Whether or not you think you have a right to use a weapon, if you use it in a dangerous, threatening, or reckless manner, you could be charged with deadly conduct. In Texas, you may have heard about the case a year ago in Montgomery County where a man's fiancée-- who just arrived home with her children -- was attacked by two masked men. The fiancé, Jeremiah Morin, went inside and retrieved his gun and then chased the two men down a busy street, shooting at them indiscriminately. The two masked men escaped, and though Morin may have thought he was in the right by protecting his fiancée, he was charged with deadly conduct.
If you have also been charged with deadly conduct -- whether you thought you were responding to a situation within the law or not -- the matter is serious. The charge can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. An experienced Board Certified criminal defense lawyer can help you through the process and ensure that you move forward in a way that's in your best interests.
Doug Murphy, Board Certified in criminal law and a veteran trial attorney, has dedicated more than two decades to criminal defense. He believes everyone deserves a chance and should assert their right to defend themselves. His former and current clients confirm his commitment. If you have been charged with deadly conduct, contact Doug Murphy today. His office is based in Houston but he represents clients throughout Harris County and all surrounding counties and beyond throughout Texas.
Deadly Conduct: Elements of a Crime
Deadly conduct is defined as a criminal offense in the Texas Penal Code § 22.05. The offense is committed when a person either
- recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury; or
- knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of (a) one or more individuals or (b) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied.
In Jeremiah Morin's case, he knowingly discharged a firearm and aimed at the masked men. It did not matter if Morin knew or did not know the firearm was loaded; it only mattered that he knew he was pointing a firearm at the men. Simply by pointing the gun toward these masked men -- who were attempting to assault or kidnap Morin's fiancée -- satisfy the presumption of recklessness and danger of harm, regardless of any other circumstances.
In Morin's case or anyone else's case charged with deadly conduct, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime to have a chance at success in the courtroom. This task is not as easy as it may sound, especially with an aggressive criminal defense attorney representing you and challenging the State every step of the way. Below are descriptions of the above elements of the crime.
Danger of Harm
Danger of harm means you know or should know that your conduct can or could place someone at risk of suffering serious bodily injury. (Tex. Penal Code § 22.05.) Any reasonable person should know that pointing a firearm at someone has the potential to cause serious bodily harm.
Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is an injury that has the capacity for substantial risk of death or that can cause death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Minor cuts and bruises are not considered serious even though they are bodily injuries, but loss of an eye is a serious bodily injury. (Tex. Penal Code § 1.07.)
State of Mind
There are two necessary states of mind. The first is recklessness if that recklessness places a person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. The second is intent if a person knows or should have known conduct -- like discharging a firearm -- could post substantial risk for serious bodily injury.
Deadly conduct crimes can occur when a person acts recklessly, or is reckless, when “aware of but consciously disregards” his or her conduct could lead to substantial and unjustifiable risk -- in this case -- serious bodily injury. To determine recklessness, it must be considered if an ordinary person would have acted the same way under the same circumstances or if the person acted outside or grossly deviated from what an ordinary person would reasonably do under the same circumstances. (Tex. Penal Code § 6.03.)
Deadly conduct crimes can occur when a person uses a firearm without considering the safety of others and/or the potential damage or harm the action may cause. Here, intent is necessary with conduct, i.e., discharging the firearm, but intent is not necessary with respect to cause any kind of bodily injury. Thus, your intention is to use your weapon without care for the safety of others around you, but your intention does not have to include the intention to harm someone or something. (Tex. Penal Code §§ 22.05, 6.03.)
Discharging a Firearm
You can commit deadly conduct with a firearm if you brandish it and/or fire it in the direction of someone else or in the direction of a home, vehicle, building, or other structure without first investigating ot knowing the structure or vehicle is occupied. Thus, in the least, you can be charged with deadly conduct if you brandish your firearm and aim it at a building you know or not know to be occupied. (Tex. Penal Code § 22.05.)
To note, a loaded weapon is not an element of a deadly conduct offense. The only requirement is that the weapon is discharged and pointed at a person, persons, a vehicle, or building. You can know or not know, believe or not believe, that the weapon is loaded -- that makes no difference in a charge of deadly conduct. (Tex. Penal Code § 22.05.)
Structures and Vehicles
A person is not permitted to discharge a firearm at any structure, vehicle, or dwelling; to do so is to commit the offense of deadly conduct. Vehicles refer to anything that has the capability to transport a person or items, like passenger cars, trucks, or boats. Buildings and dwellings refer to homes and structures used as places for people to live or work, like houses, office space, or restaurants. These buildings or vehicles do not have to be occupied at the time a person fires upon them; the only requirement is that these buildings or vehicles can house or transport people. (Tex. Penal Code §§ 22.05, 30.01.)
Deadly Conduct: Classifications & Corresponding Penalties
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.05, a deadly conduct offense is a Class A misdemeanor if you recklessly engage in conduct that poses imminent serious bodily injury or a third-degree felony if you knowingly discharged a firearm and aimed it at someone, a vehicle, or some kind of building structure meant to house people either at a home, workplace, or other purpose. A conviction of either a misdemeanor or felony have serious penalties and consequences.
Jail Time. If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for deadly conduct, then you can be sentenced up to one year in jail. If you are convicted of a Third-Degree felony, you can be sentenced a minimum of two years or a maximum of ten years at a state prison.
Fines. If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, you could be fined up to but no more than $4,000. But if you are convicted of a Third-Degree felony, you could be fined up to but no more than $10,000.
Probation. The court could sentence you to probation in lieu of a jail sentence or in combination with a jail sentence. Probation generally endures for at least 12 months. Throughout probation, you must abide by certain strict rules and regulations. You will also have to meet with your probation officers on a regular basis, allow the officer to search your home or vehicle when requested. While on probation, you cannot possess firearms or commit another crime, or else risk going to jail but for a maximum sentence.
Deadly Conduct: Potential Defense Strategy
You could have a defense if you acted in self-defense within the limits of the law, i.e. you did not use more force than what was necessary. You could also have a statutory defense if the other person(s) consented to the circumstances so long as:
- 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.
The statutory defense of consent does not apply even if one of the two circumstances above are present if the actors conduct these acts for initiation into or continued membership in a gang. (Tex. Penal Code § 22.06.)
Your best defense should include the element of knowledge. Doug Murphy is equipped with knowledge of the law, the prosecutors and their tactics, the court system, and the jury and how they respond to information presented in different ways within the courtroom. He will take the facts of your case and analyze those facts against the alleged evidence and proceed with a smart, strategic defense plan. Doug Murphy always aims to weaken the State's case and bolster your stance before the judge and jury.
Deadly Conduct Criminal Defense in Texas
If you have been charged with the offense of Deadly Conduct, Houston criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy will aggressively and comprehensively defend your case. His capabilities have been recognized by the legal community, which has endorsed his name through accolades and frequent invitations to speak at seminars throughout Texas and the United States. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at (713) 229-8333.