Under the state laws in Texas, you can be charged with criminal assault under three circumstances:
- You intentionally threatened another person with physical harm
- You intentionally engaged in provocative or offensive physical contact with another person
- You recklessly or intentionally caused another person injury or physical harm
An assault charge can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, based on a number of factors, including the extent of the injury caused, whether you were using a deadly weapon, and the status of the victim. For example, assault upon an elderly or disabled person, or on a public servant, will be treated differently from other assaults on other categories of victims. The penalties can range from a $500 fine to $10,000 in fines, and can result in life in prison for the most serious types of assault.
The Disposition of Your Assault Charge
If you want to minimize the consequences of an assault charge, there are three different ways that you can resolve an assault charge—you can have it dropped, dismissed or reduced. Here are the differences and what you need to know.
A charge is dropped when the prosecutor chooses not to move forward with a particular case. Prosecutors generally have discretion over those cases they choose to litigate. A prosecutor may opt to drop the charges for a variety of reasons, including lack of evidence or lack of resources. A prosecutor may lose a key witness or opt not to prosecute for a first time offense. A prosecutor may also agree to drop charges if you cooperate in an investigation. There are two things you need to understand, however, about having charges dropped: it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a prosecutor to agree without the intervention of skilled legal counsel; and it will be extremely difficult to do so if you’ve already pled guilty. It’s also important to understand that, as a practical matter, assault charges won’t necessarily be dropped because the victim recants or requests that they be dropped. The prosecutor has final discretion and must ensure that there’s no coercion or undue influence causing the recantation.
A case is dismissed by the presiding judge. The judge may dismiss for some of the same reasons a prosecutor chooses to drop charges. The judge may conclude that the prosecution has not provided sufficient evidence to continue, or the judge may dismiss charges because it’s your first offense. A case may be dismissed with or without “prejudice.” This refers to the right of the prosecutor to re-initiate prosecution at some point in the future. If your case is dismissed without prejudice (for lack of evidence, for example), the prosecutor retains the right to reinstitute criminal proceedings in the future (should new evidence be found, for example). However, the prosecutor will still be governed by the statute of limitations.
Charges are typically reduced as part of a plea bargain. With a plea bargain, you typically agree to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for avoiding the time, expense and potential consequences of a trial. There are many factors that go into determining whether a specific plea is in your best interest. As a result, it’s essential that you be represented by competent criminal defense counsel.
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a FREE initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.