Assault on a Public Servant in Texas

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The Texas Penal Code has a specific section that focuses on the crime of assault on a public servant. A public servant in this context is basically anyone who works for the government at the federal, state, or local level, which is a very broad category and refers to all the people who create and enforce the laws that govern us.

While it’s not unusual to disagree with state laws and how they are enforced, any physical retaliation can lead to serious charges that come with serious legal consequences. If you are facing a charge of assault on a public servant, don’t wait to reach out for the skilled legal counsel of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Defining the Role of a Public Servant

The definition of a public servant in Texas is expansive and includes employees of any branch of the government, including those who work at the federal, state, or local level. Public servants are hired to create and enforce laws across the State of Texas, and while the charge of assault on a public servant generally applies to assault on police officers, it doesn’t always.

Police officers are most likely to be around when tempers flare and assaults happen, and they are often collateral damage when fists come out. Nevertheless, the group of public servants addressed in the charge is far broader than just police officers.

For example, at the federal level, public servants include all the following:

  • Congressmen and congresswomen

  • Senators

  • Federal judges

  • The President

This grouping extends to the many, many people who serve a wide range of roles in our sprawling federal government. When the assault involves a public servant at the federal level, the charge is federal, and the consequences can be far harsher.

Public servants at the state and local level include police officers, politicians, candidates running for office, jurors, grand jurors, and employees whom you may not think of as public servants but whose jobs serve some governmental function.

The State of Texas defines public servants as anyone who is either elected, appointed, or hired to work for the government. Some examples that may surprise you include all the following:

  • Arbitrators

  • Attorneys who work in a governmental capacity

  • Those who are not qualified to work for the government but who nevertheless, do

If you assault a public servant who is performing the duties specific to their role as a public servant, the charge you face is very likely to be enhanced from simple assault to assault on a public servant. An important element of the charge, however, is that you knew the person you are accused of assaulting was a public servant at the time of the crime in question.

The Charge of Assault

The charge of assault refers to inflicting physical injury on someone else, and it is often referred to simply as ABI – or assault: bodily injury. The injury inflicted must have either been intentional or the result of recklessness, which refers to a disregard for the safety of others.

The charge of simple assault is a Class A misdemeanor that carries fines of up to $4,000 and a sentence of up to a year in jail. If the charge, however, involves a public servant, it is even more serious. If both the following apply, the charge of assault on a public servant can be levied:

  • The victim was a public servant who was working in their position as a public servant at the time.

  • The defendant knew that the victim was a public servant at the time of the assault.

Each of these is critical to the charge of assault on a public servant, and it levied as a third-degree felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of from 2 to 10 years.

When the Assault Is on a Police Officer

More often than not, the charge of assault on a public servant applies to an assault on a police officer, and when this happens, they are in the unique position of being able to cuff the accused person and make an immediate arrest. While this charge is sometimes the result of an actual attack on a police officer, this isn’t always the case.

Recklessly causing bodily injury refers to causing harm without necessarily intending to do so, such as in the course of brawling with someone else while an officer is attempting to break up the fight. Even accidentally bumping or hitting an officer can lead to charges.

Additionally, in the heat of the moment, such as when an arrest is happening, things tend to move quickly, and an elbow might be thrown reflexively. If the officer doing the arresting experiences pain as a result, it can lead to a charge of assault on a public servant. In other words, you do not have to intentionally assault a police officer to face a serious charge.

The Necessary Elements for the Charge

In Texas, it is a crime to cause a public servant to suffer bodily injury either as a matter of intent or recklessness. While punching someone full-on in the face demonstrates considerable intent, the charge of assault on a public servant tends to be much less blatant.

Generally, the assault in question is a matter of the defendant’s recklessness, such as when an officer breaks up a fight and is harmed in the process.

A police officer’s job often puts them in harm’s way, and this fact lends itself to potential knocks, bumps, and hits – any one of which can support an assault on a public servant charge. Further, there is generally no question about whether or not the accused knew the officer was a public servant – because the police are generally in uniform.

If, however, the officer is a plainclothes cop or was undercover at the time, the matter of the defendant identifying them as a public servant can be more challenging.

Common Assault Defenses

Every charge of assault on a public servant is utterly unique to the circumstances involved, but the defense strategies tend to fall into specific categories.

The Defendant Was Defending Themself or Someone Else

If the accused was using the degree of force they believed was reasonably necessary to protect themself from imminent harm related to the other party’s use of unlawful force, they may be justified in their actions. The same may be true if their actions were designed to protect someone else from imminent harm as a result of another party’s unlawful force.

The Defendant Was Mistakenly Identified

When a defendant is accused of assaulting a police officer, there is generally very little wiggle room about their identity, but when the victim serves a different kind of role, mistakes related to identification are not uncommon. It is not particularly unusual for eyewitnesses to make mistakes when identifying the perpetrators of crimes they witnessed.

The Defendant Has an Alibi

If the defendant was not in the right place at the right time – and they have a robust alibi to prove it – it can be very difficult to convict them of assault on a public servant.

The Defendant Is Innocent

Sometimes, the defendant is simply innocent of the crime they’ve been accused of, and it’s their defense attorney’s job to fiercely defend their innocence.

There Is a Lack of Evidence

In order to convict a defendant, the prosecution must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And if they don’t have the evidence necessary to do so, getting a conviction can prove very challenging.


If you are facing a charge of assault on a public servant, the answers to the following frequently asked questions may help.

What steps should I take to defend myself?

The most important step anyone who is facing a charge of assault on a public servant – or any criminal charge – can take is retaining the trusted legal representation of a focused criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. The fines, penalties, and social consequences of a conviction are simply too serious not to mount your fiercest defense.

Who qualifies as a public servant?

The title of public servant applies to a surprisingly broad group of people and basically covers anyone who works for the government – in nearly any capacity – at the federal, state, or local level.

Is it really necessary to have an attorney?

Having a seasoned criminal defense attorney on your side from the beginning can make a serious difference in the outcome of your case, which makes proceeding without legal counsel an ill-advised approach. Your attorney will ably take on all the following primary tasks in focused pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution:

  • Ensuring that you understand the legal process and do not make the kind of mistakes that too many defendants fall victim to – and hurt their cases in the process

  • Gathering all the available evidence, including any that the police of the prosecution may be holding on to

  • Building your most robust defense

  • Skillfully engaging with the prosecution in an attempt to have the charge against you dropped or – barring that – to have the charge against you or the penalties you face reduced

  • Proceeding to trial and vigorously defending your innocence – in the event that doing so is the best course of action for your unique case

Will my case go to trial?

The vast majority of criminal charges in Texas – and throughout the nation – never make their way to court. Instead, they are resolved in some other way, which often involves a plea deal. It’s important to realize, however, that – even if you get a favorable plea deal – it’s still an admission of guilt that can haunt your future.

Sometimes, going to court is the best means of effecting an optimal case outcome, and your knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will help you make the right decisions for you at every stage in the process.

Is Assault on a Public Servant a misdemeanor?

While simple assault is a misdemeanor, assault on a public servant is enhanced to a second-degree felony. If you are convicted, you face a prison sentence of from 2 to 10 years and fines of up to $10,000.

Make the Call to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a savvy Killeen criminal defense attorney with more than 20 years of experience successfully defending challenging cases like yours toward advantageous resolutions.

Our practiced legal team is standing by to help you, so please don’t delay contacting or calling us at 254-781-4222 to schedule your free consultation and learn more about what we can do for you today.

Related Reading

What to Do When Police Use Excessive Force in Texas?

Should You Take the Stand in Your Texas Criminal Case?

The Charge of Verbal Assault in Texas

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