In Texas, Assault can be a Class C Misdemeanor, Class A Misdemeanor, or a Felony. The Class C Misdemeanor is sometimes referred to as “Simple Assault.” You can be charged with simple assault if you “cause physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.” A regular Class A Assault is where a person “causes bodily injury to another.” In Texas, “bodily injury” means pain. For example, if someone pushes you, but it did not hurt, they may be charged with simple assault. If they push you and it hurts (even if there is no visible injury) they may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor assault.
Felony assault, and there are different degrees, are generally charged when serious bodily injury occurs. “Serious bodily injury” is defined as “bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protected loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” An example may be one where a bone is broken during an assault. This is generally referred to as “aggravated assault.” Assault on a peace officer is also a felony offense and is charged when a person commits regular assault with the added element of it being against a public servant.
Homicide: Murder, Capital Murder, Manslaughter, Criminally Negligent Homicide
Of course, the highest level of assaultive offenses is homicide which includes the offenses: murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. These are very serious crimes. Generally, murder is where a person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of a person. A person may be charged with capital murder where they intentionally or knowingly cause the death of a person in the course of committing another offense such as robbery, burglary, kidnapping (just to name a few). Manslaughter is charged when a person recklessly causes the death of another. Finally, criminally negligent homicide is just that, homicide that is caused by criminal negligence.
Family Violence, Domestic Violence, and Dating Violence
Family Violence, Domestic Violence, and Dating Violence are generally lumped together under the term “domestic violence.” If you are involved in an assault where one of the other parties is a family member, roommate, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s a whole different ball game. Texas law takes domestic violence very seriously.
Assuming no bodily injury or choking occurred (and we’ll choking below) domestic violence assault is generally a Class A Misdemeanor. When a person is convicted of domestic violence—or even successfully completes deferred adjudication and had their case dismissed—the court enters a “Family Violence Finding.” This family violence finding will follow you for the rest of your life. If you are ever arrested a second time for family violence the charge gets bumped up from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Second Degree Felony. Since this is Texas, it’s important to note that if you have a family violence finding, you may never own or possess a firearm or ammunition. To do so is against state and federal law.
Texas law has also recently changed regarding domestic violence. Under the new law, if you “impede the normal breathing” of a person in the course of committing the offense of domestic violence you will be charged with a second degree felony (as opposed to a Class A Misdemeanor). Since the change in the law, all of our clients who have been charged with domestic violence and who have put their hand somewhere around or on the other person’s neck or throat have been charged with a second degree felony.
Punishment for Assault
The Class C Misdemeanor offense of simple assault is punishable by a fine only up to $500. It is possible to be charged with a simple assault involving domestic violence. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable up to one year in county jail and a $4,000 fine. Aggravated Assault or an enhanced domestic violence assault is a second degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Murder is a first degree felony punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Capital murder is considered a capital felony and is punishable by either life in prison or death. The good news is that there is no fine if you are convicted of capital murder. Manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony and is punishable by 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine.
If your case is dismissed it is probably eligible to be expunged. We always encourage our clients to pursue an expunction if they are eligible. An expunction allows you to legally deny that you were ever charged or arrested for a crime. It is a very worthwhile procedure and one that we can help you with.