The definition of assault that most people are familiar with involves intentionally causing bodily harm to another individual. People expect that they might face assault charges if they get into a fight and hurt someone else. However, some people end up arrested for assault and facing charges over what may seem like far less serious circumstances.
People all too often assume that serious bodily injury, or at least direct physical contact, is necessary for the state to pursue a successful assault charge against them. However, even someone’s online activity could be sufficient to lead to simple assault charges under Texas law.
Credible threats may constitute assault
Those who quickly dismiss the idea that digital communications might lead to assault charges may be unfamiliar with the relatively expansive definition of assault enshrined in Texas law. The statutes on assaultive offenses in Texas include other definitions beyond violent physical contact. Physical contact intended to offend the other party and words or actions intended to put someone in fear for their safety also constitute assault. Therefore, threatening words can potentially lead to someone’s arrest if the other party truly believed they were at risk.
Things that people share on social media or even the messages that they send via text might potentially constitute assault if they cause the recipient to experience incredible fear for their own immediate safety. Messages threatening bodily violence against an individual or members of their family could potentially warrant prosecution depending on the contents of said messages and the reaction of the recipient.
Accusations of simple assault can lead to major penalties if someone pleads guilty. Although they may only need to pay a fine in some cases, the criminal record that results will impact their life in many ways. It is possible to defend against such claims. People may develop the claim that a reasonable person would not have found that specific online threat credible to defend against the charges, for example.
Understanding which actions technically violate Texas law can help people avoid mistakes that could lead to prosecution and/or appropriate response to pending charges with the assistance of a legal professional.