The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan pride ourselves on being fortunate enough to serve our community. We focus on each of our clients individually and take none of our clients for granted. If you want an attorney who is focused on service, communicates well, and has the instincts and training to achieve the results you need then reach out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We can work to schedule a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys on your behalf. If you take every opportunity you have to prepare your case, then you give yourself the best opportunity to avoid some verys negative outcomes in the world of Texas criminal law. The failure to prepare, however, means that you are preparing to fail.
One of the benefits of working with the experienced criminal defense attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is that we have the experience that you need to succeed in your situation involving aggravated assault or any other criminal charge for that matter. We know what it takes to collect evidence, prepare a case, negotiate (if necessary) with the district attorney’s office and then allow you to exit your case with your future intact when the dust settles on whatever legal controversy you are facing. Do not leave it to chance or hope that the lawyer you hired has what it takes to get your case over the finish line. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan has a proven track record of success and hope that we can serve you in your legal matter, as well.
What is an assault under the law?
The Texas Penal Code contains the definitions for various crimes which a court would be applying to your situation. An assault occurs if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another including the person’s spouse; intentionally or knowingly threaten another with imminent bodily injury including the person’s spouse; or intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
Since these definitions are not broken down into the easiest bites for us to chew on, I think it is a good idea for us to think more about what these definitions mean to us in the real world. Intentional conduct means setting out with the desire to cause an event to occur. If you intentionally hit someone that means that you approached the person with the goal in mind to cause your fist to meet some part of that person’s body and result in physical contact.
The next key term in these definitions is to “knowingly” cause bodily injury to another person including that person’s spouse. To knowingly cause bodily injury means something similar to intentionally causing bodily injury. You voluntarily (were not forced to do so) engage in the conduct and did not do so by accident. In many ways, the terms intentionally and knowingly are similar enough to be indistinguishable from one another.
What you need to know is that if you hurt someone physically or have threatened to do so then you could be in a situation where you may be charged with assault. The State of Texas would need evidence that you have done this which could be comprised of statements from witnesses, video footage, or even social media posts which align with the timing of various incidents. Keep in mind that based on the definitions just provided to you a moment ago that you could have acted intentionally or even recklessly to be liable for one of these crimes. Even if you did not set out to injure or harm another person, if your actions could have foreseeably led to an injury like this then you could be charged with assault.
Where the grey area applies to this situation is regarding what your mental state was in the period immediately preceding the alleged act of violence as well as what you ended up doing as far as an action is concerned. As any criminal defense attorney or prosecutor can tell you, proving the mental state of a defendant is not a simple task. For instance, a prosecutor needs to be able to prove your mental state since it is an important element in the crime of assault. On the other hand, you and your attorney would need to be able to convince a jury or judge that your mental state was something different than intentional, knowing, or reckless at the time the act was committed. In any event, this is not easy. Only experienced criminal law attorneys such as those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to be able to help you in this regard.
A reasonable person standard is applied to a case involving assault. Would a reasonable person believe your actions to have been reckless related to the actions you made that day? Were you acting in a way that could have foreseeably caused an injury? It does not matter what you thought or what another witness thought. What matters is what a reasonable person would believe based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the alleged incident. Again, we are going on fine points which can get lost in the shuffle of a case. A witness's interpretation of the events in question could differ from those which you possess of the day in question.
Self-defense- what it is and how to offer it as a defense in your assault case
You have the right to defend yourself in Texas. Suppose that another person was coming at you physically and threatened to cause you bodily harm of some sort. In this case, you would be entitled to protect yourself from injury or death. When taken out of context, self-defense can involve physical actions which in other contexts would be illegal. However, because you were facing the threat of imminent physical harm it may be legal to act as you did in a particular situation. When a person comes at you unprovoked, you do not have to stand there and take blows to the head. Rather, you would e allowed to defend yourself- within reason.
As with anything else in the law, it is easy to draw conclusions based on our reading of a book. However, when it comes to applying the laws of self-defense in the real world it becomes significantly more difficult to do so. A lot of the reason for this is that what first appears to be criminal behavior may be justified on your part due to the threat of imminent physical harm which you were facing at the time. It could be that you spoke to police officers at the scene of an incident and convinced them so thoroughly of the self-defense that you were never charged with a crime.
When you are charged with a crime like aggravated assault in Texas then you and your attorney should perform a thorough evaluation of your actions on the date of the alleged incident to determine whether any potential self-defense claims are justified. Identifying whether self-defense was involved in a particular incident is difficult enough as it is. On top of that, you would need to be able to prove that you were engaging in self-defense. Some conditions make a self-defense claim more legitimate in the eyes of the court.
Specifically, three conditions must all be present concurrently for you and your attorney to be able to successfully claim self-defense. First, you must believe that any harm which you are facing may be used against you immediately. If you believe that a person does not pose a threat of harm to you in the next few seconds, then you cannot use a self-defense claim successfully. Being in immediate danger carries with it the expectation that you do not have time to truly think through your options, but rather than arrived at the decision you did in a spur-of-the-moment manner.
Next, the reasonable person standard comes into play as the judge would consider whether a reasonable person would have agreed with your interpretation of the situation being one where you are facing a genuine threat of imminent bodily injury or death. This is left up to the judge or jury to decide. Put a typical adult in your situation and that person would need to determine much like you did that he or she was in a situation where he or she was facing an immediate threat of harm.
Finally, we deal with the proportionality of your response to the other person. Your response to the immediate threat of harm must be reasonable and in proportion to the threat as it was presented to you. Ask yourself if most people would agree that your response to the threat of injury or death was imminent and that your response was fair regarding the threat made against you. An example of this is that it is not reasonable to defend yourself with a knife when you were pushed by another person. However, it is likely to be reasonable that you shot someone who first pulled out a gun to shoot you.
What to do if you plan on claiming self-defense in a trial
A self-defense claim is a potential way of avoiding a lot of bad outcomes which could come your way because of being involved in a dangerous situation involving violence. However, it is not so simple a situation that you can tell the judge that you were acting in self-defense and just expect the situation to resolve itself after that. This is a more complicated situation than you may be giving it credit for now. As a result, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can make a tremendous difference in how your effective your self-defense argument may be.
Differentiating between simple and aggravated assault
Your case will go from one involving simple assault to aggravated assault if the assault in question caused serious bodily injuries like broken bones or permanent impairment. Additionally, if you used a deadly weapon in the assault then that can escalate a simple assault to aggravated. Deadly weapons include firearms and knives but could also include household items like baseball bats. There is also the possibility that the assault could be upgraded to an aggravated assault if the act of violence was committed against a family member or someone that you were dating.
We also see an aggravated assault occurring alongside another crime like a sexual assault or robbery. Unfortunately, we also see people charged with aggravated assaults when the victim is a police officer, firefighter, or any other type of public servant. Finally, if you have a history of prior assault convictions related to family violence and this most recent incident involving assault has also been in connection to a member of your family then you may be charged with aggravated assault as a result.
There are increased penalties associated with being convicted of an aggravated assault versus a simple assault. Typically, this means that a potential prison sentence can be longer for an aggravated crime versus a simple crime. However, at the end of the day, it is the prosecutor who must prove the elements of an aggravated assault to win a conviction. The burden of proof, in other words, is on the state. Your job isn't necessarily to disprove that an aggravated assault occurred but rather to provide potential defenses to the crime and to convince a jury that the prosecutor has not fulfilled their obligation to prove all elements to secure a conviction.
Proving to a jury that a particular crime has occurred is no small task. A prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the aggravated assault. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a tougher standard than you would experience in a civil law case. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side during one of these trials can be the best advantage that you give yourself. The better prepared you are to present defenses and to present other evidence the less likely you are of being convicted of a crime.
What steps should you take if you are charged with aggravated assault?
Interviewing multiple criminal defense attorneys should be your first course of action if you are charged with having committed an aggravated assault. We have walked through a few different scenarios related to this type of crime in today's blog post. With that said, we have only skimmed the surface and what it means to manage this type of case and ultimately be found not guilty of this serious crime.
Next, you should not speak to law enforcement under any circumstances until and unless you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Many people make the mistake of speaking to law enforcement, making statements upon arrest, or in an interview scenario. Many times, statements like this are made because the defendant believes that doing so will decrease the likelihood of facing consequences or even going to jail. However, statements like this can and will be used against you in a courtroom.
When deciding to hire an attorney you should consider factors beyond the cost of the lawyer. While cost probably will be a significant factor for you to consider, another characteristic of the attorney should be that he has experience in working with clients who are facing similar circumstances as you are. You should ask the attorney about their level of experience and for information about how the lawyer envisions the remainder of your case going. Asking questions like this will allow you to determine how comfortable you are with the attorney as well as the extent to which you can rely upon the advice of that lawyer moving forward.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed criminal defense attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of criminal defense law as well as about how you can best proceed in whatever legal circumstance you currently find yourself involved in.