Assault and battery charges are a very serious matter in Texas. Although lesser degrees of assault still carry consequences such as fines and a criminal record of violent crime that can compromise housing, employment, loans, child custody, and more, that is far preferable to suffering the penalties that come with the crime of battery.
It is therefore important to understand how assault and battery are charged in Texas so that you know what you’re up against and can make the best possible decisions to protect your freedom.
The thing to know about assault and battery in Texas is that they distinct crimes with distinct charges… but there is no charge for battery. Rather, battery in our state is technically charged as a more serious form of assault.
Let’s break it down.
First, some quick definitions. In assault, the perpetrator threatens the victim with bodily injury. In battery, actual bodily contact occurs which is either injurious or offensive in nature.
Regardless of whether your alleged crime is assault or battery, the elements for the case against you will be the same. However, there are many different degrees of assault, which are dependent upon the nature of the attack. The more serious the assault (or battery), the more serious the charge.
For example, aggravated assault occurs when the attack results in serious bodily injury, or when another aggravating factor, such as a weapon, is present. The identity of the victim or an intention to inflict severe bodily harm can also upgrade a charge to aggravated assault.
How does Texas classify assault and battery?
Class C misdemeanor
If the defendant threatens the victim with bodily harm or makes non-injurious physical contact in an offensive or provocative manner, assault is charged as a class C misdemeanor. This carries a fine of up to $500.
Class B misdemeanor
If the defendant threatens a sports participant with bodily harm during a performance or to retaliate for a performance, the assault is charged as a class B misdemeanor, and carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2000.
Class A misdemeanor
If the defendant causes physical injury to the victim with no other aggravating factors, or if the defendant makes offensive or provocative contact with an elderly victim, the offense is charged as a class A misdemeanor. This carries a jail sentence of up to one year and fine of up to $4000.
Third degree felony
Assault may be charged as a third degree felony if:
- The victim has a domestic relationship with the defendant and the defendant has previously been convicted of a similar crime.
- The defendant knowingly assaults a security officer performing his or her duties.
- The defendant knowingly assaults a public servant or family services contractor within the course of duty or in retaliation for performing his or her duty.
- The defendant assaults an emergency services worker in the course of his or her duty.
This level of offense carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000.
Second degree felony
Assault may be charged as a second degree felony if the defendant assaults someone with whom he or she has a domestic relationship by choking the victim, and has previously been convicted of a similar offense against this individual. This carries a sentence of 2-20 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000.
First degree felony
Aggravated assault is a first degree felony if it is committed against someone with whom the defendant has a domestic relationship, or a public official, emergency worker, security guard, police officer, witness, or informant. This carries a sentence of five years to life in prison in addition to a fine.
If you are arrested for assault, it is important to understand whether the specific charges indicate an actual battery or a more minor assault offense. Learning this will help you know what to do to protect yourself and fight back.
The best way to do this is to get in touch with an experienced Texas assault and battery lawyer as early in the process as is possible. He or she can ensure that your rights are protected, and may even be able to get your case dropped entirely.
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.