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Is Burning Someone on the Leg with a Cigarette Considered “Assault” in Texas?

Simple assault is a misdemeanor offense in Texas. Assault is defined as “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another” person. In this context, a “bodily injury” includes any amount of physical pain suffered by the victim.

For example, a Dallas appeals court recently upheld an assault conviction that was partly based on evidence the defendant intentionally burned a cigarette on one of his victims. In this case, Edwards v. State, the defendant was dating a woman named Renshaw at the time. According to the testimony presented at trial, Renshaw and her friend, a woman named Robinson, went to the defendant’s apartment to “confront” him after he ignored Renshaw’s text messages.

At the defendant’s residence, he and Renshaw “began yelling at each other in the front yard,” according to Robinson, who unsuccessfully tried to separate the pair. Robinson testified the defendant then “grabbed her and Renshaw by the throats and slammed them” against a car.

After things had apparently “simmered down,” according to Robinson, the group was sitting and talking by the car. At one point, Robinson reached into the car when she “felt a burn on the back of her leg.” She saw the defendant “just pulling his cigarette back.” She said the defendant told her he had burned her deliberately “for revenge.”

Two days later, Robinson reported the defendant’s actions to local police. She said she showed the officers the marks left by the defendant’s strangulation and burning. An officer testified at trial that he did not notice any marks on Robinson’s neck, but did see the burn mark on her leg. The defendant spoke with police voluntarily even after being advised of his right to remain silent. During this interview, the defendant admitted to burning Robinson’s leg–which he said was an accident–but denied choking either woman.

A jury found the defendant guilty of misdemeanor assault. The court sentenced the defendant two years of probation. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

The appeals court disagreed and affirmed the conviction and sentence. The court explained the jury was entitled to believe Robinson’s testimony that the defendant had choked her. The fact that a police officer saw no marks on Robinson’s neck two days later was “not dispositive.” More to the point, the officer did see the burn mark on Robinson’s leg. And according to Robinson’s testimony, the defendant told her point-blank he burned her with the cigarette “for revenge” after attempting to intervene in his altercation with Renshaw. This was more than “sufficient” for the jury to conclude the defendant committed assault.

Speak with a Houston Misdemeanor Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

The defendant in this case likely did himself no favors by speaking to police voluntarily. Remember, you do not have to speak to law enforcement in these circumstances. And before you say anything, it is always best to first consult with a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today in Houston, League City, and Galveston if you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense and require legal representation. Call (281) 280-0100