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What's the Difference Between Self-Defense and Assault in Texas?

Close up of Texas man's fist in self-defense

Understanding a contentious defense to assault charges

When attacked or threatened, many people choose to - or are forced to - defend themselves and their loved ones. It's not fair, but sometimes the victim who fights back is charged with assault.

Under Texas law, there is a fine line between self-defense and assault. Therefore, you need to know your rights before a confrontation occurs. The following is general information on what you need to know about self-defense and assault in Texas and should not be taken as legal advice.

Contact The Webb Firm, P.C. for a free case consultation if you were charged with assault for defending yourself in Montgomery County or The Woodlands Area. At no cost to you, a member of our team can answer your legal questions and help weigh your options.

What is considered assault in Texas?

Texas defines assault as the intentional, knowing, or reckless threat of bodily injury, "offensive" or "provocative" physical contact, or cause of bodily injury to another person. There are various degrees of assault charges. Also known as "simple assault," this is usually a misdemeanor. However, the charge can be upgraded to a felony under certain circumstances.

Is fighting back or defending yourself and others legal?

Yes, although if you're facing assault charges, it might not feel like it. In general, there are three types of legal "defensive" defenses for Texas assaults. They are:

  • Self-defense. The legal definition of self-defense in Texas is when a person responds to the threat of violence with a minimum amount of force. Therefore, if you are attacked and act in self-defense, it cannot be disproportionate to the initial violence. Here's an example: if a person is slapped, they may push the aggressor away to avoid further conflict but not break their nose.
  • Defense of others. You can take action that protects others against violence or the threat of violence. As with self-defense, you must respond to assault with minimum force.
  • Defense of property. In Texas, the "Stand Your Ground" law gives you the right to use force in the defense of property like your home and car.

What are the assault charges and penalties in Texas?

Texas has a variety of assault charges punishable by fines, jail, and prison. In the most serious cases, those convicted can basically be sentenced to life (99 years) in prison. The type of assault charge against you is determined by several factors. These include whether bodily harm was done, the severity of the injury, use of weapons, if any, and the victim's job or relationship to you.

Texas assault charges include:

  • First-degree felony assault. Causing serious bodily injury or using a deadly weapon to assault a police officer or similar public servant while they are performing their legal, official duties is punishable by 5-99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Aggravated assault. A simple assault that involves a deadly weapon or causes serious bodily injury upgrades the charge to "aggravated assault," which is a second-degree felony. This is punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Third-degree felony assault. Doing bodily harm to a public servant is punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Class A misdemeanor assault. Simple assault with bodily injury. This is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
  • Class C misdemeanor assault. Threat of injury or provocative physical contact with another person. If convicted, the penalty may be a fine of up to $500.
  • Domestic violence. An assault charge involving domestic violence is often considered an "enhanced assault." This means that what would normally be a Class C misdemeanor can be upgraded to a more serious charge if the alleged victim is a spouse, former spouse, child, parent, co-parent of a child, or other close relative or current or former intimate partner.

It is worth noting that Texas does not have an "assault and battery" charge. What would be considered assault and battery in another state is "assault with bodily injury" here.

An aggressive defense when you need it most

Assault charges in Texas are serious. Having an assault on your record, even as a misdemeanor, can put many things out of reach. An arrest for assault will show up in background checks for career, education, housing, and social opportunities. If you are charged with assault and found not guilty, or the case is dismissed, evidence of the assault charge(s) and arrest will still be on your record until it is expunged.

At The Webb Firm, P.C., we take assault defense seriously. We stand up for people who are unjustly charged with a crime for protecting themselves or others from violence. If you have been charged in Montgomery County, The Woodlands, or the Greater Houston Area, contact our Texas assault defense attorneys for a free consultation.

Do not wait to reach out. The sooner you talk to a defense attorney, the better. A member of our team is available to hear from you right now. Contact us to schedule your free case consultation today.

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