What to Expect after Getting a Texas Assault Charge - Fulgham Law Firm (2022)

UPDATED 8/18/2021, Original Post: January 18, 2018

If you are arrested on assault charges in Texas, it is crucial to understand the legal process you will have to go through. This way, you’ll be more prepared at each step of the journey and give yourself a better chance of achieving a positive outcome.

Assaults are serious crimes that are prosecuted in criminal court. However, as someone charged with assault, you should also prepare to fight a civil case.

The criminal case will charge you with a specific crime, in this case, assault. It will be up to the prosecution to provide evidence explaining why you’re guilty.

Likewise, in a civil lawsuit, the alleged assault victim will explain why you should pay for their injuries. For this reason, the cases are similar but have different outcomes. The criminal case deals with potential imprisonment and fines, while the civil case deals primarily with financial restitution.

Below, you’ll find a step-by-step walkthrough of the legal process following your arrest forassault. In this post, you’ll learn about criminal assault charges and civil lawsuits to expect after being charged with assault.

Being arrested

The process begins with an arrest and processing into the jail system after receiving an assault charge. After being arrested, your attorney will provide you with a date for your bail hearing.

(Video) Arrested For Assault Charges? A Former DA Breaks Down What To Expect Next! (2021)

Appearing before a judge

Within 48 hours of the arrest, you will appear before a magistrate, or judge, who will read you the charges and inform you of certain rights, such as your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.

It is impossible to stress enough the importance of retaining experienced legal counsel as early on in the process. Ideally, your lawyer will appear at this meeting.

The judge will also inform you of your right to an examining trial, where reasons for the arrest or probable cause must be established by the prosecution.

Additionally, the judge will either set bail or order you to be released without bail. The judge has full discretion on your bail amount, though your attorney can request a bail reduction if you qualify.

Finally, the date for your next court appearance will be set.

The interim between arrest and trial dates

Let’s say that the judge grants you bail. If this occurs, you can post a bond and live your life regularly, at least until your trial date. However, if you cannot post bail, or the judge worries that you’re a threat to the public (or the assault victim), a judge might deny your bail.

Another option a judge has is to place a restraining order against you. Judges do this to protect alleged victims while also letting you stay out of jail while you await trial. During this time, you should work with a criminal defense lawyer to build a defense that proves your innocence from the alleged crimes.

Charges filed

The prosecution will file charges based on the level of your assault charge. The levels are as follows:

Class C misdemeanor: threatening bodily harm or causing offensive physical contact

Class B misdemeanor: assault on a sports participant related to a performance

Class A misdemeanor: causing bodily injury to someone, or causing offensive physical contact against an elderly person

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Third degree felony: Assault on a family member, household member, dating partner, or other protected status individuals. Also applies to intoxicated assault, which is causing serious bodily injury to another while intoxicated.

Second degree felony: Assault on a family member, household member or dating partner, has a previous similar offense against the same person, or the offense involves choking

First degree felony: Aggravated assault against a domestic partner or other protected status individuals.

Aggravated assault charges will apply if it causes serious injury or a weapon is used during the offense.

Arraignment

This is the first court appearance after charges are filed. Your charges may be read in court, and you will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Your attorney or the prosecution may ask for a continuance for further investigation into the case.

At this point, your attorney may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor for reduced charges and penalties. If a deal cannot be brokered, the case will proceed to trial.

Trial

A misdemeanor case will have six jurors and a felony case will have 12 jurors. The prosecution must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or the jury can find you not guilty.

If you are convicted for assault, the sentencing will fall along these lines:

Class C misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500.

Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

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Third degree felony: Up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000

Second degree felony: Two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

First-degree felony: Five years to life in prison, plus a fine set by the judge.

A frequent question we receive from clients – If the case proceeds to a criminal trial docket, does that mean it absolutely will go to trial? Not necessarily. Many times, to get the best result on a criminal case, an experienced criminal defense lawyer must push the prosecutor to treat their client fairly.

Depending upon the county in Texas, it is likely a trial docket will consist of anywhere between 20 – 40 cases set for trial on each setting. Typically, a court can only resolve 1 – 2 trials per week. As a result, the judge will look to push the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney to resolve the case. At this stage of the negotiation, it can create unique opportunities for an aggressive criminal lawyer to negotiate a much better result for their client.

What to Expect after Getting a Texas Assault Charge - Fulgham Law Firm (1)

Receiving Your Sentence

You’ll go through the sentencing process if the jury believes that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your sentence depends on the facts surrounding the case. Your penalty may be more severe depending on who’s involved and the severity of any threats or injuries.

If found guilty during your criminal case, you can expect fines, jail time, probation, or other criminal punishments. Of course, the goal of any exceptional lawyer is to ensure that you receive a non-guilty verdict or at least get you the best sentencing terms possible.

Defenses To Assault

When planning your fight against the State of Texas, it is important to know your options for your criminal defense. Below are examples of possible defenses to a Texas Assault Charge:

  1. Self-Defense – were you placed in a position where you had to assault someone to protect yourself from injury? It is a common occurrence that the police will charge the winner of a fight with assault. However, the winner was not always the aggressor and may have done nothing wrong if the loser of the fight was the one who threw the first punch?
  2. No Criminal Intent – was the injury an accident? Perhaps you have been charged with assault but you did not intend to cause the injury and it was purely accidental. For instance, if someone closes a door behind them and has no knowledge that another person was walking through and this action causes injury, this was an accident, not an assault. There was no criminal intent.
  3. No Injury – what if an altercation took place but someone was merely offended and no injury or pain has taken place? This is not an arrestable assault charge. The police may choose to bring a charge of Class C Assault By Contact, but this is punishable by fine only.
  4. The Alleged Victim Does Not Wish To Prosecute – what if the alleged victim now realizes they were not a victim at all? What if they were emotionally upset and offended but realize they jumped to conclusions by bringing assault charges? In this situation, the victim can provide an affidavit of non-prosecution outlining the fact they were not actually injured. This could assist your criminal lawyer in negotiating a favorable result for your assault case.

Now that you understand how criminal cases develop let’s discuss the significant differences with civil proceedings for assault cases.

How do criminal and civil cases differ?

While you wait for the process of your criminal case to conclude, you may also face a civil lawsuit in Texas. The civil case does not deal with criminal punishments like fines and jail times. Instead, the purpose of a criminal case is to provide compensation for injuries that the alleged victim sustains.

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Civil cases require a specific burden of proof before the defendant is found guilty. After being found guilty of a civil case, the defendant must provide restitution or financial compensation to the injured party.

Although civil cases can occur before a judge and sometimes a jury, few disputes make it to this point. Instead, most civil cases in Texas end after negotiations between the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys. Both parties can avoid trial and find a financial solution that works for both by coming together outside of court.

Will my civil case only deal with restitution for injuries after an assault?

Many factors go into assault allegations. Sometimes, a family member, housemate, or partner brings forth domestic abuse allegations, complicating civil cases. Depending on your relationship with the individual with a civil suit, you might also use the opportunity to incorporate divorce proceedings, resolve child custody disputes, and even enter bankruptcy.

What’s the burden of proof in civil vs. criminal cases in Texas?

During civil and criminal cases, prosecutors attempt to prove that you are guilty of committing specific crimes. However, there’s a term to be aware of, known as “burden of proof.” Prosecutors have different standards to meet during civil and criminal proceedings before you’re proven as being “guilty” for your crimes. Civil cases have a lesser burden of proof than criminal cases since the punishments are typically less severe.

Criminal case burden of proof

So, during your criminal case, what’s the burden of proof? Well, a defendant must prove to a jury using evidence that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There should be no question or uncertainty as to whether or not you assaulted another individual if you are given a guilty verdict.

Civil case burden of proof

Yet, in civil cases, the burden of proof isn’t so high. There only needs to be a preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, if a judge (or, in some cases, a jury) believes that it’s more than likely true that you assaulted someone, then the other party’s civil law attorney met their burden of proof.

Alternatively, an attorney can win their civil case against you by citing “clear and convincing” evidence that is more likely true than untrue about your involvement in the assault. Therefore, it’s much easier to lose cases as a defendant in civil proceedings than to be proven guilty in a criminal case.

Additionally, because a civil case deals with victim restitution, attorneys have more flexibility to resolve this type of dispute. An experienced attorney helps their client by selling out of court, which can save time and trial expenses.

What about the flexibility of plea bargains?

There are also ways to resolve criminal trials creatively, although this does not always benefit the defendant. If an attorney wants to reduce their client’s punishment, both parties can agree to enter a plea agreement. During this process, a defendant offers a plea of guilty before the trial’s conclusion. In return, they’ll receive a lesser charge.

However, it’s important to note that plea bargaining isn’t always an effective criminal strategy. Some courts reject plea bargains and stop negotiations from continuing. The State may have several reasons for doing this, including to prevent the defendant from receiving a lesser punishment for their actions.

Fight Your Assault Charges – Contact a Texas Criminal Attorney Immediately

Assault charges come with serious penalties, and you need an experienced lawyer to help you. With a skilled attorney’s assistance, you may have a better chance at receiving a reduced sentence or getting your charges dropped. Reach out today for a free case review.

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About the Author:

Brandon Fulghamhas an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work byThe National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.

FAQs

Can you beat an assault charge in Texas? ›

Beating an Assault Charge

The most common defense against assault charges is that you acted in self-defense. For self-defense to be valid, you need to show that there was a threat of harm, you had a real fear of harm, you didn't provoke or harm anyone first, and there was no chance to avoiding the situation.

How do prosecutors prove assault in Texas? ›

To be found guilty of assault, the prosecutor will have to prove not only the alleged act occurred, but also that you acted with intent or knowledge. Violent crimes often catch the attention of the public, and it's not unusual for prosecutors to “throw the book” at a defendant in an assault case.

Can a victim drop assault charges in Texas? ›

The most important aspect to consider is that the prosecutor issues the charge, not the victim. This means that the victim of the assault does not have the authority to drop charges. Rather, the victim must appeal to the prosecutor, hoping they will agree to drop the assault charges against their partner.

What happens with an assault charge in Texas? ›

Regardless of the charge, assault charges are serious charges in the state of Texas that can come with life-changing penalties including long prison sentences and hefty fines if you're convicted.

How long do you go to jail for assault in Texas? ›

In Texas, an aggravated assault is a second degree felony with punishments including 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the assault also involved certain circumstances such as domestic violence, it can be considered a first degree felony with punishments that include up to life in prison.

Is slapping someone assault in Texas? ›

In order for assault charges to be brought in Texas, there must be bodily injury. Unfortunately, the definition of bodily injury, in Texas is very broad. It is defined as anything that causes pain. A slap across the face that leaves no permanent scar can be bodily injury because it caused pain.

What are the 3 burdens of proof? ›

The three burdens of proof for criminal cases are "beyond a reasonable doubt," "probable cause," and "reasonable suspicion."

What kind of proof is needed for a conviction? ›

The legal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt must be met before guilt can be found in any criminal case. This standard does not require absolute certainty that the accused is guilty of the crime, but it does require more than a reasonable probability (50% + 1) that the accused is guilty.

What is burden of proof? ›

The burden of proof is a legal standard that requires parties to provide evidence to demonstrate that a claim is valid. Three levels of the burden of proof, "beyond a reasonable doubt," a "preponderance of the evidence," and "clear and convincing" determine the level of evidence required for a claim.

Can police prosecute if victim doesn't press charges? ›

When an assault has allegedly taken place, it is not always up to you as the victim if you want to press charges. In fact, even if you decide that you do not want to press charges from the outset, or you decide you no longer want to, the Crown prosecutor may still pursue the case.

Can charges be dropped before court? ›

A charge can be dropped before or after a charge has been filed. You may need a charge dropped by the prosecutor, or you may need a charge dismissed by the prosecutor, though a court also can dismiss a charge if the prosecutor has made a fundamental legal error in the case.

What happens when someone presses charges against you for fighting? ›

If the prosecutor decides to press charges against you, they'll present the evidence they have gathered to the grand jury. The grand jury hears the prosecutor's case against you and decides if the evidence supports the criminal charges. The decision doesn't determine if you're guilty or not.

What is the lowest charge of assault? ›

The lowest form of assault is considered a Class C Misdemeanor. The highest penalty one can receive for a Class C Misdemeanor assault is a fine that can be no higher than $500.
...
There is no class B assault, it jumps from C to A.
  1. 3rd Degree Felony Assault. ...
  2. 2nd Degree Aggravated Assault. ...
  3. 1st Degree Aggravated Assault.

What sentence does assault carry? ›

the maximum sentence is five years' custody. if the assault is racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is seven years' custody. if the assault was committed with intent to cause GBH/wounding then the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

What is a simple assault charge in Texas? ›

A person commits simple assault in Texas by: intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing, or threatening to cause, bodily injury to another person, or. intentionally or knowingly engaging in provocative or offensive physical contact with another.

What is first degree assault in Texas? ›

ASSAULT. ( a) A person commits an offense if the person: (1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse; or.

Is Texas a mutual combat state? ›

Mutual combat is also legal in Texas. Like Washington state, people who wish to duke it out in Texas must do so under the watchful eye of a police officer. Considering that Texas law allows people to carry swords in public, it's hardly surprising that consensual fistfights are legal.

What is common assault charge? ›

At its core, Common Assault is a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It's usually committed when someone assaults another person or commits a battery.

Is screaming in someone's face assault? ›

Assault is any action that makes the receiver fearful that they will be harmed. If that someone is getting in your face and screaming at you, threatening you, that is assault. You using just enough force to end the threat is acceptable.

What is a Class C assault in Texas? ›

A person commits a Class C misdemeanor assault if he or she "intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative." Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(a)(3).

Is throwing water on someone assault in Texas? ›

In Texas, throwing a drink at someone is considered assault in Texas. It is considered no different than spitting on someone.

What is a simple assault charge in Texas? ›

A person commits simple assault in Texas by: intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing, or threatening to cause, bodily injury to another person, or. intentionally or knowingly engaging in provocative or offensive physical contact with another.

What is the punishment for assault on family member in Texas? ›

Continuous Violence Against the Family (unless the violence results in serious bodily injury or a weapon is used), is a third-degree felony. A conviction for Continuous Violence Against the Family can result in fines up to $10,000, and up to ten years in prison.

What happens when someone presses charges against you for fighting? ›

If the prosecutor decides to press charges against you, they'll present the evidence they have gathered to the grand jury. The grand jury hears the prosecutor's case against you and decides if the evidence supports the criminal charges. The decision doesn't determine if you're guilty or not.

How long is aggravated assault in Texas? ›

Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is the lowest charge of assault? ›

The lowest form of assault is considered a Class C Misdemeanor. The highest penalty one can receive for a Class C Misdemeanor assault is a fine that can be no higher than $500.
...
There is no class B assault, it jumps from C to A.
  1. 3rd Degree Felony Assault. ...
  2. 2nd Degree Aggravated Assault. ...
  3. 1st Degree Aggravated Assault.

How long do you go to jail for assault? ›

aggravated assault (maximum penalty – three years) assault with intent to injure (maximum penalty – three years) intentionally injuring a person (maximum penalty – five years)

What sentence does assault carry? ›

the maximum sentence is five years' custody. if the assault is racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is seven years' custody. if the assault was committed with intent to cause GBH/wounding then the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

How long does domestic violence stay on your record in Texas? ›

A misdemeanor domestic violence conviction can generally be expunged after five years after you complete your sentence. For example, if you got arrested in 2020, went to trial in 2021, and got out of jail in 2022, you would be eligible for expungement in 2027.

What is a Class C assault in Texas? ›

A person commits a Class C misdemeanor assault if he or she "intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative." Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(a)(3).

What is common assault charge? ›

At its core, Common Assault is a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It's usually committed when someone assaults another person or commits a battery.

What evidence is needed to be charged? ›

The officer only needs to have a reasonable suspicion that the person committed a crime or has information about a crime. Slightly more evidence is necessary to charge a person with a crime. An officer only needs probable cause to believe the person committed or took part in a crime.

Can police press charges without victims consent? ›

When an assault has allegedly taken place, it is not always up to you as the victim if you want to press charges. In fact, even if you decide that you do not want to press charges from the outset, or you decide you no longer want to, the Crown prosecutor may still pursue the case.

Can someone press charges without proof? ›

In general, you cannot be charged without evidence, but many people take this to mean physical evidence. In the absence of physical evidence, you can still receive drug charges if you had control over an illegal substance or had the intent to sell or distribute that substance, even if you did not physically possess it.

Can you get probation for aggravated assault in Texas? ›

In some cases, you might be able to be sentenced to probation instead of time in prison. Aggravated assault charges can also be resolved if the case is no-billed, which means that it is dismissed by the grand jury. It can also end in a not guilty verdict by a jury or by being dismissed by the prosecutor.

What are the 4 main types of sentencing? ›

Types of sentences include probation, fines, short-term incarceration, suspended sentences, which only take effect if the convict fails to meet certain conditions, payment of restitution to the victim, community service, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation for minor crimes.

What's the difference between assault and aggravated assault? ›

What distinguishes aggravated assault from other types of assault is the severity of the injuries caused by the attack. If one party hits another leaving the injured party wounded, disfigured, or maimed, or if the life of the injured party was in danger, the assailant may be charged and convicted of aggravated assault.

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