There are many different offenses with the word “assault” in them in Texas. Assault by Contact, Assault on a Public Servant, Sexual Assault, Assault Family Violence, Assault by Contact (Class C) etc. Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code covers a broad range of conduct, everything from Class C misdemeanor assaults to Second Degree Felony Assault. Let’s dive into the statute and see what’s going on here.
First up, what is an assault in Texas?
Basically, it’s causing bodily injury, threatening bodily injury, or offensive physical contact. Specifically
(a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;
(2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
(3) 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.
Class A Misdemeanor Assault-
This is your typical assault case which requires some sort of bodily injury. Texas defines bodily injury as “physical pain.” So if it hurts, then it’s a Class A Assault. The range of punishment for a Class A Assault is up to a year in county jail or a $4,000 fine.
Class A Assault becomes a much more serious offense when you attach the family violence language. The range of punishment is the same, it’s still a Class A misdemeanor, but the collateral consequences can be devastating. Employment, child custody, immigration, and gun ownership are all impacted by a family violence conviction
What is family violence?
Family violence is an allegation added to a regular assault charge. It will include language that the person is related to the Defendant, or they live together, or that they have a dating relationship. This broad language makes it possible to charge siblings for family violence, or to charge roommates in the same apartment.
Felony Family Violence
A family violence cases can become a felony if you have a prior family violence conviction, or if you are alleged to have choked (“impeding breath”) the complaining witness. I see a lot of police officers asking complaining witnesses if the defendant squeezed them, or put their hands around their neck. They are looking for evidence to file a felony case on an assault. This gives the State a lot of leverage in plea negotiations and it can make taking an assault case to trial prohibitively risky for a defendant.
These offense are 3rd degree felonies with a 2-10 possible prison sentence, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Class C Assault
Technically, a Class C Assault is when you touch someone in a way that you should know they wouldn’t like. In reality what we most often see if cases where the police are called out on some bullshit deal and they want to do something, so they write a ticket for Class C Assault. It’s not uncommon for the police to write Class C Assault tickets to both parties and let the court system sort it out. I’ve seen spouses both charged with Class C Assault because the police couldn’t figure out what happened, and it wasn’t serious enough to make a Class A case out of it.