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How Your Car Can Be Considered A “Deadly Weapon” Under Texas Criminal Law

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How Your Car Can Be Considered A “Deadly Weapon” Under Texas Criminal Law


Criminal assault covers a much broader range of conduct than most people realize. Sure, if you walk up to someone and punch them in the face, that is clearly assault. But assault does not require that you make physical contact with the victim. Instead, Texas law defines the crime as including “intentionally or knowingly” threatening someone with “imminent bodily harm.”

Along similar lines, the more serious charge of “aggravated assault” does not necessarily mean you actually harmed someone. Rather, it can be an assault where the defendant “exhibits a deadly weapon.” So let’s say you point a gun at someone and threaten to shoot them. That is aggravated assault even if you never pull the trigger.

Austin Court Upholds 20-Year Sentence After Panicked Driver Tries to Flee Police Officer

It is also important to note that a “deadly weapon” is not limited to those items we typically associate with assault, such as a firearm or knife. It can basically be any object that, when used in a certain manner, can lead to serious bodily injury or death.

A recent decision from the Texas Third District Court of Appeals, Nunnally v. State, provides a cautionary tale on this point. In this case, a defendant received a 20-year prison sentence after committing an aggravated assault against a public servant–a first-degree felony in Texas–using his car.

Here is what happened. A sheriff’s deputy on patrol early one morning spotted a car parked at an intersection. The deputy stopped to investigate this traffic violation, which she suspected might be the result of the driver’s intoxication. In fact, when the deputy approached the driver–the defendant–she smelled marijuana and alcohol.

The deputy woke the defendant, who was passed out behind the wheel. The deputy later testified the defendant appeared panicked and was possibly planning to flee. Indeed, the defendant put his key in the ignition and started his car. The deputy then tried to take the keys out. The defendant then put his foot on the gas. As the car started to move, the deputy said she “actively fought for control of the steering wheel,” because she did not want to be ejected from the moving vehicle. The defendant then tried to kick the deputy out, at which point she tasered him.

The defendant later pleaded guilty to committing aggravated assault using a deadly weapon. As noted above, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 20 years in prison. The defendant appealed his sentence, arguing it was unconstitutionally excessive, but the Third District upheld the trial court’s decision. The appellate court noted the statutory range of punishment for a first-degree felony was between 5 and 99 years. Given the defendant’s crime and his prior record–most of which involved drug offenses–the appellate court said a 20-year sentence was not unreasonable.

Speak with Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today

It is understandable to panic when a police officer stops you. But trying to flee is never the answer, especially since your actions could lead to a situation like the one described above. Your best option is always to remain silent, respect the officer’s authority, and if you are placed under arrest, to speak with a qualified Pearland DWI/DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need advice or representation in connection with any criminal law matter.


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