What is Deadly Conduct?
Texas is the only state that has a specific Deadly Conduct law. Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.05, a person commits this offense if the person uses weapons in a threatening, reckless or a dangerous manner. In Texas, specifically reckless use of a weapon is known as “deadly conduct” which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on circumstances.
Deadly Conduct occurs any time a person engages in any type of conduct that they should know or they know, will place someone else at risk of suffering bodily harm.
- For example: If you point a gun at someone else, you can be charged with deadly conduct even if you never fire a weapon or never intend to fire it. The fact that you intentionally pointed a gun and that you knew or should have known that pointing a gun poses a danger to someone else is enough to be charged with a misdemeanor offense of deadly conduct. Whether your gun is loaded or not is irrelevant, because what is important is knowingly pointing the weapon at others.
“Intent” Requirement for Deadly Conduct:
When it comes to deadly conduct, it is important that a person acted intentionally, but not necessarily with the intent to cause harm.
- For example: You are hunting and you accidentally fall, causing your rifle to fire as a result. This will not be enough to be charged with deadly conduct.
- For example: If you are hunting and then you decide to fire at a building you just came across, without checking if anyone else is inside the house, then you’ve committed an act of deadly conduct. It is important to note, that one may not have the intention of hurting someone, however, if they are indifferent to the safety of others in using of their weapon, then they would have engaged in deadly conduct.
Deadly Conduct with a Firearm
Deadly conduct can occur if one brandishes a weapon at someone else, however, it can also happen if one fires this weapon. Texas law provides that a person engages in deadly conduct if they fire at another person or if they fire a weapon at a home, vehicle, building or other structure without knowing or investigating whether the building is occupied. These buildings or vehicles do not need to be occupied at the time that they are fired upon, but merely that they are capable of housing or transporting people. These types of actions that actually involve firing of a weapon are more serious and they are usually charged as felonies.
Punishment for Deadly Conduct
This offense can be classified as either a Class A misdemeanor or a Third-Degree felony.
- Fines: Class A Misdemeanor offense in Texas has a potential fine of up to $4,000, while felonies can have fines of up to $10,000.
- Jail: Convictions for a misdemeanor offense can result in up to a year in a county jail, while for a felony offense in Texas, a maximum prison term of up to 10 years is possible and a minimum of two is required. Jail sentences can be imposed in addition to fines or they can be given as a separate punishment.
- Probation: Probation sentences usually last at least 12 months, but there is a possibility for an even longer probation sentence of 24 months, 36 months or even longer. The court will require a person on probation to comply with a wide range of probation conditions such as reporting to a probation officer, allowing the officer to search your home or vehicle upon demand, not possessing firearms and not committing more crimes. Violation of probation can result in additional penalties, such as increased fines or having to serve the remainder of the sentence in jail.
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