The terms assault and sexual assault are likely create two stark pictures. The truth, however, is that while they are two separate acts, these crimes under Texas laws do have some overlap.
Here’s what you need to know about the differences and similarities between assault and sexual assault in Texas: the charges that can be brought under each law and possible penalties upon conviction of either offense.
What is Assault in Texas?
Assault is defined as intentionally acting in a way that gives another cause to think you will cause them physical harm. It doesn’t matter whether harm is actually inflicted.
Simply threatening someone with physical harm is enough grounds to charge someone with assault in some instances. There are specifically three ways under Texas law that you can be charged with assault. They include:
- Intentionally causing offensive physical contact with another person
- Intentionally causing bodily injury to another person
- Threatening someone with bodily injury
These legal parameters were designed to capture a broad range of actions under the charge of assault. If you have specific questions regarding actions you’ve taken that resulted in an assault charge, an experienced Texas assault attorney can help.
Texas Penalties for Assault Convictions
The penalties depend on the type of assault conviction a person receives. When an assault conviction is the result of threats without physical harm, for example, then an offender will face a Class C misdemeanor charge. It is punishable by up to $500 in fines.
Simple assault, on the other hand, is when a minor injury is caused. It is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. A conviction can result in up to a year in jail and fines up to $4,000.
Then there is the crime of third-degree felony assault. You can be charged with this level of assault if you have a previous conviction for domestic violence, you assault a government contractor or public servant, and you assault an emergency worker.
A conviction on a third-degree felony assault charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Lastly, the toughest penalty for an assault incident is associated with second-degree felony assault charges. This can be charged when a weapon was used in the commission of the crime.
How Does Texas Define Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact without the consent of the victim in which penetration occurs. This offense obviously differs from other assault charges because of the inclusion of sexual contact. It is similar to other types of assault in that it’s unwanted and can be considered threatening.
An individual can be charged with sexual assault even if there was consent but if that consent was given under duress, such as someone being threatened with bodily harm if they do not participate.
Also, if the person is unable to provide consent due to their mental state or age, then that is also considered criminal sexual assault.
When Penalties for Assault and Sexual Assault Overlap
In Texas, sexual assault is a serious crime. The penalties depend on the type of sexual assault ultimately charged and for which someone is convicted. When compared to other types of assault, you can see that sexual assault aligns with the most severe assault crime — one in which an offender has brandished a weapon.
As such, both assault (involving a weapon) and sexual assault crimes are generally charged as a second-degree felony that can result in up to 25 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
In a sexual assault, if the victim is someone the defendant is prohibited from marrying or living with, then the offense may even be a more severe first-degree felony. A first-degree felony conviction in Texas is punished by up to 99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Assault and sexual assault are different crimes, but they do share a bit of overlap. Both are equally important to understand so you don’t find yourself accused of either one.