Deadly Conduct is an offense that is frequently charged in the Houston area. As the name implies, Deadly Conduct is charged with a person engaging in conduct that could be fatal or lead to serious physical injury. Depending on the conduct that is alleged, Deadly Conduct is either a felony or misdemeanor. If you are charged with Deadly Conduct, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and the ways to protect your freedom and criminal history against a Deadly Conduct accusation.
In Texas, there are two ways that Deadly Conduct can be committed. The first is very broad and can cover a wide range of conduct. Under Texas Penal Code 22.05(a) a person commits Deadly Conduct if he recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. As you can probably imagine, there are countless ways that this can be done.
In Texas, many appellate cases dealing with conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury involve extremely dangerous driving of automobiles, brandishing knives in ways that could lead to injury, or even engaging in very risky behavior with gasoline. In Houston, cases have been filed under this subsection for pointing scissors in a reckless or dangerous manner or cleaning a firearm without first making sure it was not loaded. It is not necessary that the person placed in danger be aware of the danger or feel fear of imminent harm. Deadly Conduct under subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $4000 fine.
Under Texas Penal Code 22.05(b), the other way Deadly Conduct can be alleged is by knowingly discharging a firearm at or in the direction of one or more individuals, or a habitation, building or vehicle, while being reckless about whether it is occupied. This subsection is much more specific since it is limited to firearms and requires that the firearm is actually discharged (you could be charged under the first subsection for recklessly pointing a loaded firearm at someone, or even cleaning a firearm in an unsafe way as in the example above). Recklessness and danger are presumed if the defendant knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of another whether or not the actor believed the firearm to be loaded. Deadly conduct under subsection (b) is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
How to Get a Deadly Conduct Charge Dismissed
In order to defend a Deadly Conduct charge and maximize your chances of dismissal, your attorney should obtain all of the evidence in the case and conduct his own investigation, including speaking to witnesses to the alleged incident. A criminal defense attorney should aggressively challenge whether the elements of the statute are present no matter how it is charged. Under either subsection, for example, witnesses can potentially help dispute that the alleged behavior was “reckless,” which is an element of each subsection.
If it appears that the allegation against you can be proved, it is often possible to negotiate a deal that might result in the dismissal of your case. Most prosecutors understand that a Deadly Conduct charge mainly deals with reckless behavior. If the behavior was directed at threatening or hurting a specific individual, a defendant would likely be charged with another more serious offense, such as Aggravated Assault. Depending on the facts and severity of the behavior alleged and your criminal history, in the Houston area, some prosecutors are willing to dismiss a Deadly Conduct case if a weapons safety or decision-making course is completed, although it is critical that you have a criminal defense attorney who can advocate for such a result. A pre-trial intervention, which is a contract with the prosecutor that your Deadly Conduct case will be dismissed if certain conditions are met, is also something that your criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate.
The goal of your Deadly Conduct case should be either an acquittal (“not guilty”) at trial or dismissal. If your Deadly Conduct case is dismissed, you will be eligible to have your records expunged, which is generally considered to be the best possible result in a Deadly Conduct case. Once your case is expunged, records of the Deadly Conduct arrest are literally destroyed, and you can even deny the existence of the arrest. But because you are only eligible for an expunction if you are acquitted, or if your case is dismissed (and you should note that not all dismissals are eligible), it is critical that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you are charged with Deadly Conduct anywhere in the Greater Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja is an excellent choice and would be glad to offer a free consultation. Contact our office today.