Individuals can be charged with assault for behavior ranging from threatening to harm another person to launching a physical attack with a dangerous weapon. Assault and battery are two distinct crimes in most states, but Texas law classifies both verbal threats and violent physical contact as assault. A person commits assault when they knowingly or intentionally threaten another person with physical harm; knowingly, intentionally or recklessly cause another person injury; or knowingly or intentionally make contact with another person in a way that they should know would be considered provocative or offensive.
Misdemeanors and felonies
A person who commits assault in Texas can be charged with a Class A, B or C misdemeanor or a felony in the first, second or third degree. Prosecutors have wide discretion in these cases, and they may consider factors such as provocation, motivation and intent when deciding what kind of charge is appropriate. The least serious kind of assault charge is filed against individuals who make threats but do not commit acts of violence in situations where no aggravating factors are present. The most serious assault charges are reserved for offenders who physically attack and seriously injure their spouse, a witness, a security guard, a public official or an emergency worker.
Assault penalties and penalty enhancements in Texas
An assault that is charged as a Class C misdemeanor is punished in Texas with a fine of up to $500. The penalty for committing a first-degree felony assault is a fine and a prison term of between five years and life. Penalties are harsher when assaults are considered aggravated. Under Texas law, an assault becomes aggravated when a weapon is used during a violent attack or the victim suffers a serious injury.
Negotiating with prosecutors
Many individuals charged with assault in Texas enter into plea agreements long before their cases go to trial, and prosecutors tend to be less lenient when defendants are belligerent and show no remorse for their actions. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise individuals facing assault charges to be courteous to law enforcement but make no statements until they have spoken with a lawyer.