What Is The Difference Between Simple and Aggravated Assault In Texas?
At Cofer Luster, our criminal defense attorneys are frequently asked about the difference between simple and aggravated assault. Simple assault is typically a misdemeanor charge, but can be bumped up to a third-degree felony in special circumstances such as if the victim is a family member, a public servant or emergency services worker. You may be charged with this for punching, kicking or choking someone during a fight. However, you can also be charged without even touching the alleged victim. For example, if you tell someone you are going to beat him or her up, and that person has a reasonable fear that you are capable and will do it, you can be criminally charged.
By Contact (Class C)
Simple Assault is not a technical or legal term. So, people may intend different meanings when using the term. In some instances, the term may refer to a charge that is a ticket only offense. In Texas, this is a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine only, no jail time. This is also known as Assault by Contact. This is “intentionally or knowingly caus[ing] physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.” (Tex. Pen. Code. Sec. 22.01).
The more serious charge, aggravated assault, encompasses the same elements described above, but with one of two additional actions: The use or brandishing of a deadly weapon during the offense or by causing serious bodily injury to the alleged victim. While generally being considered a second-degree felony, aggravated assault can be elevated to a first-degree felony in the following circumstances (the first three being classified as domestic violence):
- The victim is living in the defendant’s household.
- The victim is related to the defendant by blood or affinity, this includes foster parents or foster children.
- The victim is in a dating relationship with the defendant.
- The defendant or victim is a public servant acting under his/her office.
- The victim is a security officer on duty at the time of the crime.
- The defendant is in a motor vehicle at the time of the crime while recklessly discharging a firearm in the direction of a building, vehicle or habitation without the knowledge of whether it was inhabited and causes serious bodily injury to a victim.
The penalties for an aggravated assault charge are serious and life changing. A conviction of a second-degree felony may carry a penalty of two to twenty years in state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000. If the conviction is a first-degree felony, the jail penalty is increased to 5 years to life in state prison.
The consequences of not hiring the right defense lawyer could change your life forever. Even with no criminal history, a first-time conviction can result in a lengthy prison term or life-altering collateral consequences (i.e. eviction from housing, loss of job, loss of child custody). Contact our office for a criminal case evaluation on your assault charge. We can help you understand your options and we will let you know how we can help you and devise an airtight defense strategy. Don’t brave this fight alone.