Simple assault in Texas typically carries misdemeanor penalties, but the offense can easily elevate to a felony. A person convicted of simple assault could face jail or prison time and hefty fines and fees.
What Is Simple Assault?
A person commits simple assault in Texas by:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing, or threatening to cause, bodily injury to another person, or
- intentionally or knowingly engaging in provocative or offensive physical contact with another.
Let’s break down some of these terms.
“Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Simple assault generally involves minor bodily injuries, like a cut, scrape, or bruise. An injury, such as a broken bone or one that requires surgery or hospitalization, amounts to “serious bodily injury,” which is considered an aggravated assault.
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. For example, pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured.
Provocative or Offensive Contact
Assault by provocative or offensive contact refers to an act that does not cause physical injury or pain but is upsetting or causes the victim to feel violated. This type of assault can include poking someone in the chest during an argument, “getting in someone’s space,” or brushing up against a person in a sexually suggestive manner.
(Tex. Penal Code §§ 1.07, 6.03, 22.01 (2020).)
Penalties for Simple Assault
Penalties for assault can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction. The penalty will depend on the level of harm inflicted, the victim, and the defendant’s criminal history. For either penalty level, a person can face time behind bars or on probation, fines, and restitution payments.
Simple assault involving offensive contact or threats of physical harm is normally a Class C misdemeanor but increases to a Class A misdemeanor if the victim is elderly or disabled. The offense is a Class B misdemeanor if the offender assaults a sports official or participant during the event or in retaliation for their role.
Assault resulting in bodily injury to the victim is a Class A misdemeanor, except as noted below in the section on “Felony Penalties.”
A person convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas faces the following penalties:
- for a Class A misdemeanor, up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine
- for a Class B misdemeanor, up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, and
- for a Class C misdemeanor, up to a $500 fine.
The penalty for assault resulting in bodily injury increases from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony if the offender knows the victim is working in their capacity as:
- a public servant
- a government employee or contractor working at a correctional facility or secure treatment or rehabilitation facility
- a security officer, or
- emergency services personnel (such as a firefighter or EMT).
A person also commits a third-degree felony by causing bodily injury to a pregnant victim or by committing repeat acts of family violence or domestic assault. A person convicted of a third-degree felony can be sentenced to two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Second-degree felony penalties apply when a person assaults and causes injury to a police officer or judge in response to their official duties. This felony carries two to 20 years in prison.
Restitution to Victims
As part of a misdemeanor or felony conviction, judges can order a defendant to compensate the victim by paying restitution. Restitution involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment, counseling, or repairs to damaged property.
(Tex. Penal Code §§ 12.21, 12.22, 12.23, 12.34, 22.01 (2020).)
For some offenders (often first-time offenders), the judge may consider alternatives to incarceration.
If a defendant pleads guilty to a simple assault charge, the court may grant a deferred adjudication. Here, the court would postpone sentencing for a period of time on the condition that the defendant successfully complies with probation and certain other requirements, such as no new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period, paying restitution, or doing volunteer work in the community.
If the defendant satisfies all the court’s requirements, the court will discharge the defendant and dismiss the case. The arrest, deferral, and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record. If the defendant fails to satisfy the court’s requirements, the court will impose a sentence and enter a conviction. This alternative is most typically granted to first offenders.
If a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, the court also can grant community supervision (probation) as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence for up to two years for a misdemeanor and up to ten years for a felony. The court can require the defendant to serve some time in jail or prison before beginning community supervision—30 days for a misdemeanor and 180 days for a felony. The defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes to avoid the full sentence of jail or prison time.
A person on community supervision must generally meet with a probation officer, pay probation costs, and comply with conditions such as attending treatment, maintaining employment, abiding by curfews, and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for assault becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for a violent crime—even a misdemeanor—can hurt your future chances of getting a job or obtaining housing. An experienced criminal defense attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial.