By Law Office of A. Oliver Hassibi
March 10, 2016
Before we can discuss the finer points of assault charges, we have to cover the basics—which means we need to know the difference between misdemeanor assault charges and felony assault charges. Since assault charges come in different forms depending on the circumstances, it’s vital to know the difference between misdemeanor or third-degree felony simple assault and aggravated assault.
All types of assault, from Class C misdemeanors to first-degree felonies, involve the same 3 actions in some form or another. What separates the levels of assault from one another is on whom the assault was committed, in what context the assault was committed, or whether deadly weapons were involved.
Texas law dictates that assault covers three different kinds of actions. These are:
All non-sexual forms of assault fall under those 3 actions. Being charged with any of these actions may seem minor in some situations, especially when the “bodily harm” in question seems meaningless or non-existent, but prosecutors are notorious for using magnified charges in order to gain leverage against suspects. A Class A misdemeanor could easily be argued into a third-degree felony (within minimum prison sentences) to convince a suspect that they need a plea deal.
Because the harshness of the assault penalties depend on the circumstances, it is vital to to hire a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer. Arguing against excessively harsh charges is only effective when a seasoned attorney is at your side. Having a veteran criminal defense lawyer on your side means prosecutors will charge you more cautiously, immediately reducing potential penalties.
If you’re facing assault charges of any kind, call me at The Law Office of A. Oliver Hassibi—I’ll listen to your side of the story and get to work on protecting your future and your freedom.
If the assault did not actually result in physical “harm” or injury, then it is classified as a Class C misdemeanor. That includes any assault that falls under the second two actions that constitute assault: issuing a threat of imminent physical harm, or physically touching the “victim” in such a way that is knowingly offensive or provocative.
The maximum penalty for a Class C misdemeanor is a $500 fine.
If a non-sports participant threatens or physically provokes a sports participant, either collegiate, amateur, or professional, then it is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. That includes the athletes themselves, referees, umpires, coaches, instructors, administrators, or staff members.
Specifically, this law addresses crimes committed while the sports participant is doing their job (i.e. during the game), or if the perpetrator is attacking an athlete in retaliation for his or her performance. This “sports fan” clause protects athletes from the disappointed or angry spectators that sometimes plague sports (or gamblers who lost their potential winnings).
The maximum penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is a $2,000 fine and 6 months in prison.
Assault that actually results in physical harm is automatically a Class A misdemeanor charge (at least). If a person is accused of physically provoking or offending an elderly person or a disabled individual (normally a Class C assault) then they receive a Class A misdemeanor charge as well.
The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is a $4,000 fine and a 1-year prison sentence.
When a person intentionally or knowingly harms another person physically, it’s a Class A misdemeanor—but it becomes a felony charge when it’s directed against certain parties. For example, physical harm against a family member, dating partner, or roommate can jump from a misdemeanor to a felony. If a person is shown to have previous assault convictions against dating partners, family members, or household members (in Texas or any other state), then they are liable to be charged with a third-degree felony assault.
Other parties against whom misdemeanor assault is a third-degree felony include:
The maximum penalty for a third-degree felony charge is 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Assault as previously described falls under a category known as “simple assault.” Like we mentioned earlier, simple assault requires the intentional, knowing, or reckless harm of another person physically, using knowingly offensive physical contact, or even issuing a threat.
Aggravated assault involve the same actions as simple assault, except when it causes “serious bodily harm” and if it involves the use (or even the display) of a deadly weapon. As a result, aggravated assault is at minimum a second-degree felony charge. Like with simple assault, who the crime is committed against will decide whether the felony charge is in the first-degree or the second-degree.
Any aggravated assault charge is a second-degree felony. Keep in mind that this includes Class C misdemeanors (threats or physical provocation) that have been committed with a deadly weapon. So, if you threaten someone while armed, you may be charged with a second-degree felony.
The maximum penalty for a second-degree felony is 2-20 years of prison time and a $10,000 fine.
This is the highest-possible felony assault charge in Texas, and the second-highest possible charge overall (before a capital offense). Like simple assault, aggravated assault qualifies as a first-degree felony charge when it is committed against family members, dating partners, or household residents. It may also qualify if the accused has committed assault in the past.
Aggravated assault is a first-degree felony when:
The maximum penalty for a first-degree felony is a life sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Protecting your freedom is not just about facing your charges; it’s about making sure your charges suit the crime. Texas has a notoriously harsh criminal justice system, and with no less than 6 different levels of assault charges, you could be facing far worse penalties than you deserve. These excessive charges sometimes might be used to pressure you into a plea deal for a lesser charge.
Having a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney at your side would provide you with the level playing field that justice requires. Since 2002, I have been giving the accused in Fort Worth an opportunity for true justice, without the leverage or pressure that prosecutors use to secure a plea deal. With a veteran of the criminal court system in your corner, we can make sure your prosecutors charge you fairly—allowing me to present your side of the story effectively and honestly.
Contact my firm 24/7 for a free consultation and to begin working on your case.