Basic Categories of Criminal Charges in Texas
Facing a criminal charge is a serious matter, and a conviction can transform your life in surprising ways that can be difficult to transcend. Even a relatively minor misdemeanor charge can lead to expensive fines and social consequences that you probably didn't bargain for. Better understanding the criminal justice system can help you better navigate the system and make the right choices for you along the way.
Texas Assault and Battery Charges
While states separate the crimes of assault and battery, Texas does not (due to the similarities of the crimes). Assault amounts to threatening another person with imminent bodily injury, and battery refers to those crimes in which actual physical contact takes place. In Texas, assault and battery are charged as assault, although there are many different classifications of the offense. In order to obtain an assault conviction, one of the following must be true:
The person charged must have knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally caused bodily harm to another person (which can include the spouse of the person charged).
The person charged must have knowingly or intentionally threatened imminent bodily injury to another person (which can include the spouse of the person charged).
The person charged must have knowingly or intentionally caused physical contact with another person when the person charged knew or reasonably should have known that the contact would be received as offensive or provocative.
The Classifications of assault in Texas include:
Class C Misdemeanor – If the person charged threatens another person with bodily harm or causes provocative or offensive contact and no other aggravating factors are present, it is a Class C Misdemeanor.
Class B Misdemeanor – If the person charged assaults someone who is a sports participant (either during a performance or in retaliation for a performance), it is a Class B misdemeanor.
Class A Misdemeanor – If the person charged causes someone else to be injured, but there are no other aggravating factors, or if the person charged engages in offensive or provocative physical contact against an elderly person, it is a Class A misdemeanor.
If the charge reaches the level of a felony, it is obviously a more serious matter. Felonies range from third-degree to first-degree (depending upon the severity of the situation), and all of the following can bump a charge into the felony range:
If the assault is committed against someone whom the accused knows is a public servant while he or she is lawfully engaged in an official duty or if the assault is in retaliation for or as a result of such an action
If the assault is committed against a family member of the accused, someone who lives in the accused’s household, or someone who is in a romantic relationship with the accused and the accused has a prior conviction for a similar offense (or if the offense involves recklessly choking the victim)
If the assault is committed against a person who provides certain family services as a contractor of the government (such as Child Protective Services) when he or she is acting in an official capacity – or in retaliation for acting in an official capacity
If the assault is committed against someone whom the person who is accused knows is a security officer who is performing within the scope of his or her duties
If the assault is committed against someone whom the person who is accused knows is an emergency services personnel (who is providing emergency services)
The charge become first-degree assault when it is aggravated by a mitigating circumstance, and the victim is either the accused’s domestic partner or any of the following:
A public official
An emergency worker
A security guard
A witness or informant
Those factors that elevate the charge to aggravated assault include when the assault results in serious injury or when a weapon is used in the assault’s commission.
The legal consequences of a conviction include:
Fines of up to $500 for a Class C misdemeanor
Fines of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail for a Class B misdemeanor
Fines of up to $4,000 and up to 1 year in jail for a Class A misdemeanor
Fines of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison for a third-degree felony
Fines of up to $10,000 and from 2 to 20 years in prison for a second-degree felony
Fines of up to $10,000 and from 5 years to life in prison
Texas Drug Possession Charges
In Texas, as in other states, there are a variety of drug possession laws that involve proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knowingly and intentionally was in possession of or had control over a controlled substance for which he or she has no valid prescription (or order for a medical purpose from a doctor). Texas has four classes of drugs that each has its own set of penalties. It is worth noting that marijuana is in a class by itself – outside of the four basic classifications. Texas is among the states with the harshest penalties for drug possession, and the factors that determine the seriousness of the charge include:
The type of drug involved
The quantity of the drug involved
How the drug was concealed (or stored)
If the possession of paraphernalia (such as a scale and/or large amounts of cash) is involved
If the accused has past convictions
Drug charges range in seriousness from Class C misdemeanors all the way up to first-degree felonies, which can result in very serious penalties.
If you find yourself facing a possession charge, bringing your strongest defense is critical, and some of the most common and effective defense strategies include:
That you lacked knowledge regarding possession of the controlled substance
That the controlled substance is medical marijuana (for which the accused has a doctor’s order)
That the controlled substance is a prescription drug (for which the accused has a prescription)
That the controlled substance in question has a new drug application that has been approved by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or that the controlled substance has been approved for investigational use under the Act
That the controlled substance in question was not intended for human consumption
That there is an insufficient amount of the controlled substance to warrant a charge
Addiction, on the other hand, is not a valid legal defense, but seeking the treatment you need may help your case.
Texas Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence in the State of Texas involves the use of force in domestic situations that either causes injury or that threatens to cause injury. Additionally, any form of physical contact that the domestic partner regards as offensive or provocative can make the cut as domestic violence. It must, however, be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused acted intentionally or knowingly. A domestic violence charge can apply when the victim is any of the following:
A boyfriend or girlfriend
Someone living in the same household
Someone who is related by blood or affinity, which includes foster parents and foster children
Domestic violence charges in Texas range from Class C misdemeanors all the way up to first-degree felonies, and the factors that guide the severity of the charge include:
The relationship between the accused and the victim
If the accused has a past conviction for domestic violence
Whether strangulation, suffocation, or choking was involved
Basic defense strategies for domestic violence charges include:
That the act in question was not intentional or was a mistake
That the accused lacked knowledge in the matter
That domestic violence did not occur
That the act was committed in self-defense
Texas Sexual Assault Charges
Sexual assault charges are naturally very serious charges. Sexual assault is often referred to as rape, and it refers to when someone intentionally and knowingly engaged any one of a wide range of sexual offenses without the consent of the victim. In Texas, all of the following apply in relation to sexual assault charges:
If physical violence was either threatened or used in order to pressure the victim’s participation, it amounts to a lack of consent.
If the victim is physically unable to resist the assault or is unable to appreciate the nature of the act in question, it amounts to a lack of consent.
If the accused is in a position of power over the victim or is charged with his or her care, it amounts to a lack of consent. Examples include healthcare services providers, public servants, clergymen, and employees of residential facilities.
If the accused is an adult and the victim is under the age of 17, it amounts to a lack of consent.
The charge of sexual assault can be elevated to aggravated sexual assault if any of the following apply:
The accused caused the victim to be seriously injured, or he or she threatened to kill the victim.
The accused caused the victim to fear being kidnapped, seriously injured, or killed – or to fear that someone else would be.
The accused used or exhibited a deadly weapon in the commission of the assault.
The accused did not act alone.
The accused used a date rape drug in order to facilitate the crime.
The victim was younger than 14 years old.
The victim was elderly or disabled.
Texas DWI Charges
Driving while intoxicated charges in Texas are not only quite common but are also quite serious. Intoxicated in this context means not having control over one’s normal or physical faculties as a result of consuming alcohol and/or drugs. The legal limit for alcohol in the State of Texas is 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It is important to note, however, that even if you are not over the legal limit, you may be identified as intoxicated if you are deemed physically impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. DWI charges are typically Class B misdemeanors, and the following applies:
A first offense can lead to fines of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and a license suspension of from 90 days to 1 year.
A second offense can lead to fines of up to $4,000, from 1 month to 1 year in jail, and a license suspension of at least a year.
A third offense can lead to fines of up to $10,000, from 2 to 10 years in prison, and a license suspension of from 1 to 2 years.
Factors that can increase the charge and the penalties include:
Refusing to submit to a sobriety test
Driving while intoxicated with a child passenger who is under the age of 15
Driving with a BAC of 0.15 percent or more
Texas Burglary Charges
Burglary charges relate to entering a private home or vehicle with the intention of committing a felony, theft, or assault. Only the intention is necessary to obtain a burglary conviction (the intended crime need not have been committed). All the following can result in burglary charges:
Entering a private home or building (or any portion of a building) that is not open to the public with the intention of committing a felony, engaging in theft, or assaulting someone
Remaining hidden in a private home or building (or any portion of a building) that is not open to the public with the intention of committing a felony, engaging in theft, or assaulting someone
Entering a private home or building (or any portion of a building) that is not open to the public and committing or attempting to commit a felony, theft, or assault
Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who is committed to employing the full force of his impressive legal skill and experience in every case he takes on. We are here for you, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.