An assault can occur without any physical violence. In Texas and many other states, the definition of assault includes the act of making a legitimate-sounding threat that causes the victim to fear for his safety. When you're facing a threat charge, you are facing criminal penalties. Verbal threat laws in Texas can be complex, and a statement that means little in one context can lead to a criminal charge when it is used in another context.
What Is Assault by Threat in Texas?
Verbally threatening to cause another person to suffer bodily harm is an offense charged as assault by threat in Texas.
Examples of phrases that violate verbal threat laws in Texas include:
- Threatening to kill a victim.
- Threatening to hit, kick or otherwise physically harm a victim.
- Shouting at a victim in an abusive, threatening manner.
- Making specific violent threats to a target over the phone or online.
- Pantomiming or referencing specific acts of violence to be committed against the victim.
Understanding Texas Threat Charges
In Texas, there are different threat charges an individual can face based on the nature of the alleged comments. A verbal threat is charged as a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500. But not all instances of verbal assault are charged as Class C misdemeanors. When a threat causes the victim to fear for her imminent safety, the offender can face a Class B misdemeanor charge. This charge is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A verbal threat made against a victim who has a restraining order against the offender is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail
Verbal threat laws in Texas are taken seriously. Even when the individual who made the alleged threat was joking with the victim or only blowing off steam, she may face a serious criminal charge if there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that she knowingly, intentionally made a threatening statement that caused the victim to fear for his physical safety or that of a close loved one.
Handling a Texas Threat Charge
If you are charged with assault by threat in Texas, you can fight the charge with the aid of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Depending on the circumstances present in your case, your lawyer may or may not advise you to fight the charge. When you are charged with a criminal offense, an experienced criminal defense lawyer is your best resource for understanding the charge and determining the most effective course of action to take with it.
Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the legal niche since 2012. Her primary focus areas within this niche are family law and personal injury law. Lindsay works closely with a few legal marketing agencies, providing blog posts, website content and marketing materials to law firms across the United States.