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Determining whether tortious assault has taken place

by Steven Ashley Gibbins on Jan. 18, 2018

Criminal 

Summary: Determining whether tortious assault has taken place

Let's say you and some of your college pals went to a party to kick back and enjoy some free time after studying for finals. You also invited a special someone along as your date. As soon as you arrived at the party location, you immediately felt a bit hesitant as there were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the crowd, some of whom were being quite rowdy. You asked your friends if it might be a good idea to change plans and head someplace else for the evening.

A couple of them say they know the people who are there and it will all be cool and not to worry. You stay but later regret your decision when a fight breaks out and you find yourself in the back of a police car on your way to jail. You know you only acted in self defense when you threw a punch, but you also know that facing assault charges in Texas is no small matter.

Prosecutors must prove an actual assault took place

Hopefully, you're already fully aware of your rights and can recognize when a police officer or other person violates those rights. It's also crucial to remember that just because someone accuses you of a crime does not necessarily mean the court will convict you. Where assault is concerned, the following facts may be pertinent to your situation:

  • Words without action do not constitute assault: When things started getting out of hand at the party, you were doing your best to diffuse the situation and get your date and your friends to agree to leave with you. Before you made it to the door, someone was invading your personal space, shoving you and shouting all manner of expletives in your direction. You shouted back and even made several threats. That alone does not mean you committed assault.
  • Prosecutors must prove you intended to cause apprehension: There's a difference between tempers growing heated and shouting angry words and making specific threats that show you intend to frighten someone into thinking you are going to harm him or her.
  • They must also prove you caused the apprehension you intended: In other words, not only must you have intended harm against another person, the court will not convict you if it is not convinced that actual harm took place.

Even the word intend is subject to legal definition when it comes to proving charges of assault. To intend someone harm, you must act with a criminal or wrongful purpose. Getting into a fight at a college party does not automatically mean you committed criminal assault.

The burden of proof is on the prosecutors. Many Texas defendants are successfully able to avoid conviction when they ask experienced attorneys to defend them in court.

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