In Texas, deadly conduct is a legal concept that describes using weapons in a reckless, threatening, or dangerous manner. While someone can be charged with deadly conduct after using almost any kind of weapon in such a way, this law is best known to apply to the unlawful or negligent discharge of firearms.
Whereas other states might have more specific laws related to using firearms in an unlawful or negligent manner (such as unlawful discharge or brandishing), Texas takes a more generalized approach. Under Texas law, deadly conduct can be charged as either a third-degree felony or Class A misdemeanor, which makes it one of the more serious criminal charges in the state.
Types of Deadly Conduct
Danger of Harm & Intent
There is a distinct danger of harm any time a weapon is pointed at someone else or even if one is discharged without regard for where the bullet will travel. When someone is aware that they are doing something with a firearm (or any other weapon) that can result in someone else’s bodily injury or death, they can be arrested and charged with deadly conduct.
Intent also matters, but not in the way you might think. The intent necessary to be convicted of deadly conduct is merely the intent to perform the act that would be considered deadly conduct with or without the intent of actually causing harm. In other words, if you simply brandish a weapon to intimidate someone else, your intend to intimidate them is what matters – not whether or not you ever actually intended hurt to them with the weapon.
Serious Bodily Injury
Deadly conduct requires that there is the risk that someone could suffer serious bodily injury as a result of another’s actions. “Serious bodily injury” means that there is a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or a protracted loss or impairment of the function of a part of someone’s body (such as a limb or organ).
Whether or not serious bodily injury actually occurred may also be irrelevant in a deadly conduct charge, but any actual injuries or deaths could elevate other charges. The only requirement for a deadly conduct charge is that someone’s actions could have resulted in such serious harm.
What are the Penalties for Deadly Conduct?
Depending upon the severity of an incident or someone’s criminal history, deadly conduct can be charged as either a Class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony. This means a conviction is likely to result in incarceration, fines, and/or probation.
Jail or Prison
A deadly conduct conviction can result in up to a year in jail when charged as a Class A misdemeanor. More serious incidents can result in third-degree felony convictions that require a minimum of two years in prison with the possibility of up to 10 years. This means that those convicted of deadly conduct charged as a felony must serve at least two years in prison.
In addition to jail or prison time, a deadly conduct conviction can result in fines beginning at $4,000 and amounting to as much as $10,000 depending upon the severity of the crime. It is possible, however, for a fine to be imposed on its own without incarceration.
Deadly conduct can also be punished with at least 12 months of probation. Under probation, the probationer must comply with stringent rules and conditions imposed by the court. They must also report to a probation officer and permit this authority to search their home or vehicle on-demand. Additionally, the probationer will probably be prohibited from possessing firearms. A violation of one’s probation, which can include breaching its terms or committing more crimes, can result in jail or prison time.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you were charged with deadly conduct in Texas or another such crime, it’s important to have legal counsel who can guide you through your options and help you protect your rights. At Rodriguez & Gimbert, P.L.L.C., we help clients who have been charged with crimes defend themselves against accusations and ensure they are fairly treated by the justice system.