Texas classifies most cases of simple assault involving bodily injury to another person as Class A misdemeanors. However, when the victim is a vulnerable person, i.e., a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person, this classification is raised to a felony. It does not matter if the alleged offender had an intent to injure the vulnerable person or not.
While there are affirmative defenses to this crime, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced San Antonio criminal law attorney before relying on any of these defenses to mitigate or prevent a conviction.
What is the Crime of Injury to a Child, Elderly, or Disabled Individual?
When a person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence by act or by omission causes bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, then that person has allegedly committed the crime of Injury to a Child, Elderly, or Disabled Individual according to Texas Penal Code § 22.04.
Who Qualifies as a Child, Elderly, or Disabled Individual?
To be charged with this crime, the victim of the crime must be a child, elderly, or disabled individual. By definition, this is one of the following:
- A child, a person who is 14 years of age or younger
- An elderly individual, a person who is 65 years of age or older
- A disabled individual, a person either who is substantially unable to protect him or herself from harm or to provide food, shelter, or medical care for him or herself, or who has:
- autism spectrum disorder
- developmental disability
- intellectual disability
- severe emotional disturbance or
- traumatic brain injury
What are Bodily Injury and Serious Bodily Injury?
Texas defines bodily injury as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. While serious bodily injury is bodily injury that 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.
Bodily injury need only cause harm. Serious bodily injury may be life-threatening.
Mental State Required
Intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly are culpable mental states necessary to prove a charge of Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual in the absence of criminal negligence.
- A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result;
- A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist.
- A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to or as a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result; and
- A person acts recklessly or is reckless with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or as the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
Proving Criminal Negligence
In cases where intentional, knowing, or reckless states of mind are not present, criminal negligence must be proven. This requires proving:
- A substantial; and
- Unjustifiable risk existed; or
- At least that it could occur; and
- The person should have been aware of that risk.
Criminal Acts by Omission
This offense is rare in that it includes failure to act causing an injury as a crime if the alleged offender has:
- A legal duty to act;
- A statutory duty to act; or
- Assumed care, custody, or control of a child, elderly, or disabled individual.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today
There are affirmative defenses, statutory defenses, and general defenses to the crime of Injury to a Child, Elderly, or Disabled Individual. If you are facing charges for this crime and would like to learn more about the elements of the crime or if you qualify for any of the standard defenses, call the experienced attorneys at Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, today.
At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, we will start work on your case right away. It is crucial you learn your legal rights and receive the best advice possible moving forward.