What Is Considered A “Serious Bodily Injury” In An Assault Case?
The evidence in a criminal case often makes a crucial difference in how a defendant is charged. For example, the Texas Penal Code defines “aggravated assault” as a second-degree felony. An aggravated assault requires proof that the defendant either caused “serious bodily injury” to another person or used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of an assault. However, if the aggravated assault involved the use of a deadly weapon and caused serious bodily injury to a family member, then it becomes a first-degree felony.
Houston Appeals Court: A Gunshot Wound Is Not Always a “Serious” Injury
Not all assault-related injuries are considered “serious bodily injuries” under Texas law. An injury is considered “serious” only when it “creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
A recent decision from the Texas Fourteenth District Court of Appeals, Garcia v. State, illustrates how not all injuries–even if they are considered serious to the victim–qualify as “serious bodily injury” under this definition. In this case, a jury convicted the defendant of first-degree felony assault on a family member resulting in serious bodily injury. The appellate court held the prosecution failed to prove the “serious bodily injury” part and instead found the defendant guilty of the lesser offense of second-degree aggravated assault.
The basic facts of this case were fairly straightforward. The defendant was dating a 19-year-old woman. She testified that the defendant repeatedly threatened to kill her if she caught him cheating. One day, the defendant returned home and found the girlfriend smoking marijuana with another man. The defendant retrieved a gun from his bathroom and proceeded to fire at the other man, who got away. The defendant then trapped the girlfriend in the kitchen and shot her twice through her right breast.
Although these facts might seem to suggest the state could easily prove the victim suffered a “serious bodily injury,” the appellate court disagreed. As the court explained, there was “no evidence that [the bullets] hit any vital organs or caused any serious or lasting impairment or disfigurement.” Indeed, the victim was able to walk out of the apartment and drive away in her car. She required medical attention, of course, but the evidence introduced at trial did not explicitly state whether the injuries sustained met the legal threshold for “serious bodily injury.”
Ultimately, the court said, while a gunshot wound was “undoubtedly a traumatic experience” for the victim and caused her “bodily injury,” a gunshot wound was not a “per se serious bodily injury.” As such, the 14th District said the evidence could only sustain the defendant’s conviction on second-degree aggravated assault, which only required proof that he caused bodily injury using a deadly weapon.
Contact Pearland Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
If you are on trial for a serious felony, any gaps in the prosecution’s evidence can make a significant difference in how you are charged. That is why it is crucial to work with an experienced Pearland assault and battery lawyer who will represent your interests. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.