Have you been charged with assault in Houston?
Are you facing an assault charge? There are many different types and levels of assault in Texas. Some of the charges are relatively straightforward. Other assault offenses involve what in some states is called battery. And still other assault charges may, to many people, seem unrelated to what they typically consider to be assault (or battery). This can cause confusion when trying to understand exactly what you may be up against in terms of penalties.
At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we defend clients charged with a wide variety of assault charges. We understand that in some cases, the offense charged is more serious than is warranted under the circumstances, and defenses may exist. Contact us to find out how we can minimize the damage. We offer a free initial consultation.
What is Assault in Texas?
As noted above, there are many different offenses under the general heading of assault in Texas. Assault in our state includes not only certain threats, but also physical contact, what in some states is called battery. The following are some of the assaultive offenses in Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code:
- Misdemeanor assault. Assault is defined threatening, causing bodily injury, or causing offensive contact with another person. The threat, injury or contact must be done intentionally or knowingly or, in the case of bodily injury, recklessly. This is a generally class A misdemeanor.
- Felony assault. An assault that would otherwise be classified as a misdemeanor can be charged as a felony in some circumstances. Examples include assault (a) on a public servant, security officer or EMT worker while performing his or her duties; (b) on a family member, a current or former household member, or a person with whom you have or had a dating relationship, if you have a prior conviction for certain family violence offenses; (c) on government contractors or employees at correctional facilities; or (d) on a pregnant woman to force the person to have an abortion. This is ordinarily a third degree felony. Offense against peace officers or judges while or in retaliation for performing their duties, or against a family/household member (or dating partner) and the assault consisted of impeding breathing (strangulation), it is a felony of the second degree.
Although this describes the basic charge of assault, there are other offenses under the heading of assault in the Penal Code:
- Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault. Sexual penetration or sexual contact without consent, commonly known as rape, is an assaultive offense. This is either a first degree or second degree felony.
- Injury to children, elderly persons and disabled individuals. If you cause serious bodily injury to a child (14 years of age or younger), a person 65 years of age or older, or a disabled person, you can be charged with this offense. To support the charge, the act must be performed knowingly, intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence. This is generally a second degree felony, but If the conduct is intentional, it is a felony of the first degree.
- Terroristic threats. Threatening violence against another person or against property with the intent to place a person in fear of serious and imminent physical injury is generally a Class B misdemeanor. If it committed against a family member or a public servant, it is a Class A misdemeanor. If the victim is a peace officer or a judge, it is a state jail felony. Terroristic threats also include threats against the family, and threatening violence to influence a public agency, public transportation, or public communications, among others.
- Leaving a child in a vehicle. If you leave a child in a car or other motor vehicle longer than 5 minutes, where the child is under the age of 7 and without another occupant of the vehicle who is at least 14 years old, it is a Class C misdemeanor.
Other offenses included under the general heading of assault include child endangerment, deadly conduct, aiding suicide, tampering with consumer products, and harassment of public servants.
If you assault another person, and the assault causes serious bodily injury, or involves the use or display of a deadly weapon, or consists of a drive-by shooting, the offense is aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is generally a felony of the second degree. Depending upon the identity of the victim (public servants, witnesses, etc.), and various other factors, the charge could be a felony of the first degree.
Defenses to Assault Charges
In addition to challenging the testimony or other evidence sought to be used against you, there are defenses which may be available in assault cases. Among them are self-defense. In order to prevail on the issue of self-defense case, it is not required that you have been physically attacked. Rather, section 9.31 of the Penal Code says that you are justified in using force against another person when and in the manner or degree that you reasonably believe the person against whom force is being used:
- Unlawfully and forcibly attempted to enter or entered your home, vehicle or place of employment; or
- Unlawfully and forcible attempted to remove or removed you from your home, vehicle or place of employment; or
- Was attempting to commit or was committing any one of a number of crimes, including assault, robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping or murder, among other.
You are also entitled to raise self-defense if you reasonably believe force is necessary
- To protect your property; or
- To prevent or terminate trespassing on your property; or
- To protect the property of a third person, under some circumstances.
Texas is a “stand your ground state,” meaning that you do not have a duty to retreat. On the other hand, there are limitations on the use of the defense. It is not available, for example, if you provoked the conduct you sought to stop, nor is it available to justify the use of force in response to mere verbal provocation.
Assault Defense Attorney in Houston
If you have been arrested on an assault charge, make sure that your rights are protected. Speak to an experienced Houston assault defense lawyer today. Call the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak for a free consultation.