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What Is the Difference Between Battery and Assault for Juveniles in Texas?

Has your child been accused of assault or battery in Texas? Being accused of or charged with a crime can be upsetting and overwhelming for anyone, and this is especially true for children.

As a parent, you may be feeling uncertain about what to expect and anxious for your child’s future. Penalties for juvenile offenders are nowhere near as harsh as those for adults, but your child could still face significant consequences.

The experienced Collin County juvenile defense attorneys of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian are here to ease your concerns and protect your child’s rights. To learn more about what to expect in a juvenile assault case in Texas, continue reading or contact us for a free case review.

Who Is Considered a Child in Texas?

The Texas Family Code defines a “child” as any individual who is:

  • At least ten years old but under the age of 17
  • 17 years old but not yet 18 and who is found to have engaged in conduct that indicates a need for supervision before turning 17

Under this definition, juvenile courts in Texas lose the authority to handle cases against children when they turn 18. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) may not prosecute children under the age of ten, but the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) offers services to at-risk children as young as seven years old.

Courts are typically prohibited from prosecuting children as adults when they commit offenses before they turn 17. However, juvenile courts can transfer juvenile offenders to the adult court system if they commit certain serious offenses.

When Is a Child Considered a Juvenile Offender?

juvenile defenderA child may be considered a juvenile offender in Texas if they engage in certain types of juvenile misconduct. There are two types of juvenile misconduct that may lead to the involvement of the juvenile justice system:

  • Status offenses – A status offense is an offense involving behavior that would not be considered criminal for an adult. Common examples include skipping school, running away from home, and obtaining alcohol or tobacco.
  • Delinquent conduct – Delinquent conduct occurs when a juvenile commits violations, other than traffic violations, that could result in criminal penalties. This includes any behaviors that violate Texas law and are punishable by jail or prison sentences, including Class B misdemeanors. Delinquent conduct could also occur if a child violated a court order or operated a vehicle under the influence.

Assault Charges vs. Battery Charges for Juveniles

Many states prosecute “assault” and “battery” as related but separate offenses. Assault is usually seen as the threat of imminent harm, while battery is harmful or offensive physical contact. However, Texas Penal Code § 22.01 combines these two offenses into a single crime, which is simply called “assault.”

A person commits an assault in Texas if they:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injure another person
  • Intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent harm
  • Intentionally or knowingly coming into physical contact with another person, despite knowing the other person will likely find the contact offensive or provocative

There is no separate definition for assault with respect to juveniles in the Lone Star State. Instead, a child may face juvenile assault charges if they engage in conduct that is considered assault and that rises to the level of an offense that is punishable by incarceration for adults.

The only time an assault would be considered a low-level offense that is not punishable by jail time is when the offense would be prosecuted as a Class C misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor assault occurs when someone threatens another person with physical harm or comes into physical contact with them in a “provocative or offensive” way, with no other aggravating factors present.

Penalties for Juvenile Assault or Battery in Texas

community service sentencing for juvenileThere is no such thing as a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict in Texas juvenile courts. Instead, the finding for children who are guilty of delinquent conduct is “needs rehabilitation.”

Possible penalties for delinquent conduct in Texas include:

  • Probation
  • Detainment with the Texas Youth Commission
  • Suspension of driver’s licenses
  • Restitution (fines)
  • Community service

If a juvenile offender is subject to determinate sentencing or transferred to an adult criminal court, they can face more serious and lasting consequences, such as:

  • Criminal records
  • Home confinement
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Ineligibility for certain educational programs
  • Ineligibility for certain types of jobs
  • Required counseling or substance abuse treatment

Contact a Juvenile Defense Lawyer in Texas

Keep in mind that no penalty is a foregone conclusion in a Texas juvenile case. If your child is facing juvenile assault charges, the skilled Collin County juvenile defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian can protect their rights and introduce a compelling defense on their behalf, such as self-defense or lack of criminal intent. To learn more about your options for having juvenile charges reduced or dismissed, call us today at (972) 369-0577 or contact us online for a free initial consultation session.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : September 22, 2022