Understanding the Difference Between Assault and Aggravated Assault in Texas

When most people think of the term “assault,” they simply imagine physical violence. However, the truth of assault in legal terms is oftentimes more nuanced than that. In many states, assault actually refers to attempting or threatening to physically harm someone, while “battery” refers to an actual physical attack on on a person.

In Texas, however, the circumstances of assault and battery are not treated as two separate crimes. Willful threats of violence and actual acts of violence are all lumped into the category of assault, but the state does specify differing levels of these crimes. After all, you wouldn’t punish a person the same for punching someone as you would for shooting someone, right?

Texas has statutes defining both Assault and Aggravated Assault. In this blog, we will explain the difference between these two crimes.


Also commonly referred to as “simple” assault, the Texas Penal Code defines “Assault” as:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
  • intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury, or
  • intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive.

This is the most basic form of assault, and the level of severity depends on the nature of the crime. If a person violates the first bullet point mentioned above regarding bodily harm, the crime is considered a Class A misdemeanor, while violation of the other two bullets (threats and offensive contact) are considered Class C misdemeanors.

The severity of these crimes may increase as high as a third degree felony under some circumstances, such as when the subject of the assault is a public servant like a police officer.

Aggravated Assault

In Texas, aggravated assault is defined in the Penal Code as:

  • intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another person, or
  • using or exhibiting a deadly weapon in the course of committing any assault crime, including threatening another with bodily injury or engaging in conduct that the victim likely will find offensive.

There are two main differences in what defines aggravated assault versus simple assault. The first is in the wording of “serious bodily injury” for aggravated assault as opposed to just “bodily injury” for assault. The “serious” nature if an aggravated assault means the assault caused or created a substantial risk of death or permanent disfigurement or impairment.

The second difference is whether or not a deadly weapon was used in the course of the assault. Whether the deadly weapon was used only as a threat or in actually offensive contact, the mere presence of the weapon raises the crime from a simple assault to an aggravated assault, which is a very major difference when it comes to penalties.

In most cases, an aggravated assault is a second degree felony. However, there are certain specific circumstances that raise the severity of the crime to a first degree felony, including but not limited to aggravated assault against a public servant, against a witness or informant, or against someone with whom the offender has engaged in an intimate relationship. A second degree felony is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison, while a first degree felony ranges from 5 to 99 years in prison.

If you have been charged with any level of assault, you need to move swiftly to defend your rights and protect your future. Contact the Whalen Law Office today.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google