How do you know whether you committed an assault, and if so how serious is it?

Assault in Texas is a unique offense because it encompasses that can be extremely minor, to conduct that cause serious bodily injury or even death.

Assault is defined in Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code. As with many offenses, it can be committed in several different ways. Those include:

  • intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse
  • intentionally or knowingly threatining another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse
  • or intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative

That basically means that you can commit an assault by either causing bodily injury to another, or threating imminent bodily injury to another. An offense committed in either of those two ways is a class A misdemeanor.

Since you commit an assault be either causing or threating bodily injury, you have to know how bodily injury is defined; it's not the understanding of what most people have when they refer to bodily injury.

Bodily injury is defined in Section 1.07 of the Texas Penal Code as "phsysical pain, illness or any iimpairment of physical condition". So basically if you hit someone and they say it caused them pain, you have committed an assault. The State doesn't have to prove an actual physical injury - such as a bruise, cut, abrasion or broken bone. In fact, assaults can be proved with any actual physical evidence at all.

The last way to commit is suprising to most people. You commit an assault if you physically contact someone and you either know or should reasonable beleive that the person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative. So if you grab someone in a club or in public, that could be an assault. This type of assault also includes contact where there was no "bodily injury". So if you get an argument and shove someone out of the way, that could be an assault.

This last type of assault - offensive physical contact - is often referred to as a "Class C" assault. That's because it's a class C misdemeanor.You can't be sentenced to jail for such offenses, but can only be fined.

While assault is generally a misdemeanor, it can be raised to a felony in some situations. For more information on the difference between simple assault and aggravated assault you can read this post.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 30 years.