Assault is a very serious crime. Texas takes offenses and violence against individuals very seriously. Depending on the level of injury to the individual assaulted, the simple assault could be an <aggravated assault>; an <aggravated assault> calls for even stricter punishments. As noted below, assault does not require actual physical contact with another individual.
A person commits assault if he or she:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;
- intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
- intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
When an assault falls underneath the misdemeanor category, a peace officer cannot arrest an individual without seeing them actually commit the assault; this does not mean you cannot be prosecuted for the assault. A peace officer can arrest an individual without seeing the assault if the assault involves domestic violence. Every arrest does not necessarily mean that the individual is guilty of committing simple assault; every case has its own facts and circumstances. The required intent can be met based upon recklessness; if the defendant is aware of some risk, but disregards the risk, they can still be liable for assault.
If an individual commits assault in relation to (1), the punishment is a <class A misdemeanor>. An assault in relation to (1) on specific individuals and in certain situations can call for a stricter punishment, a <3rd degree felony>. A few examples of scenarios where stricter punishments would be considered would be an assault on emergency personnel providing emergency services, security officers performing a duty as a security officer, or assault committed on members of the individuals own household. If an individual commits assault in relation to (2) or (3), the punishment is a <class C misdemeanor>.
A simple assault can call for certain affirmative defenses. If an individual believed that the act was necessary to prevent harm to themselves or to protect their property from being stolen, the individual could be found to not have committed simple assault. This defense would be considered a self-defense argument; the self-defense argument can sometimes overlap and be used if an individual was defending/protecting another individual.
Another defense used is that the actions were accidental. Arguments arise that show that the actions were not intentional, knowing, or reckless, but simply done by accident. When it comes to threats specifically, and sometimes other types of assault, arguments can be raised that the complainant misinterpreted actions by the individual; since the complainant misinterpreted actions, the individual should not be held accountable for something they did not do.
Additionally, it could be shown that the complainant consented to the actions or that the individual reasonably believed the complainant consented to the actions. With the issue of consent, 1 of 4 other issues has to be present for this defense to be used:
- The injury is not severe;
- The complainant knew the actions would put them at risk because of the complainant’s occupations;
- The complainant knew the risk because the defendant’s actions were recognized medical treatments that had risk as a factor; or
- The complainant knew the risk because the defendant’s actions were a known risk of a scientific experiment by the complainant.
The exact language of these laws, further details, and additional punishment concerns can be found in section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code. None of this information can take place of the information, knowledge, and expertise provided by a licensed attorney.