Deadly conduct in Texas is a very serious charge (and oftentimes, a difficult charge to overcome successfully). Deadly conduct occurs when someone “recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury”; or discharges a firearm at a person, vehicle, or building in a dangerous or reckless manner or a situation where one person recklessly places another person in danger. 

When it comes to firearms, in particular, things can get a little dicey.

An individual can be charged with deadly conduct in Texas even if they legally own the gun and even if they’re legally allowed to carry it in public. An individual can also be charged with deadly conduct if they believe they had the right to discharge the firearm. 

Because of this, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of deadly conduct. You may not plan on firing your weapon recklessly at someone or something; however, if you’re caught in a sticky situation and push comes to shove, you could still end up with a deadly conduct charge as a legal firearm owner/carrier (even if you weren’t the initiator).

Heck… you could wind up with a deadly conduct charge even if you don’t fire the weapon.

Let’s discuss deadly conduct examples and take a look at the penalties you could face with a deadly conduct charge in Texas.

What is considered deadly conduct in Texas?

According to the Texas penal code, deadly conduct occurs when:

  1. “A person commits an offense if he recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.
  2. A person commits an offense if he knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of:
    1. (1)  one or more individuals;  or
    2. (2)  a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied.
  3. Recklessness and danger are presumed if the actor knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of another whether or not the actor believed the firearm to be loaded.”

To break it down even further, here are some defining characteristics of deadly conduct:

  • Danger: Deadly conduct must involve an act that places someone at risk of serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury is an injury that could result in death or permanent disfigurement. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that an injury has occured.
  • Intent: If the injury occured as a result of an accident, then it can’t be considered deadly conduct. However, this isn’t the same thing as being careless or reckless. There must be some “intent” or a generalized understanding that the conduct is dangerous. In other words, you may not “intend” to hurt someone, but if you “intend” to use your weapon in a reckless manner, then it’s still considered deadly conduct.
  • Firearms: When it comes to deadly conduct and firearms, there are many nuances that are important to understand. For one, with deadly conduct, the firearm doesn’t have to be loaded — you simply have to point it in the direction of someone or something. 

And even if you think the building or vehicle is unoccupied, that’s not good enough. You must be able to prove that you investigated the occupancy and confirmed that the building or vehicle isn’t occupied (which can be a difficult thing to prove). 

Another thing to remember is that deadly conduct expands beyond office buildings, cars, and homes. It also includes boats, trains, dwellings, planes, and more. Anything that houses or transports people is considered fair game for a deadly conduct charge.

What are the deadly conduct penalties?

Depending on the individual circumstances, deadly conduct can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. Here’s what you can expect to face if charged with deadly conduct:

Class A Misdemeanor

  • Jail Time: up to one year in jail
  • Fine: up to $4,000
  • Probation: 12 months or longer

3rd-degree Felony

  • Jail Time: up to 10 years in jail (2-year minimum)
  • Fine: up to $10,000
  • Probation: 12 months or longer

Deadly Conduct vs. Aggravated Assault: People often confuse deadly conduct with aggravated assault. In Texas, aggravated assault is considered a second- or first-degree felony. Aggravated assault happens when serious bodily injury occurs and the victim is a family member or public servant. It can also be part of a retaliation or drive-by shooting. If you’ve been charged with aggravated assault, check out the following resources: 

How to beat a deadly conduct charge

If you’re facing a deadly conduct charge, the first step you should take is to seek out a qualified and experienced Texas assault defense attorney. A deadly conduct charge is serious and can result in a hefty fine and up to a decade in jail. This is why it is extremely important to invest in a lawyer who can strategically defend you.

Mark Thiessen of Thiessen Law Firm is a top criminal defense attorney and a 9-time Texas Superlawyer. He is triple-board certified in Criminal Law, DUI Defense, and DUI Law and more than capable of helping you overcome a deadly conduct charge.

If you’ve been charged with deadly conduct or facing other serious charges such as aggravated assault or domestic assault, send us a message today

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Thiessen Law Firm

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.