In Texas, assault and battery are often used interchangeably to refer to acts of physical violence. However, in the criminal code, they refer to distinct offenses with different penalties. Understanding the precise legal differences between assault and battery in Texas is important for anyone facing criminal charges.
The definitions of assault and battery hinge on intent and contact. Assault is generally defined as intentionally threatening bodily harm to another. Battery involves physical contact and causing bodily injury. On their own, assault is a misdemeanor, while battery is typically a more serious felony.
In this article, we’ll outline the specific elements that prosecutors must prove for assault and battery charges in Texas. You’ll learn where the lines blur between the two offenses, as well as sentencing guidelines and defense strategies. While the distinction between assault vs battery in Texas can be subtle, recognizing where your allegations fall is critical for mounting an effective legal defense.
Assault in Texas generally refers to threatening someone with physical harm. The crime of assault in Texas does not require any physical contact on the victim. Rather, assault occurs when one person intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury.
There are several degrees of assault charges in Texas:
- Aggravated assault – This is the most serious type of assault charge, usually a first-degree felony. A person commits an aggravated assault when they use or display a deadly weapon against another person or when they cause them serious bodily harm.
- Assault – The standard assault charge, a class A misdemeanor. This covers threats to cause bodily injury without a weapon.
- Assault by contact – Also a class A misdemeanor. This assault charge involves physical contact that the victim finds offensive or provocative.
- Assault by threat – A class C misdemeanor involving threatening imminent bodily injury without physical contact.
Simply put, assault refers to putting another person in fear of physical harm. Actual bodily contact is not required for an assault charge in Texas.
In contrast to assault, battery in Texas involves physical contact or harm. According to Texas criminal law, battery occurs when someone willfully, knowingly, or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
Like assault, battery has varying degrees in Texas:
- Aggravated battery – Causing serious bodily injury, usually a second-degree felony.
- Simple battery – Knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, a class A misdemeanor.
- Offensive contact – Offensive or provocative physical contact, a class C misdemeanor.
So, while assault involves the threat of violence, battery requires some physical contact or harm. The main factor distinguishing assault from battery is whether actual force was used against the victim.
Main Difference Between Assault vs Battery
While assault and battery both involve threats, force, and unwanted contact with a victim, the key difference lies in whether actual physical contact occurs.
Assault refers to the threat of violence that puts a victim in fear of harm. No physical contact is required. Battery involves the actual use of force or violence upon a victim.
So assault occurs through threats of violence that make the victim apprehensive of harm. Battery occurs when the threatened violence manifests in the form of unwanted physical contact.
Penalties for Assault and Battery in Texas
Texas has a wide range of punishments for assault and battery based on the particulars of the offense:
Penalties for Assault
- Misdemeanor assault may carry up to 1 year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
- Felony assault charges can result in 2-20 years in prison. Fines up to $10,000.
- Aggravated assault is a first-degree felony with 5-99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Other penalties can include probation, anger management counseling, substance abuse treatment, victim restitution, and a restraining order.
Penalties for Battery
- Misdemeanor battery may result in up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $4,000.
- Felony battery can lead to 2-20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
- Aggravated battery brings 5-99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
As with assault, probation, counseling, restitution, and restraining orders may also be imposed. Jail time may be further determined by injury severity and use of a weapon.
Factors Affecting the Severity of Penalties
Several factors influence whether assault or battery will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, including:
- Use of a deadly weapon
- Serious bodily injury caused
- Status of the victim (elderly, disabled, child, etc.)
- Violation of a protective order
- Prior convictions
Having an experienced violent crimes attorney argue mitigating factors on your behalf could result in reduced charges and penalties.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney
Facing assault or battery charges in Texas can be daunting. However, understanding the key differences between the two offenses is the first step in building an effective legal defense.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can argue against aggravating factors, contest inconsistencies, and develop an optimal legal strategy based on the unique circumstances of your case.
With an aggressive defense focused on reasonable doubt, many assault and battery charges can be reduced or dismissed. Do not leave your future up to chance – contact the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Whalen Law Office in Frisco, TX today.