August 16, 2018
Imagine you and your buddies are part of a basketball league. During a game, an opposing player fouls you hard, and it pisses you off. But for the sake of the team, you keep your composure.
After the game, the team goes out for drinks. A few beers in, you notice that the jerk who fouled you earlier is sitting three tables over.
Fueled by drunken judgment and some peer pressure, you head over to tell him off. Not surprisingly, things get heated. Before you know it, your fist hurts, and the guy is bleeding on the floor.
Not your best moment, but one that most of us can probably empathize with a bit. Who wouldn’t want to get even with someone who behaved badly in the middle of a game?
Normally, assault is charged as a Class C misdemeanor, which basically means that you will face a fine.
What you might not know, though, is that in Texas, fighting with someone for a reason like the above one can actually result in more severe charges. In fact, who the victim of an assault is matters in a number of cases.
Below, we’ll cover the various types of people who enjoy a sort of protection under Texas law, which can lead to you facing increased charges and penalties if you are accused of assaulting them.
Let’s start with how the above situation works. As defined by law, if someone assaults a sports participant either during a performance or in retaliation for a performance, the charge is a class B misdemeanor.
It’s no small difference, either, as the penalties jump up to a possibility of 180 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.
Engage in “provocative or offensive” physical contact against an elderly person and you may be charged with a class A misdemeanor, which comes with up to a year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.
What happens if you’re charged with assaulting a public servant? It’s classified as a third degree felony, which comes with up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Who exactly qualifies as a public servant? It’s a pretty broad category, encompassing essentially anyone who works for the government, jurors, arbitrators and referees, notary publics and attorneys (when performing a government function), political candidates, and anyone performing a government function – even if they’re not legally qualified to perform that function.
In practice, this charge is mostly given to people who fight with police when they’re being arrested.
Anyone with Whom You Have a Domestic Relationship
This one is tricky. It’s essentially domestic violence, and if you’ve been previously convicted for a similar offense, even a garden variety assault will be charged as a third degree felony. Moreover, you will automatically face this charge if you choke someone in a domestic violence situation.
Additionally, if all three of those things are present – domestic violence, previous domestic violence conviction, and choking – the charge will be a second degree felony, which comes with the possibility of 2-20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Family Services Government Workers
Who is this referring to? Let’s use CPS (Child Protective Services) workers as an example.
Due to the nature of their job, they are put into a lot of emotional situations. As such, if anyone assaults them, either while they’re on the job or in retaliation for something they’ve done, the charge is a third degree felony.
If they are assaulted in the commission of their duties, the charge will be a third degree felony.
Emergency Services Personnel
Same situation as with security officers, and same penalty.
There are also special rules for aggravated assaults against certain people. An aggravated assault involves either serious injury or using a weapon.
If either or these things occurs against an emergency worker, police officer, public official, security guard, someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, or a witness or informant, you will be charged with a class 1 felony, which comes with five years to life in prison, as well as fines.
If there’s a lesson here – besides trying to avoid physical altercations altogether – it’s that you need to understand how who you get into a fight with can impact any charges that you might face.
About the Author:
Jeff Hampton has been practicing law in Texas in 2005, first in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, and now as a private attorney with the Hampton Eppes Law Group, protecting the rights of Texans who have suffered injury due to negligence or are facing criminal charges. His success in helping people with their legal troubles has been recognized by clients and peers alike, with a Top Attorney designation and 10/10 Superb Rating on Avvo, and a place on the National Trial Lawyers list of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers.