The number of classic bar fight assaults has plummeted more than 60 percent since the early 1990s. But misdemeanor assault is still one of the most commonly-charged offenses in Parker County.
Under Texas Penal Code 22.01, it is a Class A misdemeanor (up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine) to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse.” In some ways, assault cases are difficult to defend. But in other cases, the prosecutor’s case never gets off the ground.
Assault Mens Rea
Mens rea is Latin for a criminal mindset. In most criminal cases, mens rea is one of the two elements that prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt.
22.01 cases are one of the few “reckless” offenses in the Penal Code. Prosecutors do not have to prove that the defendant intended to hurt the alleged victim. They only need to prove that the defendant acted recklessly, which basically means “I don’t care if I hurt someone or not.” That’s a very low standard of proof.
Assault Actus Rea
Actus rea means a criminal act. See, three years of law school did teach me something. In order for the offense to be a Class A misdemeanor, the defendant must cause bodily injury.
There are two components here. First, the defendant must cause injury. If the victim ducks and hits his head on a table, the defendant arguably did not cause that injury. Second, there must be bodily injury. Many times, the prosecutor relies on photographs from the scene. Sometimes these photos are quite convincing, and sometimes not.
Special Issues in Family Violence Assault Cases
The “FV” designation changes the tenor of these cases significantly. Prosecutors rarely drop charged to Class C ABC (assault by contact), even if the evidence is very weak.
Furthermore, the old spousal privilege days are long gone. Prosecutors can force wives to testify against their husbands. Felicia Moon, the wife of former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, was one of the first alleged victims that prosecutors subpoenaed against her will. Alternatively, prosecutors may be able to use a legal loophole to admit part of the police report into evidence.
Finally, Parker County and most other jurisdictions have mandatory arrest policies in these cases. Typically, if officers respond to a domestic disturbance call, someone goes to jail then and there. That someone is nearly always the husband. That’s an additional disadvantage that a criminal defense attorney must deal with.
Simple assault cases are serious affairs. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.