When Does a Family Assault Become Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal


(972) 369-0577

Most family assault cases come to us with similar facts.  A heated family argument happens, someone calls 911, and the police come out.  After interviewing the often angry, emotional, and sometimes intoxicated people – the police make their best guess as to who is at fault and charges are brought.

Many are shocked to see the charges or the arrest may be for “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

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So what makes it aggravated assault with a deadly weapon?  Usually there is an accusation someone “used or exhibited” a “deadly weapon” in domestic or family assaults which takes them from being misdemeanor assaults to 2nd degree felony charges (Carrying 2 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000).

Using or exhibiting has a broad definition legally as does deadly weapon.  A deadly weapon is defined as:

  1. a firearm; or
  2. anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or
  3. anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

Even if there was no contact between spouses, if one spouse accuses another of brandishing an object which could cause serious bodily injury or death – then a person can ultimately be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

I’ve seen all types of objects alleged to be deadly weapons.  Some are obvious and some leave you scratching your head.  Ash trays, candles, and even hands can be alleged to be deadly weapons.

The allegation can be heart-stopping – but here’s some good news:  The prosecution often sets themselves up for failure by over-charging these cases.  Imagine having jury duty, seeing someone charged with something as heinous sounding as “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”  Then you hear they got into an argument with their spouse and the show-stopping accusation is the accused picked up some object while arguing with their spouse and perhaps made some furtive motion which could be interpreted as a threat.  You’d think the accusation is ridiculous too.

There are variations on these facts we see — but there is almost never a good reason to capitulate to charges like these.  The charges can be attacked at the grand jury phase of the case, when it gets to the initial prosecution team — and if necessary at trial.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He was recognized as a Super Lawyer in 2019 by Thomson Reuters.

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