Honorable John Whitmire, Chair, Senate Committee on Criminal Justice
John S. O'Brien, Director, Legislative Budget Board
HB176 by King, Susan (Relating to the punishment for the offense of aggravated assault.), As Engrossed
The bill would amend the Penal Code to allow aggravated assault to be punishable as a felony of the first degree if the defendant is in a motor vehicle and knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of a habitation, building, or vehicle, is done in a reckless manner and causes serious bodily injury to a person. Currently, the offense of aggravated assault is punishable as a felony of the second degree unless the victim-offender relationship is family, household, or dating, or unless the offense is against or by a public servant while performing their duty, against a witness or informant, or against a security officer while performing their duty.
A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment in the institutional division for any term of not more than 20 years or less than 2 years, or, in addition to confinement, a fine not to exceed $10,000.
A first degree felony is punishable by imprisonment in the institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years, or in addition to imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $10,000.
In fiscal year 2008 there were 1,532 offenders placed on community supervision for second-degree felony aggravated assault and 2,343 offenders admitted to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for second-degree felony aggravated assault. Increasing the penalty for any criminal offense is expected to result in increased demands upon the correctional resources of counties or of the State due to longer terms of probation, or longer terms of confinement in prison. An examination of fiscal year 2008 aggravated assault TDCJ admissions indicated the average sentence length for second-degree felony admissions was 5.6 years and 14.8 years for first-degree felony admissions. Also according to TDCJ fiscal year 2008 data, offenders released from prison for first-degree felony aggravated assault served approximately 83.2 percent of their sentence, while second-degree felony aggravated assault releases served approximately 88.7 percent of their sentence.
Assuming the same number of offenders in future years, the additional impact to criminal justice populations from the bill would vary greatly depending on the number of times a defendant knowingly discharges a firearm from a motor vehicle at or in the direction of a habitation, building, or vehicle, is done in a reckless manner and causes serious bodily injury to a person. A check of Texas Department of Criminal Justice records, Department of Public Safety records, Office of Court Administration records, and Jail Standards Commission records did not reveal any information that would help in an accurate assumption regarding aggravated assault and the occurrence of a defendant knowingly discharging a firearm at or in the direction of a habitation, building, or vehicle, is done in a reckless manner and causes serious bodily injury to a person.
JOB, GG, TMP, LM