In Texas, aggravated assault refers to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” causing “serious bodily injury” to another person. Aggravated assault is normally prosecuted as a second-degree felony, but under certain circumstances the charge may be elevated to a first-degree felony. This is not a trivial distinction. The maximum jail time a person can receive for a misdemeanor is 20 years, but a first-degree conviction may result in a life sentence.
When “Dating Violence” Leads to a 60-Year Prison Sentence
One condition that can trigger an elevated charge is when the aggravated assault involved an act of “dating violence.” That is, if you are in a “dating relationship” with someone, and you cause serious bodily injury to them with a deadly weapon, you can be charged with aggravated assault as a first-degree felony.
For example, in a recent case from Fort Worth, a jury convicted of a man of first-degree aggravated assault and sentenced him to 60 years in prison after he stabbed his girlfriend in the neck with a straight razor. According to testimony presented at trial, the victim wanted to break up with the defendant. He responded by proposing marriage. When she declined, he “responded by stabbing her in the neck,” according to court records, creating a “two-inch vertical cut” in her esophagus. When police later questioned her at the hospital, she could only answer “yes” or “no”to question by squeezing her hand.
Even with such limited communication abilities, she still managed to identify the defendant as her attacker. The defendant also admitted to police he cut the victim’s throat. The trial judge initially did not allow the jury to hear this statement, as the police failed to expressly advise the defendant of his right to remain silent beforehand. But after the defense challenged the sufficiency of the prosecution’s other evidence, the judge admitted the self-incriminating statement as “rebuttal” evidence.
A Texas appeals court held that even if the judge made a mistake in allowing the confession in as rebuttal, it was a “harmless error” that did not affect the outcome of the trial. First, the jury was instructed it could only consider the confession if it found “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the police did not violate the defendant’s rights. Second, the court said the remaining evidence was produced by the prosecution was “overwhelming,” notably the victim’s positive identification.
Are You Facing an Aggravated Assault Charge?
If you are detained or questioned by the police on suspicion of any crime, the best thing you can do is remain silent. Nothing you say can help you. Especially when the charge is as potentially severe as aggravated assault involving a dating partner or family member, the first thing you should do is speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who can advise you on how to proceed. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you have been accused of aggravated assault or any other serious felony in Houston, Galveston, or League City.