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Accused of Injury to a Disabled Individual? Harris County Criminal Attorneys Can Defend You

Injury to a Disabled Individual

Assault is usually charged as a misdemeanor, however when the victim is disabled, the offender can be charged with a felony offense. The culpable mental state of the offender and the severity of the victim’s injury affect the degree of the felony charged and the possible resulting punishment.
Punishment for causing injury to a disabled person is more serious because a disabled person is generally less able or even unable to defend themselves because of physical or mental impairment. Because of this, offenders often face maximum sentences sought by aggressive prosecutors.
Considering the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence, it is important to understand the law and your defense options in order to have the best opportunity for a successful defense in court. Furthermore, Texas law provides several affirmative defenses against this type of charge.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Injury to a Disabled Individual in Houston, Texas
If you were arrested for injuring a disabled person in southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced criminal trial lawyer. James G. Sullivan and Associates defend clients accused of violent crimes in Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Waller County, Brazoria County, and Galveston County.
Since 1994, James Sullivan has successfully fought the government in jury trials in criminal district courts. Sullivan graduated from Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, the most selective and prestigious trial advocacy program in America. Sullivan has a proven record of defending people from all walks of life, faiths and countries in courts throughout southeast Texas.
Houston criminal defense attorney James Sullivan will fight for you in court with the goal to get your case dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor. Call (281) 546-6428 for a free confidential consultation and case evaluation.
Texas Injury to a Disabled Individual Law
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a), a person commits the offense of injury to a disabled individual when he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by his action (or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission) causes serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual.
Also, according to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a-1), a person commits the offense of injury to a disabled individual if he is an owner, operator, or employee of a group home, nursing facility, assisted living facility, intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation, or other institutional care facility and he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence by omission  causes serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(b), an omission that causes serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual is an offense under this section if the actor has a legal or statutory duty to act; or the actor has assumed care, custody, or control of a disabled individual.
Definitions applicable to Injury to a Disabled Individual Statute
Disabled individual, according to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(c)(3)(A), means a person with one or more of the following:
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder, as defined by Texas Insurance Code § 1355.001, means a neurobiological disorder that includes autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder;
  • Developmental Disability, as defined by Texas Human Resources Code § 112.042, means a severe, chronic disability that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or to a combination of a mental and physical impairment; is manifested before a person reaches the age of 22; is likely to continue indefinitely; results in substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities, including: self-care; receptive and expressive language; learning; mobility; self-direction; capacity for independent living; and economic sufficiency; and reflects the person’s needs for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment, or other lifelong or extended services that are individually planned and coordinated;
  • Intellectual Disability, as defined by Texas Health and Safety Code § 591.003, means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning that is concurrent with deficits in adaptive behavior and originates during the developmental period;
  • Severe Emotional Disturbance, as defined by Texas Family Code § 261.001, means a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to result in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits a person’s role or ability to function in family, school, or community activities; or
  • Traumatic Brain Injury, as defined by Texas Health and Safety Code § 92.001, means an acquired injury to the brain, including brain injuries caused by anoxia due to near drowning.  The term does not include brain dysfunction caused by congenital or degenerative disorders or birth trauma; or
  • A person who otherwise by reason of age or physical or mental disease, defect, or injury is substantially unable to protect the person’s self from harm or to provide food, shelter, or medical care for the person’s self.
Bodily Injury, as defined by Texas Penal Code § 1.07(8), means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
Serious Bodily Injury, as defined by Texas Penal Code § 1.07(46), means 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.
Punishment for Injury to a Disabled Individual in Harris County
When a person “intentionally or knowingly” causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a first degree felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 99 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. When a person “recklessly” causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a second degree felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
When a person “intentionally or knowingly” causes bodily injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a third degree felony. If convictedthis charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Except, it is a second degree felony when the conduct is committed intentionally or knowingly and the victim was a disabled individual residing in a state supported living center, as defined by Texas Health and Safety Code § 555.001, or in a facility licensed under Chapter 252 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and the alleged offender is an employee of the center or facility whose employment involved providing direct care for the alleged victim. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
When a person “recklessly” causes bodily injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a state jail felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
When a person causes serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, or bodily injury to a disabled individual as the result of “criminal negligence”, it is also considered a state jail felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 2 years in jail and / or a fine not to exceed $10,000
Definitions of Culpable Mental States
The culpable mental state of an offender significantly affects the level of the criminal charge in this type of case.  These mental states are defined and listed, according to Texas Penal Code § 6.03, as follows:
  1. A person acts “intentionally”, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.
  2. 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 a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.
  3. A person acts “recklessly”, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or 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.
  4. A person acts with “criminal negligence”, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of 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 the failure to perceive it 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.
Affirmative Defenses to a Houston Injury to a Disabled Individual Charge
What is an affirmative defense? According to Texas Penal Code § 2.04, it is a defense in which the defendant introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal liability, even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts.
Texas law provides several affirmative defenses against the criminal charge of injury to a disabled individual.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(i), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution of a person who assumed care, custody, or control of a disabled individual that before the person’s conduct or omission caused serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual that the offender:
  1. notified in person the child, elderly individual, or disabled individual that he would no longer provide any of the care described by Texas Penal Code § 22.04(d); and
  2. notified in writing the parents or person other than himself acting in loco parentis to the disabled individual that he would no longer provide any of the care described by Texas Penal Code § 22.04(d); or
  3. notified in writing the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services that he would no longer provide any of the care set forth in Texas Penal Code § 22.04(d).
Furthermore, written notification under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(i)(2) or (i)(3) is not effective unless it contains the name and address of the actor, the name and address of the disabled individual, the type of care provided by the actor, and the date the care was discontinued.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(k), it is also a defense to prosecution under this section that the act or omission consisted of reasonable medical care occurring under the direction of or by a licensed physician; or emergency medical care administered in good faith and with reasonable care by a person not licensed in the healing arts.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(l), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section:
  • that the act or omission was based on treatment in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious method of healing with a generally accepted record of efficacy;
  • for a person charged with an act of omission causing serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual that:
  1. there is no evidence that, on the date prior to the offense charged, the defendant was aware of an incident of injury to a disabled individual and failed to report the incident; and
  2. the person:
    1. was a victim of family violence committed by a person who is also charged with an offense against the disabled individual;
    2. did not cause a serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury; and
    3. did not reasonably believe at the time of the omission that an effort to prevent the person also charged with an offense against the disabled individual from committing the offense would have an effect.
  • That:
    1. the offender was not more than three years older than the victim at the time of the offense; and
    2. the victim was a nondisabled or disabled child at the time of the offense.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(m), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a)(1), (2), and (3) for injury to a disabled individual that the offender did not know and could not reasonably have known that the victim was a disabled individual at the time of the offense.
James G. Sullivan and Associates | Houston Injury to a Disabled Individual Defense Attorney
If you are currently dealing with an assault charge that involves injury to a disabled person in southeast Texas, take the steps necessary to protect your freedom and contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys in Houston at the law offices of James G. Sullivan and Associates.
It is important to hire an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer because criminal charges for injury to a disabled individual do not have to result in a conviction and the resulting lifelong consequences. In order to convict you, the state prosecutor must prove to a jury that you committed every element of the felony offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  With an experienced trial lawyer defending you, this is a very difficult burden to meet, and any reasonable doubt in the mind of any of the members of the jury can result in a not guilty verdict or a hung jury. Therefore, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal trial attorney in Houston who will fight for you.
If you have been charged with the criminal offense of injury to a disabled individual in Harris county or any of the surrounding counties in Texas, contact James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free phone consultation at (281) 546-6428.  Attorney James (Jim) Sullivan is an experienced trial lawyer who will fight for your rights, freedom and future.