Protecting Clients From Aggravated Assault Charges in Fort Worth and Tarrant County
You have been arrested or charged with Aggravated Assault, and now you are looking for the best criminal defense attorney. Fortunately, an attorney can often make a dramatic difference in your case if the lawyer works hard and skillfully at the beginning of the case. You need to find an attorney for your charge that will start investigating and preparing your defense immediately. Time is not on your side at the beginning of a case.
In Texas, these are serious felony charges (Second or First Degree). If someone is convicted, they are facing a long term of incarceration in state prison, back-breaking parole terms and conditions, expensive fines, and likely disqualification for some housing, employment, and even child custody. If you have been charged with or accused in Tarrant County (Fort Worth, Arlington, North Richland Hills, Hurst, etc.), then call an attorney at Cofer Luster Law Firm, PC to talk about how to best defense your case. Before co-founding this criminal defense law firm, Cody Cofer and James Luster were both Texas prosecutors. Their combined defense and prosecution experiences include hundreds (if not more than a thousand) of aggravated assault charges. These cases include allegations of: using a Deadly Weapons; making Threats of Death or Serious Bodily Injury; or causing Serious Bodily Injury. Violent crimes are harshly prosecuted in Tarrant County.
You need a trial lawyer, even if you do not want to go to trial. If the prosecutor knows your attorney does not often (or ever) take cases to trial, then the prosecutor knows they can push your lawyer around. If the prosecutor is pushing your lawyer around, then your lawyer is likely pushing you into taking a plea bargain that may not be in your best interest. The prosecutors in Tarrant and surrounding counties know our attorneys are always ready to take the fight for you against aggravated assault charges in front of a jury. No one is pushing Cofer Luster Law Firm around, and they do not pressure their clients to plead out.
Facing aggravated assault charges means fighting off consequences that could change your life forever. Even if you have no criminal history, a first-time conviction can result in a lengthy prison term. You do not want to brave a fight against such serious allegations without a skilled criminal defense attorney fighting for you.
Texas Penal Code
The charge is found in Texas Penal Code (TPC) section 22.02 (Assaultive Offenses). Aggravated assault can be committed in two ways:
- Causing serious bodily injury to a person,
- Knowingly; or
- Threatening a person with imminent bodily injury with a deadly weapon,
- Intentionally; or
Seriousness of an Aggravated Assault Charge
First Degree (Up to Life in Prison)
Most aggravated assault charges, explained below, carry a classification as First (1st) Degree Felonies and can result in a punishment of 5 to 99 years or Life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Assault charges with the “Aggravated” enhancement include:
- Domestic Violence when a deadly weapon is used during the assault OR the victim suffers serious bodily injury; AND the victim is a family or household member OR someone the offender is or has date or had an intimate relationship with.
- Assault BY a Public Servant when committed by a public servant (e.g., State or county worker) acting in his/her official capacity using a deadly weapon or causing serious bodily injury.
- Assault ON a Public Servant when the victim is a public servant engaged in the performance of his/her duties OR the assault is committed in retaliation for the public servant performing his/her duties.
- Retaliation When the offense is retaliation against someone that is a witness, informant, or a person who reported a crime.
- Assault on a Security Officer When the victim is a security officer engaged in performing his/her duties.
- Drive-By Shooting A person shoots a gun from a car at a house, building or another can deal with reckless disregard for whether the house, building or car is occupied OR causes serious bodily injury to the victim.
Second Degree (Up to 20 Years in Prison)
If Aggravated Assault does not fit one of the specific descriptions listed above then the charge is a Second (2nd) Degree Felony and can result in a punishment of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, assuming the person charged does not have a prior felony conviction.
How To Beat Aggravated Assault Charges?
Criminal defense attorneys at Cofer Luster Law Firm, PC will hit the ground running from the first day on your case. This means conducting an independent investigation into the aggravated assault charges against you. From this investigation, we fashion a persuasive case to present to the prosecutor and grand jury. Often, your chances of success against aggravated assault charges can be greatly increased by energetic and thorough representation in the “Pre-indictment Phase.” Hard work in the beginning may result in having your case indicted as a misdemeanor or even “no-billed” (dismissed) by the grand jury.
If your case is indicted, the Pre-trial Phase begins and you are fighting for a dismissal to keep your record clean. Your lawyer’s investigation into the case and witnesses will continue throughout this phase. This phase also includes filing and litigating pre-trial motions (i.e. motion to suppress, motion to exclude experts). Our fanatical approach to pre-trial motions sends the message to prosecutors that getting a conviction will not be easy. It also brings the opportunity for the judge in the case to make decisions about the possible evidence that would be presented at trial. Depending on some of these pretrial rulings, the prosecutor may decide that their aggravated assault case is not strong enough to proceed to trial.
If your case is not reduced or dropped, then the fight continues into trial. This is a time when having a battle-tested trial lawyer is most important. Trial starts with the jury selections process (voir dire). Through selecting a jury, your assault lawyer should skillfully seek the jurors that will relate to the defense of your aggravated assault charge. Arguments made to the jury and questions asked of witnesses should be carefully crafted to support your defense to the smallest detail. Our attorneys battle to win your case and take a “no prisoners” approach to fighting for you.
With a Deadly Weapon
The “Aggravated” enhancement under Texas law includes the commission of an Assault with a Deadly Weapon.
Under Chapter 1 of the Texas Penal Code, “Deadly Weapon” means:
- a gun;
- anything designed, made, or adapted to inflict death or serious bodily injury; or
- anything that, depending on how you use it, can cause death or serious bodily injury.
So, in Texas, Aggravated Assault can be charged when someone actually causes injury using a deadly weapon and when someone just threatens another person by showing them a deadly weapon. One of the frustrating things about this law is that according to the Texas Penal Code practically anything can be considered a “deadly weapon.” An extreme example is a WALL being considered a deadly weapon when someone is thrown into it. More common examples include striking someone with dishes or a book. Basically, the charge is limited only by the prosecutors imagination and their willingness to apply the law to the facts.
What Makes an Assault “Aggravated”?
As mentioned in the section about assault with a deadly weapon, Texas law allows the government to charge someone with aggravated assault in several circumstances. Primarily, the “aggravating” factor is either causing serious bodily injury to someone or using or displaying a deadly weapon while threatening or hurting someone. However, not all of these charges are the same level of felony. These cases can be an “enhanced” as a form of Assault Family Violence. This happens when a person uses a deadly weapon and causes bodily injury to someone in their family or a romantic partner (past or present). These more serious domestic violence charges are First Degree Felonies.
Aside from family members, other classes of “victims” can increase these charges from a Second to a First Degree Felony. If someone threatens with a weapon or causes serious bodily injury to a “public servant” then the charge is a First Degree Felony. Drive-by shooting and other situations may be considered a First Degree Felony as well.
You have the right to defend yourself. That right includes using or threatening deadly force when necessary. The right to self-defense is a deeply Texan and even human right. But just because you were within your rights to defend yourself does not mean the prosecutor will drop the charge against you. You must be able to develop a compelling defense that demonstrates your fear and the righteousness of your actions. As you can imagine, a lot of people use violence and then claim self-defense after the fact. This makes prosecutors, judges, and juries skeptical. This means a well prepared defense is all the more important to a successful outcome.
Rarely is a criminal defense attorney able to develop an effective self-defense case from only relying on the evidence the prosecutor provides through the discovery process. This is why the independent investigation mentioned above is so critical. When your lawyer stands in front of a jury to tell your story he or she needs to have a factual and emotional understanding of your situation and your decision to defend yourself. Never can an attorney get this kind of understanding from merely reading papers in a file. Our skilled criminal defense lawyers and investigators are eager and willing to put in the work needed to dig deep into your aggravated assault case. We don’t just know the law (WE DO), just know the evidence (WE WILL), or have the experience (WE DO). Your attorney will do what it takes to internalize your fight and bring that to a jury in a way they can relate and find you “not guilty.”
Your right to self-defense is written into law (codified) in Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code. As mentioned, Aggravated Assault may stem from threats of violence or force. Under Texas law, you can justifiably (legally) threaten to use force anytime actually using force would be justified (legal). The justified use of force to protect yourself is what we call “self-defense,” and is limited to specific legal situations.
You can use force (violence) against someone to protect yourself from the other person’s use or attempted use of unlawful force (violence). You can only use as much force as reasonably necessary to protect yourself. So, for example, if someone punches you, you cannot then shove them off the roof of a 3 story building… In most cases, however, if you have done this, talk to a lawyer immediately. The questions of whether force (violence) is immediately necessary can seem difficult. Texas law outlines situations where your belief that the force was immediately necessary is “presumed” to be reasonable. “Presumed” generally means the law supposes it to be true without needing any proof.
Situations where reasonableness is presumed:
- You knew or had reason to believe that the person you are defending yourself against unlawfully and with force entered (or attempted to enter) your occupied habitation (home), vehicle, or place of work;
- You knew or had reason to believe that the person you are defending yourself against unlawfully and with force removed (or attempted to remove) you from your habitation (home), vehicle, or place of work;
- The person you were defending yourself against was committing or attempting to commit:
- Aggravated kidnapping;
- Sexual assault;
- Aggravated sexual assault;
- Robbery; or
- Aggravated robbery.
CAUTION: There are some situations in which you cannot claim self-defense. First, the law does not allow you to provoke a person and then use (or threaten to use) force or deadly force against them. Second, you cannot be in the process of committing any crime (other than a traffic violation) when you use force or deadly force.
Texas law also lays out specific instances when you cannot claim self-defense. For example, you cannot use force against someone if it is in response to “verbal provocation” alone. Meaning, you cannot assault someone just because of something they said. Also, there are stricter rules if the person you are defending yourself against is a peace officer (i.e. police officer, sheriff deputy). You cannot “consent to the exact force” used against you and then use deadly force in defense. This means you cannot agree to get into a fight of throwing punches and then pull out a deadly weapon.
Now stay with us because the law gets even more complicated: If you have provoked someone, that does not mean your right to self-defense is completely lost. If you have provoked someone, you can still defend yourself if you abandon the encounter, or clearly communicate to the other person you intend to do so AND you reasonably believe you cannot safely abandon the encounter AND the other person continues or attempts to use unlawful force against you. This is a situation-specific exclusion and as you can see self-defense in Aggravated Assault charges can be extremely complex. This is a topic you need to speak about with a highly trained criminal defense attorney.