Definition of “Aggravated” in Texas Law
The Texas Penal Code defines an aggravated criminal act to be:
- If you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause serious bodily injury to another person.
- If you use or display a weapon when you commit a crime, including merely threatening another with serious bodily injury.
The Penal Code also provides for a charge of “Deadly Conduct,” which is similar to “aggravated” but differs in that Deadly Conduct is a crime itself and not a special circumstance or enhancement to a less-serious charge. In Texas, Deadly Conduct occurs:
- If you recklessly endanger another by placing them at a risk of a serious bodily injury.
- If you knowingly discharge a firearm at a dwelling place, building or vehicle with disregard for whether or not the dwelling place, building or vehicle was occupied.
In both of the above, “serious bodily injury” is any injury posing a risk of death, that causes death, permanent disfigurement, or the loss of function of any body part or internal organ and “reckless” means any action committed without regard for the consequences or outcome of that act. “Reckless” does not mean that a deliberate intent to harm is necessary, just a deliberate disregard for the consequences of the act.
Crimes That Can Be Enhanced by an “Aggravated” Condition
In law, “aggravated” is usually known as an enhancement or a special circumstance. The purpose of an aggravated enhancement is to increase the possible punishment of the crime, as demonstrated by the example given above.
Since practically any crime can be enhanced by an “aggravated” charge, the list of these crimes is far too long to be presented here. rather, we can look at some of the crimes that are usually charged as being aggravated at the time of an arrest.
Simple assault is usually a misdemeanor of A, B, or C while aggravated assault is always a second degree felony but can become a first degree felony under certain conditions such as aggravated assault on a family member or domestic partner, intimidating a witness, against a child or anyone over 65 years of age, or if directed at a public official.
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
Aggravated sexual assault and aggravated sexual battery occurs when a weapon or threat of harm is used in the act of forcing unwanted contact of a sexual nature on another. If penetration of the victim occurs, the charge can be elevated to rape.
Aggravated robbery, also called armed robbery, is a robbery 1) where a weapon is used or displayed, or 2) a threat of bodily harm or threat to use a weapon was made.
Deadly Conduct Crimes
Deadly misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor if only misconduct endangers another. The offense becomes a third degree felony if a firearm is discharged.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for “Aggravated” or Deadly Conduct Charges
Any charge carrying an “aggravated” enhancement exposes you to the risk of a longer jail or prison sentence and/or a larger fine than the same crime without the enhancement.
- Second degree felony – 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- First degree felony – 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
A conviction for deadly conduct can be punished as either a:
- Class A misdemeanor – up to one year in jail or a fine up to $4000, or both (misconduct only)
- Third degree felony – two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 (discharging a firearm).
In either “aggravated” enhancement or Deadly Force convictions, you run the risk of a harsher sentence if you have prior misdemeanors or felony convictions or if you are on probation at the time of your arrest.
If you have been arrested on a crime that is carrying as “aggravated” enhancement or a Deadly Conduct charge, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest or after you have posted bail. Although you may think that you can represent yourself, save money, and will get a better shot at a reduced charge if you wait until just before your trial, you are setting yourself up for potentially a longer jail or prison term and a larger fine.
A criminal defense attorney will review the circumstances of your arrest, the evidence that will be used against you, and the strengths or weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case against you. While reviewing the case against you an experienced criminal defense lawyer will often find enough weaknesses to have the charges against you to be lowered or, in some cases, dismissed.
Depending on your previous record, a criminal defense attorney can sometimes get the court to agree that you will benefit from an alternative sentencing program such as deferred adjudication, community supervision, or even a work-release program rather than jail time.
Wrapping up, if you are facing “aggravated” or Deadly Force, your best hope for staying out of jail is to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer at your earliest opportunity.