R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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The distinction between assault and battery in Texas

Assault and battery are two legal terms that frequently are used together. Here in Texas, as opposed to many other states, the term "assault" covers both the threat of violence and the acts of it as well. In other words, what, across the state line in Louisiana, would be known as battery, falls under the umbrella of assault here in Texas.

Still, there are nuances involved. If a man walks into a bar and tells another patron that he's going to "punch [his] lights out," he can face an assault charge. If he actually does punch the man, he could still be arrested for assault. But in the first case, the threat would clearly be a misdemeanor charge, whereas with the latter action, the offender could potentially face felony charges dependent on many variables, including the damage done.

Under Texas law, you could be charged with assault if you:

"(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; (2) intentionally or knowingly threaten another with imminent bodily injury, including the person s spouse; or (3) intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative."

What makes it assault?

Let's look at it another way. If a patron in a nightclub drunkenly stumbled up against another patron and spilled their drink on them, that wouldn't qualify as assault. Although it would understandably be an annoying nuisance, the person had no intent to do what they did, so it's not a criminal act.

On the other hand, let's say that the same drunken patron is angry at another man in the nightclub for dancing with his girlfriend. He buys a drink, walks up to the man and tosses it in his face. That's assault, as the intent was clear.

What is aggravated assault?

Charges of aggravated assault could potentially be levied if the alleged assailant:

"(1) causes serious bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; or (2) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault."

Using the same hypothetical scenario, the drunken patron again walks up to the man he sensed was attempting to muscle in on his girlfriend. This time, when he tosses the drink, he cracks the glass against a nearby table. With the jagged edge, he stabs the man in the gut. That would at least qualify for a charge of aggravated assault — or even worse, if the wound proves to be life-threatening.

There can be civil penalties as well

If you assault someone here in Houston, you can go to jail on criminal charges. But, should the victim choose to sue you, you could conceivably wind up as a defendant in a civil suit where the threshold of guilt is far lower. So it is entirely possible that you could beat the charge on a criminal case of assault only to find yourself convicted of a civil charge of assault.

Your best option is to learn all that you can about the charges you face in order to bring about the most successful outcome.

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