Assault occurs when a person, through either words or actions, causes a victim to fear an immediate battery. Actual touching of the victim by the perpetrator is not required for the crime of assault. Rather, to be in fear of immediate battery means that the victim fears the person will hit them or otherwise cause the victim some kind of physical injury in the immediate future.
There are four types of misdemeanor assault under Texas assault laws. They are as follows:
- “Assault Bodily Injury (ABI)”: Assault with bodily injury is committed when a person either intentionally and knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person; the injury does not need to be severe; if the assault causes pain, even minimal pain, it is enough to qualify as bodily injury; slight discomfort, however, would not qualify as bodily injury;
- “Assault Bodily Injury Against a Family Member (ABI-FM)”: If the victim of an assault with bodily injury is the perpetrator’s spouse or other family member, then the crime is “ABI-FM” under Texas law; family members can include parents, siblings, roommates and family members whether by blood, marriage or adoption;
- “Assault by Threat”: Assault by threat is committed when a person intentionally or knowingly threatens another person with imminent bodily injury;
- “Assault by Contact”: Assault by contact is committed when a person intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another person and the contact is provocative or offensive.
Can I Be Accused of Misdemeanor Assault against a Family Member?
“Assault Bodily Injury against a Family Member (ABI-FM)” is one type of misdemeanor assault in Texas, as explained above. It is considered to be a form of domestic violence or domestic abuse.
Domestic assault (non-aggravated), which is also referred to as “assault bodily injury of a family member (ABI-FM)” is an assault committed on any one of the following victims:
- A present or former dating partner of the perpetrator;
- A person in the perpetrator’s household, e.g. a roommate;
- A person in the perpetrator’s family, e.g. parents, siblings or any other family member whether by blood, marriage or adoption.
In order to commit assault, the perpetrator must have done one of the following:
- Intentionally or knowingly injured a victim;
- Engaged in objectionable physical contact with a victim;
- Placed someone in threat of impending injury.
If the perpetrator’s contact causes the victim pain, it can qualify as an “assault” in Texas
According to the Texas Penal Code, aggravated assault is defined as either intentionally and knowingly or recklessly causing a person to suffer serious bodily injury or engaging in the assault or threatening an assault while displaying or using a deadly weapon. Aggravated assault is a second degree felony.
Aggravated domestic assault of a family member is the aggravated assault of a person whom the perpetrator is currently dating or previously dated, a person in their family, or their spouse. There is a family member or household member enhancement to the crime of aggravated assault, so the perpetrator of aggravated domestic assault faces a possible first degree felony. Conviction of a first degree felony can result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to life, even for a first-time offense.
The charge of continuous or ongoing family violence charges may be filed against a perpetrator who is alleged to have engaged in two domestic assaults within one year. A perpetrator may be convicted of ongoing family violence, even if they were never arrested or convicted of the two prior alleged assaults. So, the police can interview the victim of an alleged domestic violence, and if the victim reports that the abuse has occurred before, the perpetrator can be arrested for and charged with felony continuous or ongoing family violence.
What Is the Punishment for Misdemeanor Assault in Texas?
An “assault causing bodily injury” is a “Class A misdemeanor” in Texas that is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
An “assault bodily injury against a family member” is also a “Class A misdemeanor”, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, if the perpetrator does not have any prior domestic violence charges. However, if there is a prior family violence conviction or if the current crime involves either the choking of a family member or the use of a weapon, the crime can become a felony.
An “assault by contact” occurs when the perpetrator intentionally or knowingly creates contact with another person that is reasonably offensive or provocative. Examples are spitting on the victim or poking the victim in the chest. The conduct may not cause bodily injury, but it is offensive physical contact that can still be considered assault. Assault by contact is a Class C misdemeanor, that is punished by the imposition of a fine ranging up to $500.
An “assault by threat” occurs when someone intentionally or knowingly threatens an individual either verbally or nonverbally, with the threat of imminent bodily injury. “Assault by threat” is a “Class C misdemeanor” in Texas and is punishable by a fine of up to $500. A jail sentence is not an option for a “Class C misdemeanor”, but a person convicted of assault by threat does have an assault conviction on their record.
“Class A Misdemeanor”: A “Class A misdemeanor” in Texas is the most serious charge for misdemeanor assault; the maximum possible punishment is up to a year in jail and a fine of up to 4,000. An assault is classified as a Class A misdemeanor if it caused bodily injury. It is also a Class A misdemeanor if the perpetrator caused bodily harm to a certain subset of the population, such as an elderly person.
“Class B Misdemeanor”: A “Class B misdemeanor” in Texas is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Texas defines a Class B misdemeanor assault as a non-sports actor threatening a sports player with bodily harm or causing offensive contact to a sports participant.
“Class C Misdemeanor”: A “Class C misdemeanor” is punishable by imposition of a fine of up to $500. Jail time is not an available punishment. “Class C assault” includes either threatening a person with bodily harm or making offensive contact with a person.
A person charged with misdemeanor assault also faces collateral consequences. For example, a person convicted of assault with bodily injury on a family member will lose their right to carry a firearm.
Of course, being charged with misdemeanor assault does not mean that a person is guilty. There are numerous defenses to an assault charge, including self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, duress, and necessity.
The defense of mutual combat is also available. In Texas, the law permits two people to engage in mutual combat without fear of criminal penalties. Per the Texas Penal Code, a person is engaged in mutual combat if the contact did not cause serious bodily injury or threaten to cause injury, or if the alleged victim participated despite knowing the risk because of their profession.
Therefore, if two people engage in a fistfight that does not cause serious bodily injury, and if there was reasonable consent based on words or body language, the mutual combat defense is available. However, if serious bodily injury occurs or the combat was unprovoked, the mutual combat defense is not likely to succeed.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Misdemeanor Assault Charge in Texas?
If you have been charged with any form of assault in Texas, you definitely want to consult a Texas misdemeanor assault lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to explain the offense and how it is proved and the possible punishment. An experienced Texas misdemeanor assault lawyer can represent you in pre-trial negotiations and if a plea agreement cannot be reached, they can represent you in a trial. You will definitely get the best possible outcome in your case if you have a Texas misdemeanor assault lawyer representing your interests.