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Know the law: assault

Have you ever lost control, or seen someone at school lose their composure and resort to violence to solve a problem? Have you ever been on the receiving end of this type of behavior?

"When you get locked up, it's no joke."

Assault covers a broad array of offenses against persons, including assault with bodily injury, assault by threat, assault by contact, and sexual assault. If the assault is aggravated, the penalty will be more severe.

Fighting with another person in a public place is generally viewed as disorderly conduct, an offense against public order and decency, not an offense against a person. Disorderly conduct becomes a Class B misdemeanor when it involves discharging a firearm in a public place or displaying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner intended to alarm.

Types of assault

Assault includes various crimes against persons, ranging from making offensive contact to causing serious injury, and including the threat of injury. All of these actions are crimes.

Assault by Contact, a Class C misdemeanor, is committed when a person intentionally or knowingly physically touches another knowing the victim will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

Assault by Threat, a Class C misdemeanor, is committed when a person intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury.

Example In the hall between classes a ninth-grader punches a seventh-grader in the face. The seventh-grader complains of pain. The older student has committed assault with bodily injury. Suppose the same ninth-grader looks at the kid standing next to the student he just punched and says, "Do you want some too?" This is assault by threat.

Assault with Bodily Injury, a Class A misdemeanor, occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person. Bodily injury means physical pain, illness or any impairment of one's physical condition.

Deadly conduct is defined as any reckless act that places another person in immediate danger of serious bodily injury. Typically a Class A misdemeanor, deadly conduct is a third-degree felony if a person knowingly fires a gun in the direction of a person, habitation, building or vehicle with reckless disregard as to whether the habitation, building or vehicle is occupied.

Drive-by shootings are a form of deadly conduct. When gang members drive by an unoccupied house and shoot at it, even if no one is hurt, this is still a felony.

Sexual assault

A sexual assault is committed without consent if:

  • the victim is coerced by force or threats of force
  • the victim is unconscious or physically unable to resist
  • the victim has been given a drug without his or her knowledge

Sexual Assault is a second-degree felony. If a juvenile is adjudicated of sexual assault he or she may have to register as a sex offender. Sexual assault is committed by intentionally and knowingly causing sexual penetration without the victim's consent.

When somebody "bumps into" a young woman, touching her in a disrespectful manner, this is not just "an accident" or "kidding" or "fooling around." It is assault by contact.

Acquaintance rape is a sexual assault committed by someone the victim knows. It may be an acquaintance, casual friend or even boyfriend or girlfriend.

ExampleA young woman is at a party and someone slips a drug into her drink. After the drug has made her really woozy, a guy at the party takes her to a back room and has sex with her. This is sexual assault. She couldn't give consent.

A victim may feel guilty, think he or she could have prevented the assault, fear that no one will believe him or her, or fear retaliation from the offender or the offender's friends and family. Victims may find it harder to talk about acquaintance rape. It is less frequently reported to police.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated assault occurs when a person causes serious bodily injury to the victim or uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault. Deadly weapons include guns, knives Penal Code Offenses by Punishment Range(regardless of blade length), clubs, sticks, tools and anything else that can cause death or serious bodily injury.

Displaying a gun during an assault may result in a second-degree felony charge.

The Attorney General publishes a handbook called "Penal Code Offenses by Punishment Range." This manual is a guide to punishments and enhancements in the Texas Penal Code, plus relevant sections of the Health and Safety Code, and the Transportation Code. It also provides a guide to the progressive sanctions guidelines from the Juvenile Justice Code.

If you have been a victim of assault, you may be eligible for financial compensation through the Attorney General's Crime Victim Services Division.

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