Picture of the author

What is Aggravated Assault in Houston, Texas?

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is an offense in Houston, Texas, committed when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another. The crime also covers the act of exhibiting a deadly weapon in a threatening manner. Aggravated assault is a serious offense in Houston and is typically considered a second-degree felony. It would, however,  amount to a first-degree felony under Section 22.02(b) of the Texas Penal Code where:

  • The defendant and victim are related or are in a domestic relationship.
  • The defendant is a public servant on duty at the time of the incident.
  • The victim is a public servant on duty at the time of the incident. 
  • The victim was a crime witness, an informant, an emergency service worker, or a security guard.

Regardless of the degree of felony the offense eventually falls, a conviction for aggravated assault has severe consequences such as lengthy incarceration, hefty fines, deportation, child custody issues, and disqualification from jury duty.   

In 2017, the City of Houston recorded a total of 14,201 cases of aggravated assaults, constituting 55% of the city's violent crimes at the time. Compared to the city's 2020 crime statistics, aggravated assault increased considerably by around 35%. Statistics for aggravated assault also include attempts to commit the offense.

What is Sexual Assault in Houston, Texas?

Sexual assault in the City of Houston involves non-consensual, unwanted sexual contact against another person, including penetration of the mouth, anus, or sexual organ. Under Houston laws, persons below  17 years old are legally incapable of giving consent. Similarly, consent would be considered invalid when obtained by threat or when the actor is in a position of power or a caregiver. Sexual assault is charged as a second-degree felony. However, the charge becomes a first-degree felony if the accused was prohibited from marrying the victim under bigamy laws prior to the offense. Likewise, sexual assault  is elevated to a first-degree felony offense, as an  aggravated sexual assault where:

  • The assault causes serious bodily injury, attempts to cause the death of the victim, or involves threats to do so
  • The offender made threats to kidnap or cause serious bodily injury or death of another person.
  • The offender displayed or used a deadly weapon.
  • The offender administered a drug to the victim to facilitate the commission of the offense.
  • The victim is 14 years old or less, elderly, or disabled.

In addition to lengthy incarceration and hefty fines, a conviction for sexual assault carries other long-lasting consequences, including sex offender registration, employment restriction, and housing restrictions.

Houston recorded a total of 1,366 rape cases in 2017.  When compared to 2020 numbers, incidences of rape in the City of Houston dropped by 17%.  

Can a Minor Be Charged with Assault in the City of Houston?

Persons under the age of 17 cannot be charged as adults for assault in Houston. However, such cases can be referred to the Houston Teens Court for fine-only offenses or the Harris County Juvenile Court for other offenses. Nonetheless, children under the age of 10 cannot be sued in Houston as they are considered incapable of forming the intent to commit a crime. 
Assault offenses are usually charged as delinquent conduct under the juvenile court system, and the punishments are not as strict as the ones for adults. However, not all cases involving minors as the accused go to the Juvenile Court. If a child over age 14 uses a deadly weapon, causes serious bodily harm, or commits certain first-degree felony offenses, such a child can be tried like an adult. 

In 2020, the Houston Police Department referred 1,605 cases to the Juvenile Court, and 582 assault offenses were committed by juveniles in Harris County, including the City of Houston.

What Happens When You Press Charges Against Someone for Assault in the City of Houston?

An assault charge may consist of:

  • Simple assault
  • Domestic violence 
  • Sexual assault 
  • Suicide assistance
  • Terroristic threats
  • Deadly conduct
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Consumer product tampering
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Harassment in correctional facilities
  • Injury to a child, elderly person, or disabled individual.

When facing an assault charge in the City of Houston, Texas, it is advisable to retain the services of a competent criminal attorney. A skilled attorney would examine the facts, gather relevant evidence and witnesses, and devise strategies to reduce, dismiss, or drop the charges. The attorney may explore common defenses available to the accused party, including:

  • Self-defense: This is the most common defense against assault charges. To rely on self-defense, the defense attorney will demonstrate that the assault was justified as a defense against violence or threats of violence from the victim. The attorney will also assert that the accused did not provoke the violence, and the force used for the defense was proportionate to the threat.
  • Defense of others: As applicable in self-defense, the use of force in the protection of a third party is considered a ground for defense for an assault charge under the law. Provided, however, that the force applied in the protection of the third party was proportionate and there was genuine belief that the assault victim would have caused bodily harm or death to the third party if the accused had not intervened.
  • Defense of Property: Assault in Houston is also justifiable where it is done in defense of one's property. For example, persons can use force to prevent a burglar from invading their home. However, the force used for such a defense must be reasonable in the particular circumstance. 
  • Lack of criminal intent: If an injury was caused by an accident or mistake, the defense could argue that the accused lacked the mental element required to commit the assault. This is so considering that one of the key elements of assault offenses is that the accused acted with intent, knowingly, or recklessly. The absence of these mental states can lead to a failure of the charge.
  • Insanity: This defense is similar to that of unintentional or mistaken assault. To assert this defense, the attorney would have to prove that the accused acted due to severe mental disease or defect.
  • Involuntary intoxication: It is a defense that the accused acted while under the influence of a substance not taken voluntarily. This defense negates the ability to form the intent to commit an assault. Voluntary intoxication is not a valid defense to assault in Houston.
  • Mutual combat or consent: This defense is applicable where the incident occurred during a fight or contact sport and both parties consented to the contact.

How Long Can You go to Jail for Assault in the City of Houston?

Penalties for assault in the City of Houston depend on varying factors, including the seriousness of the act for which charges are brought, the age and condition of the victim, possession and use of a weapon, and the offender's criminal history. For punishment, assault charges are classified as:

  • Class C Misdemeanor Assault:  punishable by a fine not exceeding $500.
  • Class B Misdemeanor Assault:  attracts either jail term not exceeding 180 days, a fine not more than $2,000, or both fine and jail term.
  • Class A Misdemeanor Assault: is punishable by either a jail term of up to a year, a fine not exceeding $4,000, or both the fine and incarceration.
  • Third-Degree Felony Assault: attracts imprisonment between 2 to 10 years. The punishment may also include a fine not exceeding $10,000.
  • Second-Degree Felony Assault: attracts imprisonment between 2 to 20 years, which may also include payment of a fine of up to $10,000.
  • First-Degree Felony Assault: life imprisonment or 5 to 99 years in state prison. A fine not exceeding $10,000 can also be imposed in addition to the prison term.

Note that Class C misdemeanor punishment applies to simple assault charges. In contrast, Class B penalties apply if the assault occurs during a sports performance, while a Class A misdemeanor applies if the assault causes bodily injury or was committed against an elderly individual. In the same vein, a third-degree felony charge applies if the accused had a previous conviction on assault or if the assault was committed against certain public workers. A second-degree felony charge applies to aggravated assault against a household member. Finally, a first-degree felony charge applies for aggravated assault against a domestic partner or certain public workers.

Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault in the City of Houston

There are two main differences between simple and aggravated assault in the City of Houston. First is that, while simple assault typically occurs when a person threatens or causes bodily injury to another, aggravated assault ensues where serious bodily injury is inflicted. This means, as opposed to simple assault where a slap or bruise can be actionable, aggravated assault involves injuries that create or causes a substantial risk of death or permanent disfigurement or impairment.

The second difference is whether or not a deadly weapon was used or displayed in the course of the assault. The mere presence or exhibition of a deadly weapon during an assault will automatically raise the offense from a simple assault to aggravated assault. 

These differences impact the classifications of the offenses and applicable punishment. Simple assault is usually actionable as a misdemeanor offense, which at maximum attracts a one-year jail term. In contrast, aggravated assault is charged without enhancing circumstances as a second-degree felony, punishable with imprisonment between 2 to 20 years, including a fine of up to $10,000.