Understanding Assault in Texas
A variety of charges can be considered “assault.” From the lowest misdemeanor to felony charges. Regardless of the type of assault charge, our Fort Worth based lawyers intend to aggressively defend your case until we get a dismissal or the best outcome from a jury. We have handled hundreds of assault cases in Tarrant County (and surrounding counties) from our Fort Worth law office.
What is Assault in Texas?
Most of the assault offense in Texas are found in the Texas Penal Code Chapter 22. For a complete explanation of the law you needs to speak with one of our experienced and aggressive attorneys based in Fort Worth, Texas. Use this page as a guide and starting place for your research.
The lowest level charges is “Assault by Contact.” This means simply touching someone in an offensive way, not causing any pain or injury. These cases are prosecuted in municipal or justice of the peace courts. The next level of assault is a Class A Misdemeanor.
Two types of assault charges are Class A Misdemeanors. The first usually arises in a “fight” context, against someone you are not related to or dating. This is an Assault Causing Bodily Injury. Bodily injury does not legally mean you have “injured” someone. It can be as simple as causing someone pain. It may seem extreme, but a small pinch that causes pain fits into this type of assault charge.
The second Class A Misdemeanor is Assault Bodily Injury of a Family Member (i.e. Domestic Violence). Sometimes you may see this abbreviated ABI-FM. These are based on the same criminal conduct, but the charge is different because of the relationship between the person accused of assaulting someone and the person alleged to be the victim. Even though the consequences of this charge do not include greater jail time or a larger fine, the collateral consequences are much worse for Assault Family Violence. Also, these charges can easily be enhanced to felony assaults. The enhancement laws can be complex, but with our experience and reputation, we can explain the charge against you, your criminal history, and the facts of the case to determine if you are facing more severe penalties.
Cody Cofer | Board Certified Criminal Lawyer
Our named partner, Cody Cofer, is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a former prosecutor and former Assistant Federal Public Defender. As an assault attorney in Fort Worth, he has defended hundreds of assault cases. He wants to speak with you about your case.
Felony Assault Charges
Many different circumstances can cause the prosecutor to file an assault as a felony. The two most common felony charges are Family Violence Charges (i.e. Impeding Breathing, Domestic Violence with Prior) or Aggravated Assault. There are other felony charges based on assaultive behavior that have different names under Texas law. These include causing a child pain, which is called Injury to a Child. Assaulting an elderly person or disabled person is also a felony assault charge.
Felony domestic assault charges arise in a variety of ways. Most commonly these charges are Third Degree Felony Assaults. A Class A Misdemeanor can quickly turn into one of these felonies if the police accuse a person of choking someone (Assault by Impeding Breathing or Occlusion). Also, if someone has a prior domestic violence charged (either a conviction or Deferred Adjudication) a second charge is enhanced to a felony.
Aggravated Assault is another very common felony charge. Generally, this charge is based on the use of a deadly weapon. Someone doesn’t actually have to be injured by a deadly weapon. Rather, a person may just be threatened. These charges also arise when someone is severely injured during the course of an assault.
James Luster | Former Tarrant County Prosecutor
Our named partner, James Luster, was a Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney before becoming a defense attorney. He prosecuted cases in the specialized Family Violence Unit of the DA’s Office. He has defended hundreds of assault cases in Tarrant and surrounding counties. He wants to fight your assault charge.
Find an Assault Lawyer in Fort Worth who is Willing to Work
Unlike some charges, like drug possession or DWI, your lawyer’s efforts in finding and interviewing witnesses is an important part of defending assault charges. The lawyer for your assault charge must be willing to actually make the effort to get out into the field and conduct interviews. Even if your defense is based on self-defense, collection of witness statements, photographs, and documentary evidence may be the corroborating evidence needed to make a jury or prosecutor understand you were acting in self-defense. Your lawyer cannot simply rely on the “evidence” provided by the government through the discovery process. This laziness could cost you your case and years of your life.
In many assault cases the “victim” wants to “drop charges.” Even though a victim does not have the power to make the government dismiss charges, your lawyer can make use of a cooperating witness to make it very difficult for the prosecution to go forward with the case.
Our assault lawyers are proactive, and we know what needs to happen in a case to ensure the best chances of a dismissal or “not guilty.” As mentioned, we have experience with hundreds of assault cases. We’ve learned what can work and what work needs to get done to build your defense. Your defense starts by meeting with a criminal defense attorney, as soon as possible.
How to Handle an Assault Charge with the Help of a Lawyer
The first rule, politely remain silent. Like with any criminal case, your assault case will only get worse for you if you speak with law enforcement. This also applies to family and friends. A very innocent statement can be taken out of context or twisted around to be used against you. There are very important reasons we have Miranda Rights. To be very clear: Do not speak to police about the case. Do not speak with your family about the case. Do not speak with your friends about the case. Do not speak with inmates about the case. Do not speak to ANYONE other than your assault lawyer.
The second rule, get a good criminal defense lawyer from the beginning. This rule applies even if the “victim” wants to drop charges. Without a lawyer you are much more likely to make bad decisions. Often a detective will persist in efforts to make you give a statement (see Rule 1). Also, in many cases there may be an Emergency Protective Order. The language of an EPO can be confusing, and people can inadvertently violate the order just to end up with a new criminal charge. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your assault charge, you need to find an assault lawyer before your situation gets any worse.
The third and final rule is to follow the advice of your lawyer. Our criminal lawyers will lay out a plan to best defend your assault charge. This may include some effort on your part. An attorney cannot wave a magic wand to make cases go away. Once you are facing an assault allegation, you may have to go to a class or do some community service to have the best chance to get the case dismissed. If a case goes to trial you have to rely completely on the skill of your lawyer; however, if you want your case dismissed without the risk associated with trial, you are going to have to put in some work with your lawyer.
Consequences of an Assault Charge in Texas
Understanding all of the consequences of an assault conviction (or deferred adjudication) cannot be covered in a short article. You need to find a lawyer experienced with assault charges to speak with about your specific case. Regardless of whether your case is a “simple assault” or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, you are facing serious consequences. You can read more about the specific sentences and criminal consequences of assault charges, but an assault charge it can have an impact that ripples throughout your life.
The consequence for violent crimes, such as assault may include:
- Loss of job or trouble getting a job;
- Serious difficulty in pending or future child custody cases;
- Harsher treatment by police and courts in the future;
- Disqualification for membership in many organizations;
- Ineligibility for professional licenses and certifications;
- Loss of your right to own or possess a firearm, and
- Many other serious consequences.
If you have no other criminal history, your Texas assault charge will still have the following punishment ranges:
- Assault Causing Bodily Injury – Class A Misdemeanor; 0 to 1 year in county jail; $0 to $4,000 fine; and/or 2 years of probation.
- Assault Causing Bodily Injury to a Family Member (Dating Partner) – Class A Misdemeanor; 0 to 1 year in county jail; $0 to $4,000 fine; and/or 2 years of probation.
- Assault of a Family Member (Dating Partner) by Strangulation – Third Degree Felony; 2 years to 10 years in a Texas prison; up to a $10,000 fine; and/or up to 10 years of probation.
- Aggravated Assault (Deadly Weapon or Serious Bodily Injury) – Second Degree Felony; 2 years to 20 years in a Texas prison; up to a $10,000 fine; and/or 10 years of probation.
- Assault of a Public Servant – Third Degree Felony; 2 years to 10 years in a Texas prison; up to a $10,000 fine; and/or up to 10 years of probation.
We are Assault Attorneys in Fort Worth, TX
Often, we can avoid a conviction if you have a properly prepared defense strategy. Regardless of whether you believe the State has a good or bad case against you, you need a lawyer who will take your assault charge seriously. James Luster and Cody Cofer are both former prosecutors. Cody Cofer is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Criminal Law.