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What is Aggravated Assault in Dallas, Texas?

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated Assault in Dallas, Texas refers to the offense of causing serious bodily injury to another or their spouse or displaying a deadly weapon in order to commit an assault. Serious bodily injury includes injuries that result in protracted loss or impairment of a body part or organ, significant permanent disfigurement, death, or a substantial risk of death.

In Dallas, aggravated assault is classified as a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. However, the charge can be elevated to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison, if it involves domestic violence or committed by or against a public servant on duty.

Incidences of aggravated assault have been on the rise in Dallas in the last four years. In 2020, the City of Dallas experienced a total of 7,417 aggravated assaults. This represents a 49% increase from the numbers in 2017  and a 17% rise from the numbers in 2019.

What is Sexual Assault in Dallas?

Sexual assault in Dallas involves performing sexual activities, including penetration of a person’s sexual organs without their consent. There is a lack of consent if the accused forced the victim or made threats of violence to get the victim to do the act. Similarly, a child under the age of 17 is not capable of giving valid consent under the law. 

Sexual assault is classified as a second-degree felony. However, depending on certain circumstances, a person may be charged instead for aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony offense. Aggravating factors include the use of a weapon, violence or serious threat, use of a date rape drug. Also applicable where the victim is under 14 years old, an elderly, or disabled individual. Sexual assault can also be charged as a first-degree felony if the perpetrator has been prohibited from marrying the victim under bigamy provisions.

A  sexual assault conviction has severe consequences such as lengthy state-prison terms, sex offender registration, and damage to one’s personal and professional reputation.

In 2017, Dallas recorded a total of 831 rape cases.  When compared to 2020 numbers, incidences of rape in the city dropped by 32%.  

Can a Minor Be Charged with Assault in Dallas?

A minor between the age of 10 and 17 can be charged with assault in Dallas. The action will usually be brought before the Dallas Juvenile District Court. The juvenile court system is different from the typical court in several aspects. It is less formal, more offender-oriented, and focuses on the rehabilitation of the child offender. However, a child over 14 can be charged like an adult if the child used a deadly weapon, caused serious bodily harm, or committed certain first-degree felony offenses. Children younger than ten years old are not considered to be juveniles in Dallas. Instead, they are deemed to lack the capacity to have criminal intent required to prove the commission of a crime, hence cannot be sued.

Statistics on youth offenders or juvenile matters are maintained at the county level. According to the Dallas County Juvenile Department, 169 youth offenders were referred to the Juvenile Court for felony assaultive offenses and 369 for misdemeanor offenses in 2020 alone. When compared to the statistics of 2016, incidences of juvenile felony assaults dropped by 24%. Juvenile misdemeanor assaults also dropped by 22% within the same period.

What Happens When You Press Charges Against Someone for Assault in Dallas?

Depending on the facts of a case, a person may be charged with any of the following assaultive offenses in the City of Dallas: 

  • Simple assault
  • Domestic violence 
  • Sexual assault 
  • Suicide assistance
  • Terroristic threats
  • Deadly conduct
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Consumer product tampering
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Harassment in correctional facilities
  • Injury to a child, elderly person, or disabled individual.

Considering how seriously assault offenses are treated in Dallas,  defending a charge without the help of a competent attorney can be tasking. A criminal defense attorney will help by examining the relevant circumstances of the case and devise arguments against the prosecution’s case, as well as develop a defense strategy to achieve the best possible outcome for the accused. 

One of the most common defenses against assault charges is that the accused acted in self-defense, in defense of another, or in defense of property. The law allows the use of force in these circumstances, as long as the violence is not disproportionate or initiated by the accused. Another common defense is that the complainant consented to the contact constituting the offense—for example, contacts made while participating in contact sports. 

Furthermore, the defense may argue that the accused lacked the requisite intent to commit the offense. To amount to an offense, the accused must have intended to cause or threaten to cause harm. As such, an assault charge may fail or be diminished if the accused acted under a mistake, was mentally ill, or was acting under the influence of an intoxicating substance not taken voluntarily. 

The defense can also rely on the defense to entrapment if it can be proven that the accused was persuaded by a law enforcement officer to carry the act constituting the offense.  

Finally, for assaults involving sexual relations with a child, an accused may rely on the affirmative defense against the charges if:

  • The accused was not more than three years older than the other party;
  • The accused was not already registered as a sex offender;
  • The other party was at least 14-years-old; and
  • The sexual relationship was consensual.

How Long Can You Go to Jail for Assault in Dallas?

Jail terms and other punishments accompanying a conviction for assault in Dallas vary depending on the seriousness of the offense, the age, profession, and physical condition of the victim, and whether the offender has a prior conviction. Below are the punishments attached to the common assault offenses in Dallas:

  • Class C Misdemeanor Assault attracts a fine not exceeding $500. This punishment is applicable to charges like simple assault, assault committed in a disaster or evacuation area, and aiding suicide without causing suicide or resulting in serious bodily injury.
  • Class B Misdemeanor Assault:  attracts either jail term of up to 180 days, a fine not exceeding $2,000, or both. The punishment applies to assault against a sports participant by a non-participant, assault committed in a disaster or evacuation area, and terroristic threat by causing official or volunteer emergency response or by placing any person in fear of serious bodily injury.
  • Class A Misdemeanor Assault: is punishable by either a jail term of up to a year, a fine not exceeding $4,000, or both the fine and incarceration. Assault charges under this classification include assault causing bodily injury, assault involving offensive physical contact against an elderly or disabled individual, deadly conduct, and terroristic threat involving family violence or committed against a public servant.
  • Third-Degree Felony Assault: attracts imprisonment between 2 to 10 years and may include a fine not exceeding $10,000. These penalties apply to the following offenses: injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, abandoning or endangering a child without intent to return for the child,  threat to tamper with a consumer product, harassment by persons in certain correctional facilities, and assault committed by a person with previous conviction. 
  • Second-Degree Felony Assault: attracts imprisonment between 2 to 20 years, including payment of a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree felony offenses include: assault by strangulation or suffocation or against a peace officer or judge, aggravated assault without enhancement, tampering with consumer product without serious bodily injury, sexual assault, indecency with a child, and abandoning or endangering a child that involves exposure to an imminent danger of death, bodily injury, physical or mental impairment. 
  • First-Degree Felony Assault is punishable with life imprisonment or 5 to 99 years in state prison. An offender may also be fined up to $10,000 in addition to the prison term. First-degree felony assaults include aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault against a victim whom the actor was prohibited from marrying, tampering with a consumer product resulting in serious bodily injury, and enhanced aggravated assault are all first-degree felony assaults.

Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault in Dallas

In the City of Dallas, the fundamental difference between a simple and aggravated assault charge lies in the seriousness of the act constituting the offense and the resulting punishment. In detail, simple assault in Dalla includes any situation where a person threatens another but does not cause serious physical injury to the person. The threat must have led the victims to believe that they are in immediate danger. A simple assault could include some forms of harassment such as poking, grabbing, or slapping, as well as physical harm to the degree of scratches and bruises.

In contrast, aggravated assault encompasses situations where serious injury is caused to another, a deadly weapon is exhibited or used, and the assault is committed against a public servant on duty. Serious bodily injury refers to physical harm that causes loss or impairment of a body part, severe disfigurement, death, or a significant risk of death. Aggravated assault is a more serious crime than simple assault because the consequences are usually worse. As such, aggravated assault is, at minimum, a second-degree felony charge, punishable by a prison term of up to 20 years, including a fine of up to $10,000. Meanwhile, the maximum penalty for a simple assault is a Class A misdemeanor punishment, which includes a jail term of up to a year and a fine not exceeding $4,000.