First, let’s look at the definition of
assault. Assault is:
(a) intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing
bodily injury (something as little as pain) to
(b) intentionally or knowingly threatening someone
with imminent bodily injury, or
(c) causing physical contact with someone that
the person knows or should know will be considered
offensive or provocative.
Generally, definition (a) is a Class A misdemeanor,
whereas definitions (b) and (c) are Class C misdemeanors.
There are exceptions for repeat offenders (see
below), children, the elderly, public servants,
deadly weapons, and serious bodily injury that
significantly increase the punishment for these
When that other is a family member, or a person
with whom the actor has a dating relationship,
a person who resides with the actor (even roommates
of the same sex), the charge is called Assault
– Family Violence. Prosecutors are going
so far as charging jail inmates who assault other
inmates with Assault – Family Violence because
they argue the jail is the same household!
Assault – Family Violence is
a serious charge. A first Assault Family Violence
is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable
by a fine not to exceed $4,000.00 and/or up to
one year in jail. A second offense is a third
degree felony, punishable by 2-10 in prison and
a $10,000.00 fine. A prior offense used to
enhance a case to a felony can be a conviction
or a deferred adjudication.
There are certain defenses to assault charges.
Those most commonly invoked are self defense,
defense of a third person, defense of property
and reasonable discipline of a child.
Protective orders may be issued that prohibit
further family violence, communicating with the
alleged victim (or family) in a threatening or
harassing manner, stalking, going near their (or
their family’s) residence, place of work
or business. It is also against the law for someone
who is the subject of a protective order to possess
a firearm. Protective orders can be issued by
a magistrate at the time of arrest (called an
“emergency protective order” or “EPO”)
or at a later date by a district judge filed in
connection with an assault case by the Attorney
for the State or the alleged victim or in a divorce.
Violation of a protective order is a serious crime.
An alien convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication
for Assault - Family Violence or Violating a Protective
Order is deportable under federal law.
A person convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication
for Assault - Family Violence may not possess
a firearm or ammunition prior to the later of
the fifth anniversary date of his release from
confinement or community supervision. Federal
law has even harsher consequences than Texas law.