If you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injure another person, threaten that person with imminent bodily harm, or otherwise physically contact that person in a provocative or offensive manner, then you could face a simple assault charge in the State of Texas. One of the highest rates of arrests in Texas is due to assault. Part of the reason stems from the legal definition of assault, which is so broad it can include cases where you merely poke another person or in fact don't even lay a hand or finger on another person, but say something in a moment of anger that provokes fear of bodily injury.
Whatever the case may be, if you have been charged with assault, it's a criminal offense that could lead to a conviction -- so the matter should be taken seriously. To ensure the best outcome for you and your specific case, a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer is in your best interests. Doug Murphy, Board Certified and a veteran criminal defense lawyer, has two decades of experience representing clients who have been in your position. You don't want a criminal record that could mess up the rest of your life or you don't want another conviction on a current criminal record, you just want to fight the charge and go on with your life. Doug Murphy understands and is committed to your defense. Current and previous clients testify to the same. Contact Doug Murphy to learn how he can help you, and in the meantime inform yourself about assault and what it means in Texas specifically.
Simple Assault: What Does it Mean in Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code Ann. § 22.01, simple assault in Texas can materialize under three circumstances when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
- causes bodily injury to another person
- threatens another person with imminent bodily injury, or
- causes physical contact with another person knowing (or reasonably should have known) that person would find it provocative or offensive.
To best understand the scope of the definition of simple assault, key terms should also be defined.
In some circumstances, simple assault requires proof of bodily injury. Bodily injury is defined in Texas Penal Code Ann. § 1.07 and “means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” Simple assault, however, involves only minor bodily injury where the person was scraped or bruised. If the bodily injury involves broken bones, loss of limb, disfigurement, and/or necessitates surgery or hospitalization, then the assault is no longer categorized as simple but as aggravated.
Intentional, Knowing, or Reckless
Intentional, knowing, and reckless are culpable mental states with the highest being intentional and the lowest being reckless. Absent these three culpable mental states, the alleged offender has not committed simple assault. Texas Penal Code Ann. § 6.03 outlines the definitions of these three mental states.
(a) A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.
(b) A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.
*(c) A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.
*The mental state of recklessness only applies in assault cases where the other person was injured; recklessness does not apply in cases where assault manifests as threats of bodily injury or provocative physical contact.
Provocative or Offensive Contact
The meaning of provocative or offensive in the context of assault is not statutorily defined. You should, however, be aware of what it could constitute. Generally speaking, it does not refer to physical injury or pain. Rather, it refers to causing the other person to feel violated or offended in some way.
Assault of this nature can be as minimal as getting into someone else's space or poking someone in the chest, or as serious as drawing blood without the person's consent or pressing against someone in a sexually suggestive manner.
Simple Assault: Do I Have a Defense in Texas?
You always have a defense when you have the right criminal defense lawyer, like Doug Murphy. What that defense looks like depends on the specific and unique circumstances of your case. For some of you, you may have an actionable defense where you admit to doing the thing that got you charged, but you had a legal justification for doing it. For others, it's a matter of challenging the evidence and weakening the prosecution's case against you.
According to Texas Penal Code Ann. § 22.06, consent is an affirmative defense. If the victim effectively consented to the assault or the offender reasonably believed that the victim consented, then consent is a defense to assault if:
- the conduct did not threaten or inflict serious bodily injury; or
- the victim knew the conduct was a risk of his or her occupation, recognized medical treatment, or a scientific experiment conducted by recognized methods.
Consent, however, is not a defense -- even in the presence of the above conditions -- if the consent is a condition of initiation or continued membership in a criminal street gang.
Self-defense is an actionable defense. Self-defense is the use of force or threats to use force to protect yourself, your property, or another person whom you believe to be in imminent danger of harm. Self-defense is only a successful defense in Texas so long as you did not provoke the other person first. Likewise, the force used must only have been what was necessary and not excessive.
Denial/Failure to Prove
If you do not have a viable affirmative defense or a defense related to self-defense or defense-of-others, your defense could be as simple as denial or a failure of the State to prove its case against you. In these cases, a lot of times the assault allegation is completely false or made up. You may ask why someone would make up an assault claim, and you will be told the reasons are many: from divorce to child custody, to plain and simple jealousy, or bitterness, to just about anything else.
An experienced attorney will rely on the facts to dispute the prosecution's evidence. There are a number of ways your Houston criminal defense lawyer can do this. In assault cases, this often comes down to challenging witness testimony.
Simple Assault: What Penalties Can You Expect?
Penalties are dependent on the class associated with your charge. A simple assault can result in a Class A, Class B, or Class C misdemeanor. But it can also result in a third- or second-degree felony if certain aggravating factors exist.
- Class C Misdemeanor Assault. Assault is a Class C misdemeanor when a person threatens harm but no injury occurs or makes physical contact in a provocative or offensive. This can result in fines of up to $500.
- Class B Misdemeanor Assault. Assault is a Class B misdemeanor when the assault occurs in the context of sports when a non-participant of a sport assaults a participant (e.g., player, sports official, referee) during the sporting event, or in retaliation for the participant's performance. A Class B assault can result in up to six months in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.
- Class A Misdemeanor Assault. Assault is a Class A misdemeanor when the assault is against an elderly or disabled person -- regardless if physical harm was involved, or against any person if physical harm is present. A Class A assault can result in up to one year in prison and up to $4,000 in fines.
- Third-Degree Felony Assault. Assault can be a third-degree felony when the assaulted person is a public servant, security officer, emergency services personnel, or government official or contractor. A third-degree felony assault can result in between two and ten years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Second-Degree Felony Assault. Assault can be a second-degree felony when the assaulted person is an on-duty peace officer or judge. A second-degree felony assault can result in between two and twenty years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
If you are convicted of simple assault, in some cases you may have to pay victim restitution, which could include payment for medical treatment, counseling, or property damage.
Simple Assault: When is it Domestic Assault?
Simple assault is simple domestic assault when the person assaulted is a family or household member of the offender's family or household. This can include spouses, former spouses, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, adopted children, roommates, nannies, or domestic partners.
In such cases, the assault is classified as a Class A misdemeanor unless the offender has prior convictions for domestic assault and the assault included choking. In such cases, the domestic assault can be charged as a felony in either the third- or second-degree, depending on the specific nature of the case.
Simple Assault Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston, TX
If you have been charged with assault, regardless if it is classified as a Class C misdemeanor or a second-degree felony, you want legal representation. Oftentimes in these cases, the alleged offender thinks they can easily explain the situation to the judge and then get off scot-free. Other times, alleged offenders think that because the victim wants the charges dropped, there's nothing to fear. But fear is warranted if you care about a criminal record and possible jail time and steep fees, not to mention the collateral consequences that follow a criminal record. Dropping a case is not up to the victim, but the prosecution. And if the prosecution thinks it has a case, the matter won't be dropped. You need an aggressive, strategic defense.
Doug Murphy, a veteran criminal defense trial attorney and Board Certified in criminal law, takes a comprehensive, aggressive approach to defending his clients. His capabilities have been recognized by the legal community, which has endorsed his name through accolades and frequent invitations to speak at seminars so that he can provide his insight and teach legal defense skills to other criminal defense attorneys throughout Texas and the United States. At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., you can expect commitment and the best result according to the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at (713) 229-8333.