By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
What is “Deadly Conduct”?
Deadly conduct can be charged when either (1) a person ‘recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury’; or (2) discharges a firearm in the ‘direction of’ people, a habitation, or a car.
Placing another in imminent danger is a Class A Misdemeanor and discharging a firearm is a 3rd Degree Felony.
The controlling penal code section is Texas Penal Code Chapter 22.05.
Problems with this Statute
The legislature clearly wants this statute to cover situations such as drive-by shootings or any other type of improper gun-play which could have — but did not result in someone’s death.
Unfortunately the legal definition of the misdemeanor version of ‘Deadly Conduct’ is extremely subjective. As with all vague criminal laws — it can be subject to being stretched and abused.
Consider a situation where a person is speeding excessively and well over the speed limit. The law specifically does not allow an officer to make an arrest for speeding alone. An angry officer could, however, try to justify an arrest by claiming it was ‘deadly conduct’ because he or she could argue the excessive speed places another in “imminent danger” of serious bodily injury.” The same could be true of running a red light, helping someone bungee jump for the first time, or throwing a fastball to a batter high and inside… though some of the examples are a bit silly, I include them because as absurd as they are — we could actually have a debate as to whether or not those examples could actually fit the statute.
Obviously we could toy with other factual scenarios as well and police can argue many fit the very soft definition of “Deadly Conduct” especially where the police are mad and can find no other penal code infraction to make an arrest.
What Your Lawyer Should be Able to Do
Your attorney should be able to ‘read in between the lines’ in cases like these and see that perhaps an arrest under this law is pre-text for something else. I often meet with clients and their families who feel singled out and mis-treated with arrests such as these. These cases require aggressive work-up and aggressive representation.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on this, or any other situation you should visit with a lawyer independently. This forum is public.