Assault / Injury

If you’ve been charged with an assault or injury offense under Texas law, this guide will help you understand basic information about your charge. Assault is primarily addressed in Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code. Every assault is different. The police often don’t understand the whole story at the time they choose to make an arrest. You deserve a proactive and aggressive defense. The most important decision you make in the days ahead will be who represents you against the government.

What is an assault under Texas law?

At the heart of every assault charge is one of three basic allegations: (1) – causing bodily injury to another, (2) – threatening another with imminent bodily injury, or (3) – causing offensive or provocative physical contact with another.

“Bodily injury” assaults are the most serious of the three types. A basic bodily injury assault will be at least a Class “A” misdemeanor whereas assaults by threat or unwanted physical contact are typically less serious “Class C” misdemeanors that do not carry the risk of jail time. 

What is “bodily injury” in Texas? What about “serious bodily injury?” 

The Texas Penal Code defines bodily injury as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. When responding to an assault, officers look for scrapes, bruises, marks, redness, or any other observable injury caused by the assault. If a victim says they felt pain, that is sufficient to satisfy the bodily injury definition. 

Serious bodily injury is a more significant type of bodily injury that will result in a higher degree of charge.  The law defines serious bodily injury as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

What is a family violence assault under Texas law? 

Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors take domestic violence very seriously. You can think of family violence as a special type of assault allegation.

The government inserts language in their charge to allege that the assault was of a domestic nature. These family violence assaults can range from Class “C” misdemeanors all the way up to first degree felonies depending on their severity, but it is important to understand that no matter the degree of charge, a family violence finding on your record can result in very serious consequences. 

If you are convicted of an offense involving family violence, it may be unlawful for you to possess or purchase a firearm, including a handgun or long gun, or ammunition. Your custody and visitation rights concerning children may be modified or terminated, and you may lose out on certain employment eligibility. 

If you are charged with a bodily injury assault against a family member and you have a previous family violence conviction on your record, the new charge against you will be a third degree felony. 

What is strangulation of a family member under Texas law? 

Strangulation of a family member assaults are treated more harshly under the law than the typical family violence charge. They are, at the very least, third degree felony charges. The government alleges that a suspect intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to a family member by impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood, by applying pressure to the victim’s throat or neck, or by blocking the victim’s nose or mouth. Strangulation can be a second degree felony charge if the suspect has been previously convicted of another family violence offense. 

Are there harsher penalties under Texas law for assaulting a pregnant individual? 

This version of an assault charge is most commonly a third degree felony, where the government alleges that a suspect intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused bodily injury to a victim who was a pregnant woman, and the suspect committed the offense in order to force the complainant to have an abortion, or the suspect knew the victim was pregnant at the time of the offense. 

What is the law regarding assaults against public servants in Texas? 

This version of an assault is most commonly charged as a third degree felony. The government alleges that a suspect intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to a public servant who was lawfully discharging an official duty, and the suspect knew that the officer was a public servant. 

This charge often occurs following a physical altercation with the police. Even if the police begin the physical phase of the encounter, they are likely to charge someone who they believe fought back or resisted

It is particularly important to review every facet of these cases, including body cameras and dash cameras worn by the officers. Use of force incidents involving the police are often nuanced and controversial. 

Section 22.01(b) of the penal code similarly enhances to third degree felonies bodily injury assaults against certain security officers or emergency service personnel. 

It’s worth noting that 22.01(b-2) makes assaulting a public servant a felony of the second degree if a bodily injury assault is committed against a peace officer or judge while the officer or judge is lawfully discharging an official duty, or in retaliation against the officer or judge. This is a relatively new section of the law not commonly utilized or understood by officers, and thus many of them continue to charge assault of a public servant as a third degree felony. 

What is an Aggravated Assault under Texas law? 

Aggravated Assaults are higher degree assaultive offenses addressed in Section 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code. If an assault results in serious bodily injury to a victim, it will be charged as a second degree felony. Another second degree felony version of aggravated assault occurs when a suspect intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a victim, and during the commission of said assault, the suspect uses or exhibits a deadly weapon. 

It is also possible to incur a second degree felony aggravated assault charge by merely contacting or threatening someone with a deadly weapon. The government will allege that a suspect intentionally or knowingly threatened imminent bodily injury to a victim, or caused offensive or provocative physical contact with the victim, and during commission of those acts, the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon. 

If a family violence assault occurs that was committed with a deadly weapon, and the assault resulted in serious bodily injury, the charge will be a first degree felony. 

Are there enhanced penalties under Texas law for assaulting the elderly, children, or the disabled? 

Section 22.04 of the Texas Penal Code makes it at least a state jail felony to injure a child who at the time of the offense was 14 years of age or younger. Similarly, injuring an elderly individual who at the time of the offense was 65 or older will carry with It at least a state jail felony punishment range. Disabled individuals are also a protected class of victim under the penal code. 

In Texas, it is still a known and widespread practice for parents to spank their children, and it is legal to do so, but a very important question debated in the courts is when does spanking or other corporal punishment cross the line to become child abuse.

It is true that attitudes about spanking children are changing in Texas. With that, the practice is becoming less prevalent, and police have become more aggressive in intervening when they believe that a parent’s use of force went beyond what is reasonable. Nonetheless, The law provides a defense for parents charged with Injury to a Child under Section 22.04 when the force was used to “reasonably discipline the child.”

Specifically, Section 9.61 of our penal code provides that a parent’s use of force, but not deadly force, against a child will be justified if the parent “reasonably believes the force is necessary to discipline the child or to safeguard or promote his welfare.” 

A reasonable belief is what an ordinary and prudent person would believe in the same or similar circumstances as the actor. Reasonableness is not exclusively based on the particular beliefs of the accused parent. 

If you’re accused of a criminal assaultive offense, you must immediately begin to prepare your defense with the aid of a knowledgeable and skilled defense attorney.