Cooperate and avoid escalating the situation. If you fight or argue with officers during the arrest or booking process, you could receive additional charges.
  • Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent: You have the right to remain silent. Use it. Anything you say can be used against you in court. Wait until you have legal representation before providing any statements.
  • Contact an Attorney: Reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can provide guidance, protect your rights, and help you navigate the legal process.
  • Understand Your Charges: Make sure you understand the specific charges against you. Deadly conduct charges can vary, so knowing the details is crucial for building a defense strategy. An attorney can explain the charges against you and help you understand your rights and options for developing a defense.
  • Bail and Court Proceedings: If you're eligible for bail, work with your attorney to secure your release. Attend all court hearings as required and follow your attorney's advice regarding court proceedings.
  • Gather Evidence: Work with your attorney to gather evidence that supports your defense. This may include witness statements, surveillance footage, or any other relevant information.
  • Build a Defense Strategy: Collaborate with your attorney to develop a solid defense strategy. They can help you understand the legal options available and advise on the best course of action.
  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the legal process, court dates, and any developments in your case. Stay in regular contact with your attorney.
  • Avoid Discussing the Case Publicly: Refrain from discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney. Statements made publicly, especially on social media, can be used against you.

Remember, legal proceedings can be complex, and the information provided here is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Consult with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and to receive guidance tailored to your situation.

Contact Fulgham Law Firm Today

If you were charged with deadly conduct in Texas, contact a criminal defense attorney at Fulgham Law Firm right away. We can review your case at no cost and advise you of your options. You can also rely on us to fight for you each step of the way to protect your rights and improve your odds of getting successful results.

About the Author:

Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.

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