Regarding the black letter law, assaultive offenses are defined under Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code as offenses committed against the person. Per § 22.01, assault occurs when an individual intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes serious injury to another person, threatens another person with injury, or causes contact that they know or should reasonably know would be considered offensive. While many states differentiate the intention to cause injury with the actual causing of the injury as assault and battery, the state of Texas categorizes them as the same under assaultive offenses law.
What does it mean to cause "bodily injury?"
That does not mean that they are punished equally. To cause bodily injury to another is considered a Class A misdemeanor. And the term "bodily injury" in Texas is really a misnomer, as all that is required for bodily injury to be proven is this--that the complainant was made to feel any amount of pain or discomfort.
Illustratively, and insanely, if you pinch somebody and thereby cause that person pain, and if you are not acting in self-defense or defense of a third party when you do it, you could be arrested, charged, and convicted of the Class A misdemeanor of assault causes bodily injury. For the sake of the illustration, you could be subjected to a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in the county jail for something as insignificant as this. As you can see, the howling of angry complainants has influenced our state legislature to enact assault law in Texas that would be laughable if it weren't so serious for the poor people charged under this ill-conceived and unfair law.
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When you have been accused of assault, you are facing a type of charge that the District Attorney's office and the public takes very seriously, although not always for the best reasons. In any assault case, there is or was a person claiming to have been injured by the Defendant. Our system of justice expects that when someone has been hurt, punishment will be dealt out.
These cases often involve an angry accuser who makes a point out of telling the DA to throw the book at the Defendant. Unlike in "victim-less" offenses, such as a non-accident DWI, the DA's office often has an irate complainant to deal with. The political need to cater to and placate the complainant sometimes leads to cases being prosecuted that never should have resulted in an arrest to begin with.
When does it become a felony offense?
Additionally, there are circumstances in which what would be a Class A assault (assault causes bodily injury) is elevated to a third degree felony.
Assaults indicted as third degree felonies include instances in which the alleged victim:
- is a public servant;
- has supposedly been assaulted by a person who has a previous affirmative finding of family violence; or
- is a security officer or an emergency services personnel. Assault
The difference between a Class A assault, in which bodily injury has been caused, and a Class C assault, in which the complainant has been touched in a manner claimed to be offensive or provocative, is often small and up for debate.
Penalties for Misdemeanors & Felonies
Punishments are outlined in Chapter 12 of the Penal Code. While there are many gray areas, and each case is ruled by its own set of specific circumstances, this is the basic outline for what can be expected.
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