Is making verbal threats a crime in Texas or protected speech? There are many reasons a person could make a verbal threat against the other. In some instances, a verbal threat could be made as a joke; in others, it could be a means of self-defense with no real intention of causing bodily harm or injury. No matter what the reason, it is illegal to threaten someone with violence in Texas.
According to Chapter 22, Title Five of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits the crime of assault when they “intentionally or knowingly threaten another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse.”
Examples of verbal threats can include:
- Threatening to kill someone
- Threatening someone with physical harm
- Yelling at someone in an abusive, threatening manner
- Threatening someone over the phone or online
- Making specific violent threats to a target over the phone or online.
Charges for Making Verbal Threats in Texas
In most instances, being accused of making verbal threats can result in Class C misdemeanor charges. If convicted, the defendant could be ordered to pay up to $500 in fine.
However, the charges could be bumped up, depending on the circumstances. If the threat makes the victim fear for their imminent safety, the accused could be facing Class B misdemeanor charges. This could mean up to $2,000 in fines and up to 180 days in jail if convicted. If the threat is made against a person holding a restraining order against the person making the threat, the charges could be increased to Class A misdemeanor — up to $4,000 in fines and one year in jail.
Many instances of verbal assault or assault by threat in Houston are made in the heat of the moment in response to a tense or challenging situation. It is illegal to threaten someone in Texas even if the person making the threats has no intention of actually going through with their threats. The person being threatened may not know that and genuinely fear for their safety. When law enforcement responds to these complaints, they often file charges as an intervention tactic to prevent domestic abuse, violent crimes or serious injury.
If you’ve been charged with verbal assault in Houston or Harris County, it’s important to protect your rights. In addition to fines and possible jail time, a conviction for assault will appear on your permanent record and could make it difficult for you to find a job, housing or education.
Frequently Asked Questions About Assault Charges in Houston
If I am convicted of assault in Harris County, how much jail time will I serve?
If you’ve been convicted of assault, the length of your sentence and how much time you serve is usually determined by a number of factors, such as the severity of the crime, prior convictions, and the quality of your legal representation, to name a few.
What will happen in my Houston assault case if it is a mistrial?
Prosecutors may retry you based on the same charges if they believe it is warranted. It isn’t “double jeopardy” – being tried twice for the same crime – since the first trial ended in a mistrial. A retrial, however, may be hindered by the time and cost associated with a second trial. This is especially the case if the mistrial was the result of a hung jury. Having an experienced assault attorney on your side can help avoid a second trial.
Should I accept a plea agreement for an assault charge in Houston?
While a plea bargain might seem like a convenient solution to your case at first, it isn’t always to your advantage.
Your lawyer is your best resource for advice. Beware of prosecutors bullying you into accepting a deal. Depending on the facts against you, your lawyer may advise you to reject any agreement and take your case to court in order to negotiate the best deal possible.
Get Help From an Experienced Houston Assault Attorney
Houston assault attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former county prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney. This unique background allows her to anticipate the tactics the DA will use to try and get a conviction. Depending on the evidence against you, there are many possible defense strategies in cases involving verbal threats or assault. Lisa’s representation could mean acquittal or reduced charges and fines.
Contact the law offices of Houston criminal defense attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss to schedule a free, initial consultation to discuss your case.