Fred Stangl successfully defended a client that was previously convicted of a felony. Ryan Garcia avoided life in prison for shooting and killing Paul Ochoa. Ochoa was attempting a robbery on Garcia’s home. In addition to the murder charge, Stangl was able to get possession of a controlled substance dismissed. After the shooting, police discovered methamphetamine in Garcia’s residence. Instead, Garcia was able to enter into a favorable plea deal for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
Important Legal Differences
Assault is among the most common of crimes charged, but there are important legal differences in the various assaultive crimes that may be alleged under Texas law.
The lawyers at Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl have decades of experience defending clients accused of assaultive offenses with great success. When accused of an assaultive offense, there is no substitute for choosing an experienced, aggressive lawyer to protect your reputation and liberty.
This article will address assaultive crimes other than those involving sexual misconduct.
Assault, a Class C misdemeanor
Did you know you can be guilty of a crime just by threatening someone or touching someone? Under Texas law, a person commits a crime if the person:
- Intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
- Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
The crime is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $500. Class C misdemeanor assaults are rarely charged and rarely litigated.
Assault, a Class A misdemeanor
The most common assaultive offense is the Class A misdemeanor offense of assault. Under Texas law, a person commits a crime if the person:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another . . .
The crime is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of up to one year in jail and an optional fine of up to $4,000. There are very few collateral consequences associated with a common Class A assault conviction.
Assault, a Third-Degree Felony
If a person commits assault by causing bodily injury to another, as defined above, the crime is enhanced to a third-degree felony, punishable by a prison term of 2-20 years and an optional $10,000 fine, if:
- The crime is committed against a public servant;
- The crime is committed in a domestic violence situation (discussed below), and:
- It is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has been previously convicted of family violence; or
- The offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.
In addition, there are multiple more rare third-degree felony assault crimes described by the Texas Penal Code, including assaulting a security officer and assaulting a pregnant individual to force an abortion.
Domestic Violence Assault
If a Class A misdemeanor assault complaint includes an allegation of “domestic violence,” the stakes increase dramatically.
Domestic violence is probably treated more seriously than any other misdemeanor offense in Texas. A conviction carries additional fines, the loss of certain rights, and automatically increases any subsequent domestic arrests to felonies.
You can be charged with domestic assault for a range of actions, from threatening a spouse or girlfriend to attacking a family member with a deadly weapon. It isn’t necessary for you to injure the other person to be charged with domestic violence.
Domestic assault is one of the few misdemeanor offenses in Texas for which a police officer can arrest you on the spot without witnessing the incident. All the officer needs is probable cause, such as witness statements or evidence of injury, to believe that you made serious threats or committed violence.
The court system also tends to err on the side of caution in family violence cases, allowing a judge to issue a protective order barring you from contact with the family member – meaning you may not be able to return home – immediately after your arrest.