Aggravated assault fits a number of narrow circumstances in Texas. And while it is similar to the charge of simple assault, it has its own elements, punishment, and defenses. Aggravated assault typically involves cases where a person is intentionally injured in a serious manner, or in cases where a deadly weapon was involved in another crime. It's not uncommon for these type of charges to catch the eye of an ambitious prosecutor. That's why it's critical to hire a criminal defense attorney that has the experience to provide you with a vigorous defense.
What is Aggravated Assault in Texas?
The Texas Penal Code creates two broad types of crimes that can be charged as aggravated assault. They can include cases where a victim is seriously injured, or even in situations the victim wasn't injured at all but was threatened with a deadly weapon. Specifically, aggravated assault is:
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another person, or
- using or exhibiting a deadly weapon in the course of committing any assault crime, including threatening another with bodily injury or engaging in conduct that the victim likely will find offensive.
Causing Serious Bodily Injury
The first type of aggravated assault under Texas law includes knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another. This can be differentiated from simple assault because the injury must be serious as opposed to minor. The Texas Penal Code defines serious bodily injury as an injury that either creates the risk of death or causes death, disfigurement, or protracted loss of a bodily organ.
To be aggravated assault, the serious bodily injury must have been caused either intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. That means a serious accident caused by an accident would not be aggravated assault, so long as you couldn't have known the serious injury was likely.
Threatening Imminent Injury With a Deadly Weapon
The second kind of assault involves either committing what would otherwise be a simple assault while brandishing a deadly weapon. There is no requirement of injury; aggravated assault can include an offensive conduct that involves a deadly weapon. In other words, an offensive touching that would otherwise be charged as simple assault will be upgraded to aggravated assault if a deadly weapon is present.
Potential Punishment for an Aggravated Assault Charge
In every circumstance, aggravated assault is a felony in Texas. It can either be charged as a second-degree felony or a first-degree felony. A second-degree felony carries a sentence between two and 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. A first-degree felony carries a sentence between five and 99 years, or life in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
All aggravated assault cases are charged as second-degree felonies unless they meet one or more specific factual criteria that can upgrade the charge to a first-degree felony. For your alleged aggravated assault to be charged as a first-degree felony, one of the following conditions must be met:
- If you are alleged to have used a deadly weapon to cause serious bodily injury, and the alleged victim is a family member, household member, or a significant other. In other words, a domestic aggravated assault.
- If you are a public servant and committed the alleged aggravated assault while operating in your official capacity.
- If your alleged victim was a public servant performing their official duties
- If your alleged assault was committed as retaliation for a public servant performing their official duties.,
- If your alleged victim is a witness, informant, or the person who reported that a crime was committed,
- If your alleged victim was known to you to be a security officer performing his or her official duties, or
- If you alleged fired a firearm from a motor vehicle at a home, building, or vehicle with reckless disregard for whether the home, building, or vehicle was occupied.
Defenses for an Aggravated Assault Charge
There is a variety of potential defenses for aggravated assault charges. Some of them are specific to the charge itself, while others are broader legal theories that can apply to any criminal case.
You have the legal right to defend yourself from harm, even if it means that you have to seriously injure the person that is threatening you. It's important to note that the force used must not exceed the force exhibited by your attacker.
Defense of Others
Much like the right to self-defense, you are entitled to come to the protection of others in violent situations if you have a reasonable belief that person is facings serious bodily harm. Like self-defense, your force must not exceed that of your attacker.
Consent occurs when the alleged victim affirmatively indicates that they give their permission to be assaulted in a way that would otherwise be aggravated assault.
Unlawful Search or Seizure
Like in most cases, any evidence that is seized by law enforcement unlawfully cannot be used at trial. Known as “fruit from the poisonous tree,” the evidence illegally seized from you may be excluded in court by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Finding the Right Aggravated Assault Attorney
Aggravated assault is one of the most serious crimes in the Texas Penal Code. In certain circumstances, a conviction can cost you your liberty for the rest of your life. Even with a lesser sentence, a felony conviction can mean a prison sentence, your loss of the right to vote or own a firearm, and difficulty in everything from securing housing to find a job.
An attorney with experience in criminal defense law will be able to help you understand the charges against you. The stakes are too high to face aggravated assault charges on your own. Your best course of action is to discuss your case with an attorney that can help you craft your defense and obtain the best possible outcome. If you have been charged with aggravated assault in the Odessa, Texas area contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach, PLLC for a free consultation.