Texas Deadly Conduct Law – Penal Code 22.05

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 What Does a Deadly Conduct Charge Mean in Texas?

A defendant commits deadly conduct in Texas when they recklessly engage in conduct that places an individual in imminent danger of serious bodily harm. Examples of deadly conduct may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pointing a firearm at another individual;
  • Discharging a firearm in the duration of a structure or vehicle with reckless disregard of whether it was occupied;
  • Discharging a firearm in the direction of another individual with wanton disregard for their safety.

What Are the Elements of Deadly Conduct?

In Texas, an individual may be charged with this offense if they knowingly discharge a firearm at one or more individuals in a residence, vehicle, or building. An individual may have questions regarding whether they may have engaged in deadly conduct. If so, they should consult with a local Texas attorney.

How Is Serious Bodily Harm Defined in Texas?

In Texas, serious bodily harm, also known as serious bodily injury, is a term that is used to distinguish different types of injuries. If an individual suffers serious bodily injury, they have suffered an injury or injuries which are long-lasting or permanent.

These types of injuries may include:

  • Loss of limbs;
  • Spine, head, or neck injuries;
  • Serious cuts;
  • Serious burns;
  • Scarring;
  • Paralysis; and
  • Serious disfigurement.

What Is the Law Regarding Criminal Recklessness in Texas?

In the State of Texas, there are laws governing criminal recklessness. In Texas, criminal recklessness is illegal. It has been made illegal pursuant to the laws prohibiting deadly conduct.

Reckless conduct in Texas is defined as the conscious disregard of the risk created by the defendant’s conduct. It is important to note that mere stupidity, irresponsibility, thoughtlessness, ordinary carelessness, or lack of foresight do not constitute criminal recklessness, no matter how severe the consequences.

What Is Recklessness?

Reckless conduct may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the punishment may include criminal fines and jail time of less than one year.

In more serious cases of reckless conduct, a defendant might exhibit a reckless disregard for human life. In that case, the felony charge may result in a much heftier fine, a lengthy prison term, and probation once the defendant is released from prison.

Reckless conduct is common in the context of drunk driving cases as well as automobile accidents. An individual could be driving a vehicle when their blood alcohol level is over the legal limit and have an accident that injures a passenger. In this case, the driver’s decision to drive while intoxicated rises above common negligence to reckless conduct.

Reckless driving, however, is not limited to cases involving drunk driving. It can also occur even when the driver is sober. An example of this would be if a driver jumped a curb and drove down a busy sidewalk.

What Is Criminal Recklessness?

Recklessness in a criminal context, or criminal recklessness, refers to the state of mind of the defendant, or individual who caused the injury or harm, at the time they committed the crime. Therefore, in order for a defendant to be found criminally reckless, that individual must be aware of and foresee the risks which are involved with a particular act.

In addition, a reckless defendant makes a conscious decision to disregard the risks that are associated with their conduct, and they proceed to engage in that conduct regardless of the risk. Due to the unwanted dangers that are presented to other individuals, many state laws and statutes prohibit and, in some cases, criminalize reckless conduct.

There are several common examples of conduct which could be considered reckless, including:

  • Drinking and driving, or DUI/DWI;
  • Driving at dangerously high speeds in a residential neighborhood or an area where there are several pedestrians;
  • Using illegal substances in a public area;
  • Carrying a concealed weapon without the proper permit;
  • Storing weapons, toxic substances, or other dangerous items in areas where children may be able to get to them, such as child endangerment;
  • Knowingly engaging in unprotected sexual activities when the individual knows that they have a sexually transmitted disease;
  • Illegal use of fireworks; and
  • Engaging in rough play or sports in inappropriate settings, such as inside a store.

In a case involving reckless behavior, the main factor is that a defendant had knowledge that their conduct was, in fact, dangerous to those around them. If a defendant was unaware of that fact, a court will consider whether or not the defendant should have known that their conduct was dangerous.

An example of criminal recklessness is when an individual speeds down a residential street knowing that there are often pedestrians exercising. This behavior presents a risk of hitting a pedestrian with a vehicle.

What Are the Elements for Proving Recklessness?

In order to prove that a defendant did engage in recklessness, a plaintiff or the prosecution will generally be required to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant intended to commit the act in question;
  • The defendant was aware that such actions would pose a risk of harm;
  • The risk of harm is in itself unreasonable and greater than negligent action; and
  • The defendant knew or had reason to know that other individuals could be present and directly in harm’s way.

The specific requirements for this charge may vary by state. In addition, it is important to note that recklessness differs from intentional harm in several ways, as previously discussed.

The most significant difference between the two is that in a case of recklessness, a defendant may not have intended to cause the harm that resulted from their conduct. However, they were aware of the dangerous risks. In a case of intentional harm, a defendant actually intended for the other individual to be harmed or injured by their conduct.

What if I Shot My Gun in Someone’s Direction but Not at Them?

In Texas, recklessness and danger are presumed if the individual knowingly points a firearm in the general direction of the other individual. It is not required that the firearm be pointed directly at the intended victim. In addition, it does not matter whether or not the firearm was loaded.

What Is the Punishment for a Deadly Conduct Conviction?

In Texas, the punishment for a conviction of deadly conduct will depend on the exact circumstances surrounding the offense. It is generally charged as a Class A misdemeanor, though it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony in Texas depending on the case. 

Texas statutes define two types of deadly conduct: 

  • Reckless conduct that places another person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury (SBI). This is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a $4,000 criminal fine.
  • Reckless discharge of a firearm at or in the direction of another individual, habitation, or vehicle. This is a 3rd degree felony and punishable by up to 20 years in state prison and a $10,000 criminal fine.

Besides the potential incarceration time and criminal fines, a deadly conduct conviction can also have various other serious consequences, including: 

  • Loss of one’s driver’s license
  • Removal from the country (deportation) for non-citizens
  • Difficulty securing employment or finding housing

Can I Get Probation for Deadly Conduct?

Yes, it may be possible for an individual convicted of deadly conduct in Texas to receive probation. Typically, it will be for a term of one year or longer.

The defendant will be required to meet and fulfill any conditions imposed by the court. In addition, they will typically have to report to their probation officer at regular intervals.

Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Deadly Conduct Charge?

It is essential to have the assistance of a Texas criminal lawyer if you are facing a deadly conduct charge. If you have been charged with deadly conduct, you are facing jail time as well as a hefty criminal fine.

Reckless conduct is taken very seriously by the courts. This is because public policy strongly discourages an individual from putting innocent bystanders in harm’s way.

Your attorney can advise you regarding Texas laws and what defenses may be available in your case. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a lesser charge in your case or a plea bargain.


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