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Assault, Family Violence, Harassment

Crimes committed by one person against another are often classified as assaults under Texas law.  The punishment range for a particular crimes is related to the nature of the crime and the severity of damage caused by the accused. Texas law enhances punishments for crimes that involved a sexual act or was committed against a member of the accused's immediate family or household.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual crime, please know that the Attorney for Students office is a safe location and will maintain your confidentiality at all times.

For more information, you can visit the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

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  • FAQs

    • The term "assault" can be used to describe any situation in which you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injure or threaten to injure another person.  This is broad enough to include mere threats of violence if an ordinary person would have been frightened by the statement.

      EXAMPLE:  An athletic, well-built student goes to a bar to watch a baseball game and gets into an angry discussion with another patron about the game.  The other patron is much smaller and shorter than the student.  The student points his finger at the patron and angrily yells, "I'm going to punch you right now if you don't admit the Astros are a horrible team!"  An off-duty police officer overhears the student's threat and tickets the student for assault.

    • An assault crime can be enhanced (to aggravated assault, for example) if it is alleged that the victim suffered serious bodily injury or if a deadly weapon was used.

      EXAMPLE:  A student gets into an argument with a patron at a sports bar.  The student picks up their empty beer bottle and throws it at a guy screaming for the other team, causing a severe cut to the guy's forehead. An off-duty police officer witnesses the situation and arrests the student for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

    • Domestic violence is also known as family violence and is a term used to classify assault crimes that require enhanced punishments.  Any assault crime will be considered a domestic violence crime if it is alleged to have been committed against a member of your immediate family, a resident in your household, or someone with whom you are currently dating or used to date.

      EXAMPLE:  A student moves into their new apartment.  The next day they get into a shouting match with their new roommate over dirty dishes.  In a moment of anger, the student slaps the hand of the roommate.  A neighbor heard the yelling and called the police.  The police arrive and arrest the angry student for Assault Family Violence. This is because under the law, since the roommates live together, they are considered "family" by definition.

    • The term sexual assault includes a wide range of crimes against another person and can generally be thought of as any crime involving unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against another person. Under Texas law, all forcible sex crimes, including rape, are classified as sexual assault. Aggravated Sexual Assault is the worst offense. Sexual assault crimes carry a punishment range of 2 to 20 years. Offenses involving minors may also require the defendant to register as a sex offender in state and national databases.

    • Texas law defines rape as an Aggravated Sexual Assault and makes it illegal to intentionally or knowingly penetrate the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means without their consent. This also includes non-consensual oral sex. Aggravated Sexual Assault is a Second Degree Felony.

      Statutory rape is also a crime in Texas. It is illegal for anyone to intentionally or knowingly penetrate a person under the age of 17, unless that person is their spouse and consents. If the defendant is not more than three years older than the victim, who must be at least 14 years old, the defendant might not get in trouble. For example, if a victim is 14 and the defendant is 17, the defendant has an affirmative defense for their actions. But, if a victim is 13, and the defendant is 16, the defendant will definitely be in trouble.

    • Sexual contact between family members is illegal. The Texas law defining what constitutes a family member is broad and includes immediate family members like parents and siblings, stepparents and stepchildren, adopted children, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Crimes against one's own children is a first-degree felony. Crimes committed against another family member are second-degree felonies.

    • The term "harassment" is often used in popular culture to describe any situation in which someone is bothering or annoying another person. However, those situations rarely match the legal definition of harassment. Texas law prohibits someone from knowingly and repeatedly contacting another person with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass that person. Harassment is charged as a Class B misdemeanor for first offenses.

      If you feel that another person is harassing you or you have been accused of harassment, please contact the Attorney for Students office to schedule a free and confidential appointment to discuss the law and your options.

    • Any person who repeatedly and knowingly causes another person to fear for their physical safety, the physical safety of a family member or the safety of their personal possessions may be guilty of stalking which is a third-degree felony. If you are concerned for yourself or someone else, or if you have been accused of a crime, it is never to early to seek help from an attorney. If you are immediate danger, please contact the local police department now.

    • Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.

      If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual crime, or has been accused of committing a crime, please know that the Attorney for Students office is a safe location and we will maintain your confidentiality at all times.

      You can call a local shelter such as the Hays County Women's Shelter or Safe Place in Austin, the district or county attorney's office in the county where you live to get help seeking a protective/restraining order.

    • A protective order, restraining order, or stay-away order is an Order given by a court in the county where you live that makes it a crime for a specific person to contact you, come near you, or use a third person to try and contact you.

      A person who has been ordered to stay away can be arrested and jailed for violating the terms of the Order.

      You must apply for an Order in the county where you currently reside and prove that you have valid reasons to feel immediately threatened or frightened for your safety.

      The Hays Caldwell Women's Center provides services for all people, no matter their sex or gender. Please contact them or the police if you are in need of a protective order.