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What is Aggravated Assault in El Paso, Texas?

Aggravated Assault

Under section 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code, aggravated assault in El Paso is a crime that occurs when someone wields or displays a deadly weapon during an assault or when someone conducts an assault that results in serious bodily injury to others.

For an injury to be classified as serious bodily injury, it must result in permanent disfigurement, impairment, or loss of a body part's function. It must also present a substantial risk of mortality or cause death. Additionally, anything that has the potential to cause scarring, broken bones, physical impairment, and disfigurement is considered a weapon under Texas law.

Penalties for Aggravated Assault in El Paso

The criminal penalties for aggravated assault allegations vary depending on the nature of the alleged conduct and the perpetrator’s past convictions. Regardless, this offense is typically prosecuted as a felony of the 1st or 2nd degree, depending on the circumstances surrounding the charge.

Aggravated assault may be charged as a first-degree felony when:

  • A dangerous weapon is used in an assault
  • The conduct was against a family member, partner, or member of the same household
  • The victim is a government employee performing official duties
  • The victim works as a security personnel
  • The crime was committed in retaliation against a witness.

Consequently, aggravated assault conviction can result in the following punishments:

  • Prison terms ranging from 2 to 20 years (2nd-degree felony)
  • Prison terms ranging from 5 to 99 years (1st-degree felony)
  • A fine of up to $10,000 
  • Compensation for the victim.

In 2019, there were a total of 2,422 violent crimes reported in El Paso, Texas. A total of 1,734 of these incidents were aggravated assaults, according to the  UCR crime report for Texas in 2019.

What is Sexual Assault in El Paso

The official term for sexual assault is in El Paso is rape. The act encompasses any non-consensual sexual contact, intercourse, or penetration with the threat or use of physical force or violence against another individual. The El Paso police department reported 310 cases of rape or sexual assault in 2019.

Although sexual assault is commonly considered rape in El Paso, it constitutes a wide range of offenses. As a result, charges for sexual assault may vary and may be described differently depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime, the age of the victim, and other variables. These possible charges include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Indecency with a child by contact
  • Indecency with a child by exposure
  • Sexual performance by a child
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

When someone is convicted of sexual assault, they may face various criminal punishments, including a prolonged prison term, huge fines, and restitution, among other things. Any offender convicted of a sex offense, including sexual assault, is required to register as a sex offender. This obligation has a potentially negative impact on their professional and personal lives. Adverse effects of being registered as a sex offender include a restriction on movement and housing and exclusion from certain professional fields, such as the education of young children.

Penalties for Sexual Assault in El Paso

The severity of sexual assault penalties is determined by whether the crime is categorized as a 1st or 2nd-degree felony. If convicted of a 2nd-degree felony, the accused may face a prison term of up 2 to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. A 1st-degree felony may attract a sentence of up to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Aggravated sexual assault

In certain circumstances, a sexual assault charge may be elevated to an aggravated sexual assault. Such aggravating circumstances include situations where:

  • The perpetrator intentionally caused serious injury to the victim or sought to kill the victim
  • The attacker threatened the victim with death, significant injury, or kidnapping
  • The perpetrator collaborated with another individual to perpetrate the crime
  • The perpetrator utilized a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime
  • The offender used a controlled substance known as "date rape drug" in the commission of the crime
  • The victim is a minor under the age of 14
  • The victim is a senior citizen or a person with a disability.

This type of sexual assault offense is considered a first-degree felony and punishable by a life sentence in prison or a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 99 years in prison.

What Happens When You Press Charges on Someone for Assault in El Paso?

Pressing charges against someone entails reporting a criminal act (assault) to the police department and filing a police report so that the state prosecutor can pursue a case against the culprit. Depending on the outcome of police investigations, the prosecutor may pursue criminal charges against the accused person, and the case will be brought before a competent court.

Defendants charged with serious assault are often unaware of the seriousness of the charges leveled against them or how to defend themselves. It is beneficial to retain the services of an experienced and certified criminal defense attorney.

A lawyer has the professional skills, understands the state and local legal systems and court procedures, which will aid in navigating the case's potential complications. The attorney is competent in providing legal advice, guiding the defendant through the criminal justice system, and may be able to obtain a dismissal of charges, reduction of the charges, and protect their rights.

In an attempt to protect the rights of the accused, the attorney may present legal defenses.

The attorney may choose to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution. This type of defense will be based on the facts of the case as well as the lawyer's ability to refute the evidence.

Another type of defense is an affirmative defense. In this case, the accused acknowledges that they committed the acts alleged by the prosecution. However, they provide evidence to support the claim that their actions were legally justified.

Such defenses include:

  • Self-defense and defense of others: Self-defense constitutes using or threatening to use force to protect oneself or another person who is in imminent danger of being harmed by another. For this claim to be successful in El Paso, the defendant must have had a legitimate reason for using force, and they must have used reasonable force. However, if the court finds that the defendant provoked the other party into acting, a claim for self-defense will be rejected.
  • Protection of property: Under state and local laws, it is permissible to use force to protect one's property. However, the extent of the force must be proportionate to the danger that the other person posed. 
  • Accident or mistake: If the defense can prove that the injury was caused by accident or mistake, then the mental state required for an assault was not present.
  • No offense: If the allegations made by the alleged victim are untrue and the incident never occurred, the defense of no offense can be asserted.
  • Insanity: This defense asserts that the accused did not commit the assault because they were suffering from a mental illness that prevented them from having the intent to commit an assault.

Can a Minor Be Charged with Assault in El Paso, Texas?

In El Paso, minors can be charged with assault.  As a general rule, a person under the age of seventeen in El Paso is considered a minor if they have never been married and have never been legally recognized as an adult by a court of competent jurisdiction. Minors can be charged with assault if they do any of the following:

  • Use physical violence to intimidate or threaten another person
  • Make another individual afraid of imminent harm
  • Attempt to inflict bodily harm on another person.

The juvenile justice system in El Paso is primarily concerned with rehabilitation rather than punishment for adolescents. Hence, when kids commit crimes ranging from a Class C misdemeanor to assaults and capital murder, they are charged as juveniles in juvenile court. However, if the accused is over the age of 14 and has used a dangerous weapon or caused serious bodily harm, the prosecution may attempt to prosecute and try them as adults.

Then, when a person reaches the age of 18, they are legally deemed to be adults in El Paso, and a criminal charge is processed in an adult court.

How Long Can You go to Jail for Assault in El Paso?

The severity of the punishment for an assault conviction will vary depending on the type of assault accusation brought against the defendant, the degree of the victim's injury, and the defendant's criminal history.

Assault charges are categorized as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the offense. A person who receives either level of punishment may be sentenced to prison or probation, as well as fines and restitution payments.

Misdemeanor Penalties

When a person sustains injuries as a result of an assault, the charge is often classified as a Class A misdemeanor. This type of offense carries a maximum term of 1 year in prison and a $4,000 fine. If there are no physical injuries involved, then the act is usually categorized as a Class B misdemeanor.

The status and identity of the alleged victim of the assault can also impact the severity of the charge and the associated sanctions. For instance, if the violation contains offensive physical contact directed toward an old or disabled person, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor.

In El Paso, a person convicted of a misdemeanor is subject to the following consequences:

  • Up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine for a Class A misdemeanor
  • A $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail for a Class B misdemeanor
  • A fine of up to $500 for a Class C misdemeanor.

Felony Penalties

An assault charge can be upgraded to a felony charge. The penalties for a felony assault charge are often harsher in comparison.

If the victims of the alleged assault are public employees performing their official duties, the assault is considered a 2nd-degree felony. This offense carries a sentence of two to twenty years in jail.

If the assault involves specific members of a home, a pregnant victim, and if the accused individual has a past conviction for domestic violence, it is a 3rd-degree felony. A third-degree felony conviction can result in a sentence of two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

A judge may choose to explore alternatives to incarceration for first-time offenders.

Deferred Adjudication

The court may provide a defendant with the option of deferred adjudication if the individual pleads guilty to a simple assault charge. In this instance, the court would postpone the sentencing for a while. This is contingent on the defendant successfully completing probation and meeting certain other conditions. Examples of such criteria include not being arrested or charged with another criminal offense during the conditional period, making reparations to victims, and completing community service.

If the defendant meets all of these requirements, they will be released from custody, and the court will dismiss the case. Regardless, records of the arrest, deferral, and dismissal will appear on the defendant's criminal history. On the other hand, if the defendant does not comply with the court's demands, the court will impose a penalty. Individuals who are first-time offenders are more likely than repeat offenders to be given this option.

Community Supervision

The court may also order community supervision (probation) as an alternative to incarceration. This is applicable to misdemeanors punishable by up to 2 years and felonies punishable by up to 10 years. The defendant may be required to serve time in prison before beginning community supervision, usually 30 days for a misdemeanor and 180 days for a felony. It is necessary for the offender to effectively complete probation and any other restrictions imposed by the court in order to avoid receiving the full sentence of jail or prison.

A person on community supervision is required to meet with a probation officer, pay probation fees, and adhere to other requirements. Such requirements include attending treatment sessions if applicable, maintaining employment, adhering to curfews, and refraining from any additional criminal conduct or arrests.

Simple Assault vs Aggravated Assault in El Paso

An individual who commits simple assault in El Paso does so by either intentionally, deliberately, or recklessly inflicting bodily injury on another individual or by engaging in provocative or offensive physical contact with another.

The most significant distinction between simple and aggravated assault is that simple assaults are generally categorized as misdemeanors, but aggravated assaults are classed as felonies. Misdemeanors are punishable by minor penalties and little to no jail time, but felonies are punishable by hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences, depending on the severity of the offense. Felony convictions also have long-term consequences on an offender's life since they can impair their ability to obtain employment, vote, purchase firearms, and even travel outside of the country.

Also, while simple assault includes minor injuries (such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises), touching and threatening words or conduct, the use of weapons, or the infliction of significant injuries are indicative of an aggravated assault. An assault that results in "severe bodily injury," such as a fractured bone or one that necessitates surgery or hospitalization, is deemed an aggravated assault.