Third Degree Assault Charges in Texas

Assault may be a Third Degree Felony for a variety of reasons. Charges are usually are a felony instead of a misdemeanor based on: a special class of victim; aggravating conduct; or criminal history. Family violence assault charges have several special enhancements that increase a Class A Domestic Violence charge to a Third Degree Felony Assault.

Third Degree Domestic Violence Assault

The most common Third Degree Assault charges stem from family violence allegations. A few years ago, victims’ rights groups lobbied the Texas legislature to increase the punishment for domestic violence that included choking or impeding breathing. So, what once was a Class A Misdemeanor became a 3rd Degree Felony. This is an example of aggravating conduct increasing the seriousness of a criminal charge.

Assault by Impeding Breathing

If someone has a “prior” family violence conviction, then a new family violence charge is a Third Degree Felony. “Prior conviction” in this context doesn’t even really mean “conviction.” Even if you were placed on Deferred Adjudication Probation for a Assault Family Violence – meaning you were never found guilty and a judge even signed a dismissal – you are considered “convicted” for purposes of having a “prior.” This is how criminal history increases what would be a misdemeanor to a Third Degree Assault

Family Violence with a Prior

Around the same time Texas created the new “Choking Assault” law, Texas also created several “continuous” crimes. These include “Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child” and “Continuous Family Violence.” The perceived problem was a person could have a pending domestic violence charge, but if the person committed domestic violence again the new charge was still only a misdemeanor. So, a person could stack up a long list of pending family violence misdemeanor charges. To fix this perceived problem, Texas created the new charge of Continuous Family Violence, a Third Degree Assault Charge.

Continuous Family Violence

Assault on a Public Servant Third Degree

Another enhanced assault charge is when someone is accused of assaulting a public servant while that public servant is discharging their duty. Generally, we see these charges when someone is accused of assaulting a police officer; however, the term “public servant” includes many different people acting in a public service capacity. A person can be elected, selected, appointed, employed, or really, in any way, designated as a public servant for a laundry list of titles. These include:

  • employees or officers of the government;
  • jurors (either grand or petit jurors);
  • someone acting as an arbitrator or referee to decide
  • a cause or controversy;
  • a lawyer (criminal or civil) if performing a “government function;”
  • a candidate for nomination or election to public office; or the catchall…
  • a person who is performing a governmental function under a claim of right although he is not legally qualified to do so.

What if I did not know a person was a public servant?

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Innocent until proven innocent.” This is known as the “presumption of innocence.” Generally, the law requires the government to prove any part of their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Well, this is an area of law where that is not entirely true. In fact, Texas has a presumption against the criminal accused in certain assault cases. It is presumed the accused knows that the “victim” is a public servant if the “victim” was wearing a “distinctive uniform or badge indicating the person’s employment as a public servant.

Other Third Degree Felony Assaults

Aside from the assault charges listed above, it is a Third Degree Felony to assault several other special classes of “victim.” These include:

  • A Security officer while the person is working as a security officer. In this context, a security officer is someone that holds a licensed (commissioned or noncommissioned) issued by the Texas Private Security Board.
  • An emergency services personnel while the person is engaged in providing emergency services. In this context “Emergency services personnel” cab be a emergency medical technician (EMT), emergency room worker, firefighter, or any person (paid or volunteer) that is providing emergency services for the benefit of the general public.
  • A sports participant – actual players, sport referees, umpires, linesmen, coaches, or any staff member – engaged in activity in an “official capacity” at a school, college, university, or “organized amateur or professional athletic competition.”
  • Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney

    Regardless of what kind of felony assault you are facing, you need to contact an assault lawyer as soon as possible. A Third Degree Felony (with no criminal history) can result in a 10-year prison sentence. Our office is downtown Fort Worth, located blocks from the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center. You can call us now to meet with any attorney, today.