Are you facing an aggravated assault charge?
At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we recognize the fear and uncertainty of being accused of a felony. But the fact that you have been charged with a serious crime does not mean that you have no defenses. Contact former prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney Nathaniel Pitoniak for a free consultation and get an honest evaluation of the case against you.
What is Aggravated Assault?
Aggravated assault begins, of course, with assault, which generally refers to causing or threatening bodily injury, offensive physical contact, and a number of other acts. But the offense of aggravated assault requires the presence of one of two factors in addition to the assault. Those factors are described in section 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code. They include:
- Serious bodily injury caused by the assault; or
- Use of or exhibition of a deadly weapon in the course of the assault.
The major issues in these cases concern the difference between bodily injury and “serious bodily injury,” and whether a particular item is “deadly weapon.”
When is a Bodily Injury Serious?
The law states that you commit aggravated assault when you assault someone, and the assault causes bodily injury that is “serious.” Bodily injury, which will support an assault charge, can mean physical pain, or illness, or the impairment of a person’s physical condition. It is not necessary that the person be physically wounded, that skin be broken, or that the alleged victim bear visible signs of the assault. Serious injury, on the other hand, means:
- An injury that creates a substantial risk of death;
- An injury that actually causes death;
- An injury that causes serious and permanent disfigurement; or
- An injury that causes impairment or the protracted loss of the function of any bodily member or organ.
Whether a victim has suffered serious injuries is not necessarily an easy issue to resolve. For example, a two-inch scar on a person’s stomach was held in one case not to constitute serious and permanent disfigurement. Whether a particular injury is serious is a question for the jury to determine. Specific issues include whether the injury created a substantial risk of death; whether it actually caused a death; and whether it caused the type of impairment referred to in the statute.
Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If an assault has allegedly taken place, and the charge is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the question is whether there was a deadly weapon used.
When trying to define the term deadly weapon, certain things are at least relatively clear. A firearm is definitely a deadly weapon. From that point forward, it becomes somewhat less clear. The law says that anything that was made, designed or adapted for the purpose of causing death or serious injury is also a deadly weapon. Finally, deadly weapons include anything that, because of the manner in which it was used, has the capability of causing, death or serious injury.
This raises a number of issues. One is whether the object/weapon was designed, modified, etc. in order to cause bodily injury or death. The following are considered deadly weapons due to their design and purpose:
- Firearms (including handguns, zip guns, rifles, shotguns);
- Knives (switchblades, gravity knives, axes, stilettos, daggers, ballistic knives, among others);
- Explosives (including bombs, IED’s, dynamite, etc.); and
- Miscellaneous items (nunchucks; brass knuckles, and throwing stars among, others).
But the statute doesn’t stop with items that are obvious weapons. Here are some examples of aggravated assault charges where the “deadly weapon” issue was not was readily apparent.
- Several years ago, a man with mixed martial arts training was convicted in Tarrant County, Texas of aggravated assault. The deadly weapons in that case were his hands;
- Other body parts (teeth, feet, etc.) could be considered deadly weapons depending upon how and in what manner they were used;
- Bottles and heavy objects that could cause serious injuries may also be deadly weapons for purposes of an aggravated assault charge.
These are just a few examples. And to show how far the definition of deadly weapon can go, a Texas grand jury indicted a man for aggravated assault in 2017 where the weapon was a seizure-inducing GIF, in the form of a flashing strobe light, sent to the victim via Twitter. The victim was an epileptic and suffered a seizure after viewing it.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is generally a second degree felony, which, without any enhancements, could lead to a sentence of between 2 and 20 years in prison. In some cases, however, it is a first degree felony. Examples include aggravated assault:
- by a public servant acting under color of his employment;
- by a person against a public servant in retaliation for or while the victim is engaged in the performance of his public duties;
- as retaliation against a witness or other person who has reported a crime;
- against a person known by the defendant to be a security officer while that officer is performing his or her duties; or
- consisting of a drive-by shooting which causes serious bodily injury to any person.
A first degree felony is punishable by a sentence of between 5 and 99 years, or life in prison.
Defense of Aggravated Assault Charges in Houston, TX
If you have been charged with aggravated assault, you are facing a serious crime with heavy potential penalties. At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we can help. Contact us to find out what defenses may exist in your case. The initial consultation is free.