Assault vs. Aggravated Assault

aggravated assault punishments

What is the difference between assault and aggravated assault / What’s the difference between assault and battery in tort? Is battery a felony? All explained in this fantastic criminal attorney contribution.

Special thanks to the Houston Criminal Lawyers for contributing this article to our blog. If you need a criminal attorney click here.

What is “Assault” in Texas?

Texas Penal Code Section 22.01(a)(1)-(3) tells us a person commits assault when he or she:

  1. intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another,
  2. intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, or
  3. intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when he or she knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

What is “Aggravated Assault” in Texas?

Section 22.02(a)(1)-(2) tells us a person commits aggravated assault when he or she:

  1. causes serious bodily injury to another, including his or her spouse or
  2. uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of an assault.

What is the difference between “Assault” and “Aggravated Assault?”

There are several differences between the two offenses.

First, assault only requires a “bodily injury.” Under Texas law, this means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. This can mean causing someone mere physical pain.

For example, slapping someone, even if it did not leave a mark or was not done with much force, could be considered bodily injury.

However, aggravated assault requires “serious bodily injury.”  Under Texas law, this means a bodily injury that:

  1. creates a substantial risk of death;
  2. causes death;
  3. causes serious, permanent disfigurement;
  4. causes protracted loss; or
  5. causes impairment of the function of a body part or organ.

The slap discussed above would not be considered a “serious bodily injury.”

Another difference is a person can be charged with assault without having any physical contact with the victim, i.e. threatening another with imminent bodily harm. To be charged with aggravated assault, the offender must have caused actual, bodily injury.

However, the biggest difference between the two offenses is the level of crime an offender will be charged with. We will look at the various punishments in the next section.

Punishments for Assault vs. Aggravated Assault

Every case and charge will depend on the facts, but usually a first-time assault that involves bodily injury is a Class A misdemeanor.  A first-time assault that involves a mere threat will usually be a Class C misdemeanor.

There are some definite exceptions here: for example, injuring a public servant, a government worker, a referee at a sporting event, and domestic violence are charged much more severely.

On the other hand, aggravated assault is usually a Second or First Degree felony. In very limited circumstances, it can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor or Third Degree felony.

If you are charged with a Class A misdemeanor assault, the penalty usually runs up to 1 year in prison and a $4,000 fine. However, Second Degree felony aggravated assault can be punished by a fine up to $10,000 and prison time between 2-20 years.

Worse still, First Degree felony aggravated assault is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and potentially life in prison.

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