Imagine what you would do if you were a truck driver sitting in your vehicle when you heard the sound of air escaping from a tire, and you saw a man standing by it holding a knife. After getting out of your truck, you confront the man who runs away.
While chasing him, you fire once with your licensed handgun, and hit him in the buttocks. If you think you just apprehended a criminal to turn over to the police, you might want to think again.
When this scene took place in Houston, the person arrested was the truck driver on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Aggravated assault is a serious criminal offense that could result in the trucker spending a good part of the rest of his life in a Texas prison.
Aggravated Assault Law in Houston
Assault under the Texas penal code is any conduct in which a person does any of the following acts:
- Causes bodily injury to another person either intentionally, knowingly or recklessly
- Threatens another person with imminent bodily injury either intentionally or knowingly
- Offensive or provocative contact that is done intentionally or knowingly
When someone uses a deadly weapon to commit what would usually be a simple assault, police and prosecutors have the option of charging the person using the weapon with the more serious offense of aggravated assault. Texas Penal Code section 22.02 describes the crime of aggravated assault as conduct that would be an assault except for the addition of either of the following:
- Causing serious bodily injury
- Using or showing a deadly weapon
The penal code defines a serious bodily injury as one that creates a substantial risk or death, disfigurement or impairment. However, just displaying a deadly weapon, such as a gun, would support an aggravated assault charge even if the weapon was not fired at another person.
Penalties associated with a conviction of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
Houston aggravated assault charges usually felonies of the second degree. The punishment can be imprisonment for a minimum of two years up to a maximum of 20 years. Fines can also be imposed up to a maximum of $10,000.
Courts may also order a person convicted of aggravated assault to pay restitution to the victim. This usually is the medical expenses or property damage suffered by the victim. Restitution may be part of a sentence that includes probation supervision instead of imprisonment.
Probation does not mean that a person does not have to serve any time behind bars. Judges have the authority to place someone on probation for up to 10 years, but they can also require the defendant to serve up to 180 days in jail.
Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon may be charged as a felony of the first degree if the victim falls into one of the several classes of individuals or circumstances listed in the penal code. The following are some of the classifications of victims:
- Family or household members of the defendant
- Public servants performing their public duties
- Crime witnesses or informants
- Security guards performing their duties
If the special circumstances under the statute are found to exist, the individual may be charged with a felony of the first degree. The penalties include a minimum prison sentence of five years up to t maximum of 99 years. Fines can be imposed up to $10,000.
Houston defenses to an aggravated assault charge
The Houston truck driver who fired at the fleeing man holding a deadly weapon might believe he was justified in firing. Whether firing at an armed and fleeing suspect is a defense depends upon the facts and how they conform to the law of justification.
The use of deadly physical force in Houston is generally reserved for those instances in which the person using it is doing so in response to a threat of deadly force. Defending yourself or others from threats might be justified, but there must be evidence supporting it. This is why representation by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with the skill to present a justification defense is important.
A skilled Houston criminal defense attorney can help
Felony convictions result in a criminal record that can prevent you from getting a job. A subsequent criminal charge can result in penalties that are more severe simply because of your prior criminal history.
An experienced Houston criminal defense attorney knows the laws pertaining to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and the weaknesses that might exist in the evidence prosecutors might have against you. Criminal defense attorneys know how to exploit those weaknesses to the best advantage of their clients.
Have you been charged with assault? Navigating the legal process can be very difficult and confusing. The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp can provide the legal defense you need. Contact his office today at (713) 868-6100.