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:
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.
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:
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%.
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.
An assault charge may consist of:
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:
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:
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.
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.