New Texas Laws Seek to Protect Pregnant Women
In the past, assaulting a pregnant woman resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge. On April 17, things changed with the passage of House Bill 902. Now, that same act is considered a felony assault charge.
What drove lawmakers to make this drastic shift? Here’s what was discussed prior to the passage of the bill:
- The number of pregnant women being abused is much higher than reported.
- The penalties for abusing pregnant women were considered too lenient by the public.
- Advocates believe violence impacts the health of pregnant women more than previously believed.
- Advocates for the bill argued that short sentences prevented abuse victims from escaping while they were pregnant.
- Some researchers argue that some pregnant women are inherently more vulnerable in domestic violence situations.
- Lawmakers want women to feel safe and protected when they report abuse.
Since the house bill was passed, 46 individuals have already been arrested for this offense.
The shift from being classified as a misdemeanor to being charged with a felony has substantial consequences for those who are convicted. Learn more about the potential penalties below.
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What Are the Penalties Associated with Felony Assault?
Do you know someone who has been accused of assaulting a pregnant woman? With the new changes in the law, this accusation carries heavier penalties than ever. A felony assault charge could lead to:
- Fines up to $10,000
- Jail time for up to ten years
- Community service
You also need to consider whether you have been convicted of any felonies in the past. If you have, then you could be in even worse trouble than you thought.
Have you heard of the three-strikes law? Here’s what you need to know – since 1994, the U.S. Justice Department has followed a three-strikes rule. If you’ve already been convicted of two felonies and you’re charged with another violent felony, then you must serve a mandatory life sentence in prison.
Courtrooms in Texas are known for adhering to this three-strikes law. Courts typically enforce penalties based on the severity of the current crime and your past ones. An assault on a pregnant woman will not be taken lightly, especially if the assault resulted in significant injury to the victim or baby.
You won’t necessarily serve a life sentence in jail after getting convicted of three felonies, but you can expect a heavy sentence. Often, these sentences range anywhere from 15 years to life.
Defining Assault in Texas
So, what exactly does it mean to assault a pregnant woman in Texas? The law defines assault as intentionally performing an action that makes another person think you’re going to physically harm them. Under this definition, significant threats that don’t involve physical harm are included.
The actual harm that’s inflicted on the victim is irrelevant to the charge itself, but it will likely have an impact on the harshness of your sentence.
You could be charged with assaulting a pregnant woman if you:
- Intentionally caused bodily injury to a pregnant person
- Threatened a pregnant woman with imminent bodily harm
- Intentionally made physical contact with someone that would be considered offensive by a reasonable person
Keep in mind that you don’t have to be physically present to assault a pregnant woman. You could simply make contact that implies a violent threat, and this action is considered assault under the law.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Being accused of assaulting a pregnant woman in Texas is not something to take lightly. Once you’re confronted by police and charged, you will likely be taken directly to jail. Depending on your financial circumstances and the nature of your crime, you may be able to bail yourself out.
What comes next?
You’ve probably heard it before – you have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Why are lawyers so important when you’ve been charged with a crime?
Criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in the law. They won’t need to spend time looking up specific Texas statutes or examining legal jargon. Instead, they’ll immediately focus their attention on the specifics of your case and what happened. Good attorneys also know which legal defenses work and which ones won’t.
With a potential felony conviction over your head, it’s best not to risk your freedom. Utilize your Constitutional right to hire a lawyer if you ever find yourself facing a serious accusation of abusing a pregnant woman in the state of Texas.
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Common Defense Strategies for Assault Charges
Are you attempting to defend yourself against assault charges?
The strategy you use will depend heavily on the circumstances surrounding the incident and any evidence the prosecution has against you. An attorney can help you through the process of discovery, which is where you’ll learn everything the prosecutor will be using in court.
There are several ways to approach a defense to assault. First, you could argue a mistake of fact. You may dispute some of the evidence against you or claims made by a witness. If you plan on going down this route, then it’s advised you reach out to an attorney for help.
Another defense to an assault charge is to argue self-defense. If you committed an assault while attempting to defend yourself, then you may not be convicted. Self-defense is an acceptable legal defense in some scenarios.
Are you claiming self-defense? If so, then you’ll need to prove that your use of force was justified. You’ll also need to convince the judge that you didn’t provoke the victim into using force against you. This defense strategy is extremely complex and challenging.
Taking the Next Steps
There are many reasons why legislators in Texas have made the decision to increase penalties associated with assaulting pregnant women. The prior misdemeanor charge and current felony charge have very different penalties associated with them. You need to be aware of these changes if you’ve been arrested.
It’s advised that you also seek out the advice of an attorney. You’ll want to be as prepared as possible on the day you go to court.