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What is Aggravated Assault in Austin, Texas?

Aggravated Assault

In Austin, aggravated assault is a grievous assault charge that is punished harshly under Texas law. The term assault is the intentional or reckless infliction of bodily injury on another or threatening another person with impending bodily injury. 

As a result, any physical contact that purposefully causes bodily injury or provokes another person might be considered an assault.

Thus, aggravated assault constitutes intentionally, deliberately, and recklessly causing substantial bodily harm to another person, including a spouse. It also involves using or displaying a deadly weapon when committing a crime. 

It is important to note that any injury that results in significant danger of death, severe permanent disfigurement, or loss of function of a part of the body is considered a serious bodily injury or harm. Also, according to the general provisions of the Texas Penal Code, a deadly weapon is a firearm or other item made or adapted only for the goal of killing or causing injury to another person. 

In most cases, aggravated assault is charged as either a 1st or 2nd-degree felony. Conviction on either of these counts carries significant consequences:

  • A second-degree felony can result in a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • 1st-degree felony carries a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition to the hefty penalties, felony convictions have very substantial collateral implications. For example, felons are denied the right to vote and the ability to own and possess firearms.

In 2019, the Austin Police Department, through the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, reported 2,416 cases of aggravated assault. It was the highest number of violent crimes recorded in the city, followed closely by robbery with 971 cases.

What is Sexual Assault in Austin?

Sexual Assault in Austin is a crime of sexual violence. Although sexual assault can refer to a broad spectrum of unwelcome sexual contact, rape is the legal definition of sexual assault in Austin. It is characterized by any sexual penetration that occurs without the consent of the subject. Fondling, kissing, oral sex, and even non-consensual intercourse are all examples of this. 

State and city regulations maintain that consent must be voluntarily expressed through words or actions. Hence, consent cannot be voluntary if a person is in danger, unconscious, unaware, or intellectually incapable of understanding the situation they are in. 

As a result, the elements of sexual assault include:

  • Sexual acts of coercion
  • Forcible and violent intercourse involving penetration or sexual contact of the mouth, vagina, or anus with a finger, penis, or object
  • Sexual relations, intercourse, and penetration without one of the participants' consent
  • Sexual exploitation of a person who is unable to consent owing to mental incompetence or disability
  • Sexual relations, intercourse, and penetration with a minor.

Sexual assault is classified as a second-degree felony. A conviction may lead to a possible term of 2 to 20 years in state prison, as well as a $10,000 fine. Post incarceration, people convicted of sexual assault must register as sex offenders.

Aggravated sexual assault

It is important to emphasize that a sexual assault in Austin can escalate into an aggravated sexual assault. This type of sexual assault is considered a first-degree felony.

It is a far more dangerous case of rape that frequently involves violence, extremely young children, or the mentally ill. A few forms of aggravated sexual assault include non-consensual sexual contact or penetration in which the perpetrator:

  • Caused bodily harm to the victim
  • Instilled fear in the victim
  • Used a weapon to threaten the victim
  • Had an accomplice in the assault
  • Involved a child under the age of 14
  • Involved a mentally ill person.

Aggravated sexual assault is a more damning charge compared to assault. Defendants guilty of these offenses face a 5 - 99 year prison sentence in state prison, as well as a $10,000 maximum fine. Those who are convicted of this felony will also be required to register with the state and local sex offender registry. Sexual assault or rape cases are recorded by law enforcement in Austin, Texas, and 534 cases were documented within the city in 2019. 

What Happens When You Press Charges Against Someone for Assault in Austin?

Pressing charges against someone for assault is the legal process of formally charging them with a crime. Assault is a criminal offense in Austin, a crime against the state. As a result, these charges are pursued by state prosecutors and not the victims. 

Because an accusation of assault in Austin is serious, it is usually a good idea for a defendant to employ a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney is in the best position to assist the defendant in overcoming an assault charge or negotiating with the prosecution on the accused’s behalf.  An attorney may adopt strategies that may include interacting with the prosecution to have the assault charge dropped or dismissed before the case goes to trial.

Additionally, the defense attorney may be able to convince the court to conclude that a conviction is unlikely. This may result in the eventual dismissal of the case or the defendant’s acquittal.

The types of arguments that an attorney can make on behalf of a defendant are primarily determined by the act on which the assault allegation is based and surrounding circumstances. Typical defenses can be affirmative or general.

Affirmative defense

An affirmative defense involves confessing to committing the alleged crime but claiming that there was a valid reason for it. Affirmative defenses in assault cases include:

  • Claiming and proving that the other person consented to the contact. However, this defense may apply if;
  • The conduct did not threaten or injure the other person significantly;
  • The individual was aware that the conduct was classified as a medical treatment or a scientific experiment (if applicable);
  • The actions were not associated with gang initiation or criminal behavior linked to gangs;
  • Self-defense: This defense is justifiable if the legal counsel can demonstrate that the assault was as a defense against a person who acted aggressively or threatened the defendant. Individuals have the legal right to protect themselves in the face of violence under state legislation. As a result, claiming self-defense may be a viable defense strategy if there is evidence of imminent harm or a perceived threat of violence. It is also worth noting that a self-defense claim is usually successful only if the accused did not instigate or antagonize the opposing party;
  • Defense of others: State laws do not only give people the legal right to defend themselves in the face of violence, but they also give people the legal right to defend others against violence or threats of violence;
  • Defense of property: Texas law also allows for the use of force to defend one's property. This right is guaranteed by the stand your ground law, which effectively permits people to protect themselves and their property reasonably (without excessive force) if they believe they are in danger.

While some defenses may not be sufficient to get the charges dismissed, they may be effective in getting the charges reduced. For example:

  • Absence of a Deadly Weapon: If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant did not have a deadly weapon, the defendant may still be charged with assault, but the penalties may be reduced;
  • Absence of Intent: Intent is a significant component of assault charges. If the defense can demonstrate that the defendant did not intend to commit assault with a deadly weapon, the charges against the individual may be reduced or dropped altogether.

General defense

If an affirmative defense is not viable, the attorney may choose to weaken the prosecutor's case or deny the accusations entirely. This is possible by considering all of the facts and circumstances, including the method by which the evidence was gathered and how the accused was questioned and taken into custody. Suppose there are any violations of the defendant's constitutional rights in any of these processes. In that case, the lawyer can file a motion asking that the evidence resulting from those violations be suppressed.

Can a Minor Be Charged with Assault in Austin, Texas?

A minor may be charged with assault and other related charges in Austin, Texas. Children at least ten years old but less than 17 years old may face official criminal charges if they engage in actions that constitute intentionally threatening other individuals, putting them in harm’s way, injuring them, or attempting to cause them harm.

In line with state law, Austin treats children and adolescents who commit crimes differently from adult criminals. Unlike the adult criminal justice system, juvenile matters are governed primarily by the Texas Family Code. Additionally, the purpose of juvenile delinquent treatment is largely to promote rehabilitation rather than punishment. As such, if convicted of a crime, a child defendant may face different and more lenient penalties than adults. Such penalties may include probation, community service, anger management sessions, drug abuse treatment programs, placement within the state Juvenile Justice System, restitution, and fines.

Overall, an individual who is under the age of majority in Austin is normally prosecuted for "delinquency" rather than being convicted and prosecuted as a criminal offender. The right to a trial by jury is preserved for adolescents in a manner similar to that of adults in the criminal justice system. However, under aggravated circumstances, such as the use of a lethal weapon, a 14-year-old (and older) minor may be prosecuted like an adult in a criminal court. 

How long can You Go to Jail for Assault in Austin?

The penalties for an assault conviction in Austin can be stiff. The magnitude of the penalties that a person may face, including the length of incarceration, is determined by the type or degree of assault they have been charged with.

Simple and aggravated assaults are the most common types of assault charges. However, Chapter 5, Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code goes into greater detail about the various types of assault that are considered crimes in Austin and throughout Texas. Apart from being charged with simple and aggravated,  a person could also be charged with:

  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Injury to a child, elderly person, or disabled individual
  • Abandoning or endangering a child
  • Deadly conduct, etc.

In Texas, depending on their severity, these assault charges are either misdemeanors or felony assault charges. This is determined by a number of factors, including whether or not a weapon was used, the age and profession of the alleged victim, whether or not anyone was injured, how severely they were injured, and whether the offense is a repeat crime. 

For example, a simple assault case in which the offender threatens harm but does not inflict any physical harm is typically classified as a class C misdemeanor. But, suppose the offender inflicts pain or injury on the victim, the case may be upgraded to a second-degree felony if the victim is a peace officer or a judge who was on duty at the time of the assault. 

Upon conviction, an accused may be punished for: 

  • Class C misdemeanor by a fine of up to $500.
  • Class B misdemeanor by up to 180 days in jail and or a fine of up to $2,000
  • Class A misdemeanor  by up to 1 year in jail and or a fine of up to $4,000
  • 3rd-degree felony is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and or a fine of up to $10,000
  • 2nd-degree felony carries a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
  • 1st-degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years of life imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

Sometimes, the court will order that the accused pay restitution to the victim. This may include reimbursement for medical treatment, counseling, or property damage.

Simple Assault vs Aggravated Assault in Austin

In Austin, an assault does not always imply physical contact between the parties involved. Simple assault is described as a situation in which a person intentionally or deliberately causes bodily injury to another person or even threatens to cause bodily injury. As such, many different types of physical contact can be considered assault, even if no physical violence was involved in the interaction.

Intentionally or deliberately committing the following acts constitutes simple assault:

  • Recklessly inflicting bodily harm on another person
  • Making a physical threat to another person
  • Physical contact with another person that is considered provocative or offensive by the victim.

Aggravated assault, on the other hand, consists of the same actions as simple assault, except that it results in serious bodily harm and involves the use (or even the exhibition) of a deadly weapon. An injury is deemed serious physical harm if it results in the permanent loss or impairment of an organ or if it results in a significant risk of death.