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Understand the difference between assault and aggravated assault

In Texas, the difference between a charge of simple assault and aggravated assault is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.

Since that difference can dramatically change the potential sentence you face and the consequences for your future, it's important to understand what factors turn a simple assault into an aggravated one.

Assault is defined in Section 22 of the Texas Penal Code as either intentionally threatening to inflict bodily harm on another person and causing that person to fear for his or her safety or physically touching another person in a way that would reasonably be considered offensive. For example, grabbing someone by the throat and threatening to kill them, grabbing someone's genitals or slapping someone could be considered assault.

Aggravated assault brings other elements into play. Specifically, you have actually used or displayed a deadly weapon in the process of the assault or actually inflicted serious bodily harm on another person.

For example, beating someone until they ended up in the hospital could qualify as aggravated assault because of the great bodily harm they endured. However, putting your hand on someone's throat and holding a gun to their head as you threaten to kill them could also be considered an aggravated assault even though there was no physical damage done at all.

Numerous objects can be defined as deadly weapons for the purposes of an aggravated assault charge:

-- Any type of firearm

-- Anything else specifically designed as a weapon, like hunting knives, daggers, swords, martial arts weaponry and crossbows

-- Anything that can be adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily harm, like a baseball bat, lead pipe or hammer

-- Anything that you manage to use in such a way that it becomes capable of inflicting death or serious injury, like your car, a piece of broken glass, or a heavy rock

While misdemeanors are serious and can result in prison terms of up to a year, a felony is something that can send you to jail for significantly longer -- and haunt you later whenever you apply for a job or put in an application for housing. If you're ever in trouble with the law again, a prior felony conviction can make it much harder to secure a lenient sentence or convince a prosecutor to reduce the charges. That makes finding an experienced defense attorney now important for your future.

Source:, "Penal Code Title 1. Introductory Provisions Chapter 1. General Provisions," accessed Jan. 31, 2017

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