Deadly Conduct

Deadly Conduct is either a Class “A” misdemeanor or a third degree felony under §22.05 of the Texas Penal Code. Whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony depends upon the facts of each case. 

Under §22.05(a), a citizen commits an offense if he or she recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. This version of deadly conduct is the Class “A” misdemeanor version. It typically carries a punishment range of up to a year in jail, and up to a $4,000 fine. The court could also sentence you to a probation of up to two years, or three years if the judge extends your probation. 

Under §22.05(b), we find the felony version of deadly conduct. A citizen commits an offense if he or she knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of one or more individuals;  or discharges a firearm at or in the direction of a habitation, building, or vehicle, and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied. The court could also sentence you to a probation of up to ten years, although it is more likely that the prescribed probation would range from three to five years. 

The deadly conduct statute was drafted to specifically address those situations where people are reckless in brandishing or discharging a firearm. Deadly conduct charges can follow familial disputes, road rage incidents, or fights that get a little too heated. If the police allege that you used a firearm in a dangerous or threatening manner, you could be charged with deadly conduct.

Even though the deadly conduct statute was drafted with weapons in mind, the misdemeanor subsection’s language is especially broad, allowing a wide array of applications for the statute. I once received a call from a law enforcement officer looking to charge a warehouse worker with deadly conduct because the officer believed she tried to poison a colleague’s water bottle. That charge never materialized because the police had no proof the woman was responsible for slipping anything in the drink. If you’re charged with deadly conduct, it is imperative that you work with a proactive defense attorney who will thoroughly assess the facts of your case. 

Deadly conduct cases very often hinge on what exactly it means to act recklessly. A citizen acts recklessly in the context of deadly conduct when he or she is “aware of but consciously disregards” that conduct in question could lead to substantial and unjustifiable risk of serious bodily injury. 

To determine recklessness, one must consider if an ordinary person would have acted the same way under the same circumstances or if the accused citizen acted outside or grossly deviated from what an ordinary person would reasonably do under the same circumstances. Defending a deadly conduct case means persuasively justifying your actions as reasonable under the circumstances you faced. 

Another important note about the mental culpability of deadly conduct crimes is that intent is not necessary with respect to causing any kind of bodily injury. The intent requirement is limited only to the discharge of the firearm. The government must show that it was your intention to use your weapon without care for the safety of others around you, but that intention does not have to include a desire to harm someone or some property.