The news that University of Texas men’s head basketball coach Chris Beard was arrested and charged with domestic assault is serious enough. But compounding the seriousness is the fact that Beard faces a 3rd-degree felony charge of assault on a family/household member impeding breath circulation, according to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.
Beard was arrested by Austin Police after they responded to a disturbance call early on the morning of Monday, December 12. The arrest was at a home in West Austin that he shares with his fiancée, the alleged victim. Beard was released later that day after posting a $10,000 bond.
The university has suspended Beard without pay indefinitely while investigations continue. Assistant Longhorns coach Rodney Terry served as interim head coach for a game Monday night against a Rice Owls team, which had traveled from Houston.
Violent attack is claimed
Police said Beard was accused by his fiancée of a violent attack during an argument. According to her statement in an affidavit in the case, Beard “choked me, threw me off the bed, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around, and going nuts.”
The newspaper reported that the woman told police Beard had put an arm around her neck while he was behind her and had choked her for 5 seconds, impeding her breathing.
Beard and his fiancée reportedly have been engaged for 3 years. Beard was previously married and had 3 daughters with a woman from The Woodlands.
Were you unfairly accused of assault? Learn the possible defenses an attorney can use to get the charges against you reduced or dropped.
Strangulation makes a crime worse
Simple domestic assault against a family member or a household member is typically a lesser crime, categorized as a Class A misdemeanor. But due to a change in Texas domestic assault laws in 2009, choking, blocking a victim’s breathing or strangulation can make the crime worse, elevating a domestic assault charge to a 3rd-degree felony.
Conviction of that crime can bring a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000. A person who has a prior conviction for family violence can have the strangulation charge elevated to a 2nd-degree felony, with a possible punishment of 2 to 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of as much as $10,000.
Proving strangulation can be difficult
A claim of attempted suffocation, strangulation, choking or otherwise impeding a victim’s breathing can be difficult to prove in court.
Indicators of such an attempt include:
- Abrasions or marks under the victim’s chin,
- Red spots on the face or neck caused by bursting blood vessels during the attack,
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking, and
- A raspy voice as a result of a broken trachea or narrowing of the air tubes.
Without such physical evidence, a claim of strangulation may be a case of so-called “he said, she said,” with both sides refuting the other.
Also, keep in mind that if a victim panicked in a manner that caused them to hyperventilate, that does not constitute domestic assault by choking.
Self-defense is a defense against an assault charge
A criminal defense attorney or domestic assault lawyer for a person charged with such a crime may argue that the defendant was acting in self-defense. However, it must be shown that any actions taken by the defendant in self-defense were proportionate to the initial attack by the alleged victim.
In other words, if the alleged victim was a woman who initially slapped a man, and he responded by breaking her jaw, that would not be proportionate to her initial attack and would not be considered self-defense.
In addition, for self-defense to prevail as a legal defense against a charge of domestic assault, it must be proven that the defendant had no reasonable chance to escape or retreat from the initial attack or threat of attack.
While self-defense is the most common defense against an assault charge, it can also be argued that an injury was suffered due to an accident in the heat of the moment, rather than an attack. Such an unintentional injury would not constitute an assault.
Also, prosecutors in such a case must be able to prove that a defendant acted in a reckless manner and with the intent to cause an injury.
Were you accused of assault even though you were only acting in self-defense? Learn what Texas law says about self-defense so you can understand your rights.
Four types of domestic assault or family violence
Under Texas law, there are 4 types of family violence or domestic assault. They include:
- Domestic assault impeding breath
- Domestic assault
- Aggravated domestic assault
- Continuous violence against the family
Such assaults must be against:
- A family member (by marriage, blood or adoption),
- A household member (such as a roommate), or
- A person who is a current or former dating partner of the alleged offender.
Even as a Class A misdemeanor, a domestic assault causing pain—or even the threat of pain—can bring punishments of up to 1 year in a Texas county jail and a fine of as much as $4,000.
The crime of aggravated domestic assault involves the use of a weapon as well as more serious injuries. It also can involve using a weapon in a threatening manner that causes the victim to fear suffering a serious bodily injury. Aggravated domestic assault is a 1st-degree felony with possible punishments of 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Find out how different crimes are classified in Texas and how that classification affects potential punishments.
Continuous violence against the family is the charge when a person has committed 2 domestic assaults within 12 months against someone with whom they have a domestic relationship. The assaults can be against different family members and in different places.
Both assaults must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the charge to be continuous violence against the family. That crime is a 3rd-degree felony. Punishments for continuous violence against the family can include a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of as much as $10,000.
Get an experienced domestic assault defense lawyer
If you face one of these charges, you must get an experienced criminal defense attorney or domestic assault defense lawyer to protect your legal rights.
Persons living in the Houston area can contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today to arrange a private consultation for their case.
Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was arrested in New York City Monday morning, September 11, 2023, on charges of assault and strangulation of his girlfriend, who was taken to a hospital.