UPDATED 7/6/2021, Original Post: January 18, 2018
If you are arrested on assault charges in Texas, it is important to understand the legal process that you will have to go through. This way, you’ll be more prepared at each step of the journey and give yourself a better chance of achieving a positive outcome.
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step walkthrough of the legal process following your arrest for assault.
Appearing before a judge
Within 48 hours of the arrest, you will appear before a magistrate, or judge, who will read you the charges and inform you of certain rights, such as your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.
It is impossible to stress enough the importance of retaining experienced legal counsel as early on in the process. Ideally, your lawyer will appear at this meeting.
The judge will also inform you of your right to an examining trial, where reasons for the arrest or probable cause must be established by the prosecution.
Additionally, the judge will either set bail or order you to be released without bail. The judge has full discretion on your bail amount, though your attorney can request a bail reduction if you qualify.
Finally, the date for your next court appearance will be set.
The prosecution will file charges based on the level of your assault charge. The levels are as follows:
Class C misdemeanor: threatening bodily harm or causing offensive physical contact
Class B misdemeanor: assault on a sports participant related to a performance
Class A misdemeanor: causing bodily injury to someone, or causing offensive physical contact against an elderly person
Third degree felony: Assault on a family member, household member, dating partner, or other protected status individuals. Also applies to intoxicated assault, which is causing serious bodily injury to another while intoxicated.
Second degree felony: Assault on a family member, household member or dating partner, has a previous similar offense against the same person, or the offense involves choking
First degree felony: Aggravated assault against a domestic partner or other protected status individuals.
Aggravated assault charges will apply if it causes serious injury or a weapon is used during the offense.
This is the first court appearance after charges are filed. Your charges may be read in court, and you will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Your attorney or the prosecution may ask for a continuance for further investigation into the case.
At this point, your attorney may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor for reduced charges and penalties. If a deal cannot be brokered, the case will proceed to trial.
A misdemeanor case will have six jurors and a felony case will have 12 jurors. The prosecution must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or the jury can find you not guilty.
If you are convicted for assault, the sentencing will fall along these lines:
Class C misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500.
Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Third degree felony: Up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
Second degree felony: Two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
First-degree felony: Five years to life in prison, plus a fine set by the judge.
A frequent question we receive from clients – If the case proceeds to a criminal trial docket, does that mean it absolutely will go to trial? Not necessarily. Many times, to get the best result on a criminal case, an experienced criminal defense lawyer must push the prosecutor to treat their client fairly.
Depending upon the county in Texas, it is likely a trial docket will consist of anywhere between 20 – 40 cases set for trial on each setting. Typically, a court can only resolve 1 – 2 trials per week. As a result, the judge will look to push the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney to resolve the case. At this stage of the negotiation, it can create unique opportunities for an aggressive criminal lawyer to negotiate a much better result for their client.
Defenses To Assault
When planning your fight against the State of Texas, it is important to know your options for your criminal defense. Below are examples of possible defenses to a Texas Assault Charge:
- Self-Defense – were you placed in a position where you had to assault someone to protect yourself from injury? It is a common occurrence that the police will charge the winner of a fight with assault. However, the winner was not always the aggressor and may have done nothing wrong if the loser of the fight was the one who threw the first punch?
- No Criminal Intent – was the injury an accident? Perhaps you have been charged with assault but you did not intend to cause the injury and it was purely accidental. For instance, if someone closes a door behind them and has no knowledge that another person was walking through and this action causes injury, this was an accident, not an assault. There was no criminal intent.
- No Injury – what if an altercation took place but someone was merely offended and no injury or pain has taken place? This is not an arrestable assault charge. The police may choose to bring a charge of Class C Assault By Contact, but this is punishable by fine only.
- The Alleged Victim Does Not Wish To Prosecute – what if the alleged victim now realizes they were not a victim at all? What if they were emotionally upset and offended but realize they jumped to conclusions by bringing assault charges? In this situation, the victim can provide an affidavit of non-prosecution outlining the fact they were not actually injured. This could assist your criminal lawyer in negotiating a favorable result for your assault case.
Fight Your Assault Charges – Contact a Texas Criminal Attorney Immediately
Assault charges come with serious penalties, and you need an experienced lawyer to help you. With a skilled attorney’s assistance, you may have a better chance at receiving a reduced sentence or getting your charges dropped. Reach out today for a free case review.
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, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.