What does assault by contact mean in Texas?

assault-by-contactOne commits assault by contact if he (or she) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another person when he knows or should reasonably believe that the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

Common examples include shoving someone or spitting on them.  Assault by contact is usually a class C misdemeanor, the lowest level of criminal offense in Texas.

spray-waterThe reason some courts use other terms like “Simple Assault” or “Assault by Physical Contact” to describe this crime is that it has no stand-alone statute in the Texas Penal Code. Instead, this offense is defined as a subset of the standard assault law.

Unlike higher level assault charges, a person can not recklessly commit the offense of assault by contact. To win a conviction for this crime, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was aware that his or her conduct was reasonably certain to cause offensive or provocative physical contact.

Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on an Assault By Contact case in Travis County.

Why not just pay the ticket and move on?

paymentIf you are accused of assault by physical contact, it may be tempting to simply plead no contest, pay the fine, and move on. Fighting the charge when the maximum penalty is the equivalent of a traffic ticket may not seem worth the effort. But taking such a conviction lightly would be a mistake.

The primary issue with taking a conviction in this type of case is the impact that an “assault” conviction will have on your criminal record. These days, many organizations order criminal background checks on all serious job applicants and a surprising number of employers are also doing periodic checks on existing employees. Many of them are reluctant to hire or promote employees seen as having anger management issues or a “history of violence.”

domestic-violenceAnother reason to fight the charge is that a conviction for Assault by Contact can increase future misdemeanor domestic assault cases to a third degree felonies. This potential escalation of charges never goes away, it applies you for the rest of your life. This is a serious concern if you have drama-prone people in your life.

Rather than asking yourself if you can afford to fight a charge of assault by contact, you should ask yourself if you can afford to be permanently branded as a violent criminal.

firearm-ban-invAny assault conviction or plea involving family or dating violence has additional consequences including losing the right to possess a firearm, problems getting a state-issued professional license and serious immigration issues for non-citizens.[1]18 U.S.C 922(g)(9) – Firearms (Unlawful Acts)[2]8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i) – Immigration and Nationality Act You can be charged with family violence assault against someone that is not actually in your family.

It is usually possible to obtain a better result by fighting the charges.  Many people choose to represent themselves on class C misdemeanor cases, but that is not always the optimal approach.  An excellent criminal defense attorney can maximize your chances of obtaining the best possible result, such as getting the charges thrown out, getting the case dismissed via a deferred disposition agreement so that the records can later be sealed or destroyed, or negotiating an agreement to change the charge to a different, less damaging offense.

Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on an Assault By Contact case in Travis County.

When is Assault by Contact NOT a class C misdemeanor?

umpireAssault by contact is a class B misdemeanor when committed by a person who is not a sports participant against a sports participant either during the game or in retaliation for the person’s performance. For the purpose of this law, the “sports participant” could be an athlete, referee, umpire, coach, or other staff involved in the game.

Assault by contact is a class A misdemeanor when committed against an elderly or disabled individual. Elderly in this context means age 65 or older.

brandishingBrandishing a deadly weapon while committing assault by contact can be charged as Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, which is a second degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in the state penitentiary and a fine up to $10,000. Assault with a Deadly Weapon is a first degree felony if it involves a public servant, is committed against a security guard, or is in retaliation against a witness.

Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on an Assault By Contact case in Travis County.

Further Reading

What is the Minimum Punishment for Assault?
More about Assault and Aggravated Assault
More about Assault with Family Violence


118 U.S.C 922(g)(9) – Firearms (Unlawful Acts)
28 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i) – Immigration and Nationality Act