Simple Assault in Texas
A conviction for assault becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case.
This article discusses simple assault in Texas. For information on aggravated assault and deadly conduct, see Aggravated Assault and Deadly Conduct in Texas. For a complete discussion of the offenses of aggravated assault and deadly conduct involving a deadly weapon – particularly firearms – see Deadly Conduct in Texas.
What is Simple Assault?
Simple assault in Texas consists of:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
- intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury, or
- intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.01).
“Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Simple assault involves only minor bodily injury like a cut, scrape, or bruise. Injury such as a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, or requiring surgery or hospitalization is a “serious bodily injury.” If the offender causes or threatens this kind of injury, the assault is considered an aggravated assault.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 1.07).
For information on more serious assaults in Texas, see Aggravated Assault and Deadly Conduct in Texas.
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. If someone is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a likely result will occur, he or she acts recklessly. For example, pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 6.03).
Provocative or Offensive Contact
Assault by provocative or offensive contact refers to an act that does not cause physical injury or pain but is upsetting or causes the victim to feel violated. This type of assault can include poking someone in the chest during an argument or “getting in someone’s space,” performing a minor medical procedure on a person such as drawing blood without the person’s consent, or brushing up against a person in a sexually suggestive manner.
Simple Assault – Misdemeanor or Felony?
Assault in which the offender causes bodily injury to the victim is a Class A misdemeanor except in certain circumstances. This assault is a third degree felony if:
- the offender knows the victim is a public servant, government contractor or a contractor’s employee performing services at a correctional facility or secure treatment or rehabilitation facility; a security officer, emergency services personnel, or volunteer (such as a firefighter or EMT), and
- the victim is performing his duties at the time of the assault, or the offender assaults the victim in retaliation for performance of his duties.
Simple assault involving threats of physical harm or offensive contact is normally a Class C misdemeanor, except in certain circumstances:
- if the victim is an elderly or disabled person , the crime is a Class A misdemeanor
- if the offender knows the victim is an athlete or sports official participating in a sporting event at the time of the assault, the crime is a Class B misdemeanor, or
- if the offender assaults the victim in retaliation for his performance in the athletic event (as an athlete or sports official), the crime is a Class B misdemeanor.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.01).
An assault is a domestic assault in Texas if the offender and victim are family or household members – such as spouses or former spouses, adults related by blood or marriage, persons who live together or who are or were engaged in a continuous romantic or intimate relationship. Simple domestic assault in Texas can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances and the offender’s criminal history.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.01).
For more information on domestic assault, see Texas Domestic Violence Laws.
Penalties for Simple Assault in Texas
A person convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas faces the following possible penalties:
- Class A misdemeanor – up to one year in jail or a fine up to $4000, or both
- Class B misdemeanor – up to 180 days in jail or a fine up to $2000, or both, and
- Class C misdemeanor – a fine up to $500.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.21, 12.22, 12.23).
A person convicted of a third degree felony can be sentenced to two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
(Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.34).
A person convicted of simple assault in Texas can be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling, or repair or replacement of damaged property.
Deferred Adjudication and Community Supervision
Texas law provides certain alternatives to a jail or prison sentence for a person charged with or convicted of simple assault.
If a defendant pleads guilty to a simple assault charge, the court may grant a deferred adjudication. The court postpones sentencing for a period of time on the condition that the defendant successfully complies with probation and certain other requirements, such as no new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period, paying restitution, or doing volunteer work in the community. If the defendant satisfies all the court’s requirements, the court will discharge the defendant and dismiss the case. The arrest, deferral, and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record. If the defendant fails to satisfy the court’s requirements, the court will impose a sentence and enter a conviction. This alternative is most typically granted to first offenders.
If a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, the court also can grant community supervision (probation) as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence for up to two years for a misdemeanor and up to ten years for a felony. The court can require the defendant to serve some time in jail or prison before beginning community supervision – 30 days for a misdemeanor and 180 days for a felony. The defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes, or the court can require him to complete the sentence in jail or prison.
A person on community supervision must meet with a probation officer, pay probation costs, and comply with conditions such as treatment, maintaining employment, curfews, drug tests, and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for assault becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for a violent crime – even a misdemeanor – can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options or represent you at trial.
Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.