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Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual

While simple assault generally results in misdemeanor charges, an alleged offender can be arrested for a felony offense if the alleged victim was a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual. The severity of the alleged victim's injury and the alleged offender's culpable mental state can have a dramatic impact on the nature of the criminal charges in these cases.

Because children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals are treated as being less able to defend themselves, prosecutors often aggressively seek maximum sentences for the alleged offenders. State law, however, does provide a number of affirmative defenses against these types of charges.

Attorney for Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual in Houston, TX

If you were arrested in southeast Texas for allegedly injuring a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, it is in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent until you have legal representation. Horak Law defends clients accused of crimes of violence in Harris County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, Waller County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Galveston County.

Houston criminal defense Matt Horak will fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to take advantage of a free initial consultation.


Harris County Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual Information Center


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Texas Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual Charges

Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a) establishes that a person commits the offense of injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual when he or she causes a serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual. For the purposes of this statute, a child is defined as a person 14 years of age or younger and an elderly individual is a person 65 years of age or older.

A disabled individual is defined as 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" or a person with one or more of the following:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder, Texas Insurance Code § 1355.001 — A neurobiological disorder that includes autism, Asperger's syndrome, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder;
  • Developmental Disability, Texas Human Resources Code § 112.042 — 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, Texas Health and Safety Code § 591.003 — Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning that is concurrent with deficits in adaptive behavior and originates during the developmental period;
  • Severe Emotional Disturbance, Texas Family Code § 261.001 — 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, Texas Health and Safety Code § 92.001 — 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.

Texas Penal Code § 1.07(8) defines bodily injury as meaning "physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition." A serious bodily injury is defined under Texas Penal Code § 1.07(46) as meaning "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."

It is important to note that Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a-1) also states that a person commits injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual if he or she 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 or she causes a serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual. Texas Penal Code § 22.04(b) further states that an omission that causes a serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual is conduct constituting an offense under this section if the alleged offender had a legal or statutory duty to act or the alleged offender had assumed care, custody, or control of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual.


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Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual Penalties in Harris County

When an alleged offender recklessly causes bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, it is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If an alleged offender causes serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, or bodily injury as the result of criminal negligence, it is also a state jail felony.

If an individual intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, he or she will be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the alleged victim was a disabled individual residing in a state supported living center (as defined by Health and Safety Code § 555.001) or in a facility licensed under Chapter 252 of the 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, it is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

It is also a second-degree felony if an alleged offender recklessly causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual. When a person intentionally or knowingly causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, the alleged offense is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

An alleged offender's culpable mental state clearly impacts the nature of the criminal charges in these cases, and culpable mental states are classified according to relative degrees, from highest to lowest, as follows under Texas Penal Code § 6.03:

  • A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his or her conduct or to a result of his or her conduct when it is his or her conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result;
  • A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his or her conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he or she is aware of the nature of his or her conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his or her conduct when he or she is aware that his or her conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result;
  • A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his or her conduct or the result of his or her conduct when he or she 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; or
  • A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his or her conduct or the result of his conduct when he or she 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.

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Houston Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual Defenses

Texas does allow for numerous affirmative defenses against these types of criminal charges. Texas Penal Code § 22.04(i) provides that it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(b)(2) relating to alleged offenders who assumed care, custody, or control of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual that before the alleged offense the alleged offender:

  • 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
  • notified in writing the parents or person other than himself acting in loco parentis to 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); or
  • 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).

Under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(l), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section:

  • that the alleged 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 child, elderly individual, or disabled individual that there is no evidence that, on the date prior to the alleged offense, the alleged offender was aware of an incident of injury to the child, elderly individual, or disabled individual and failed to report the incident; and the person was a victim of family violence committed by a person who is also charged with an offense against the child, elderly individual, or disabled individual; did not cause a serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury; and did not reasonably believe at the time of the omission that an effort to prevent the person also charged with an offense against the child, elderly individual, or disabled individual from committing the offense would have an effect; or
  • that the alleged offender was not more than three years older than the alleged victim at the time of the offense; and the alleged victim was a nondisabled or disabled child at the time of the offense.

Texas Penal Code § 22.04(m) states that 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 alleged offender did not know and could not reasonably have known that the alleged victim was a disabled individual at the time of the offense. Under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(k), it is also a defense to prosecution under this section that the alleged 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.


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Texas Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual Resources

Aging Home Page | City of Houston — The Harris County Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA) is part of a nationwide network coordinating supportive services. The HCAAA plans and contracts services for senior citizens throughout Harris County. Visit this website to learn more about benefits counseling, special services, and a calendar of events.

Houston Health Department
8000 N Stadium Dr. 3rd floor
Houston, TX 77054
(832) 393-4301

Children's Services Division | Harris County Protective Services — The mission statement of the Harris County Protective Services Children’s Services Division is, "To support, enhance and advocate for the safety and well-being of children and adults in Harris County." On this website, you can find information about the organization's children's, youth, and adult services. You can also read recent news, press releases, and other publications.

Harris County Protective Services for Children and Adults
2525 Murworth Dr.
Houston, TX 77054
(713) 394-4000

Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) — The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD is a state agency providing mental health and IDD services for the residents of Harris County. Use this website to learn more about the different services provided by the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. You can also view a local plan, agency calendar, and reports and publications.

The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD
9401 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77074
(713) 970-7000


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Horak Law | Houston Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual Defense Lawyer

Were you arrested for allegedly causing injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual in southeast Texas? Do not say anything to authorities without first contacting Horak Law.

Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston who represents individuals in Richmond-Rosenberg, Spring, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, League City, Missouri City, Pasadena, Pearland, and many surrounding areas of Harris County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 today or complete an online contact form to have our lawyer review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.


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Our Office in The Woodlands
1790 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 The Woodlands, TX 77380 (281) 907-4990
Our Office in Houston
5300 Memorial Dr #750 A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 225-8000
Free Consultation Fill out the form below and we'll be in touch within 24 hours!

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Matt Horak Matt Horak is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2014