Texas Laws Regarding Domestic Violence
Several different types of domestic violence crimes are recognized collectively as domestic violence in Texas. Under the law, a violent act is considered domestic violence if it’s committed against a member of one’s family, an individual with whom the alleged offender has or once had a dating relationship, or another member of the household.
Violence against a spouse or former spouse, child of a spouse or prior spouse, an individual with whom the alleged offender has one or more offspring, a foster child or the offender’s foster parent, a family member by blood, adoption, or marriage, or another person with whom the alleged offender lives may constitute domestic violence in Texas. If you have been charged with an act of domestic violence or if someone in your family or household has asked for an order of protection to be filed against you in Houston, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend your rights. The consequences of a conviction include a permanent criminal record, jail time, and loss of the right to carry a weapon.
How is Domestic Violence Handled in Texas?
Texas doesn’t tolerate domestic violence.
Although growing a successful marriage and raising a family is seldom easy, the decision to stay in a poor relationship can end in disaster. According to social research, relationships sour or become violent more often when family members, roommates, and others don’t get along.
A physical altercation between family members is classified as an act of domestic violence in Texas. Kidnapping, unlawful confinement, and criminal threats may be considered as domestic violence actions if the action happens at home.
An action of domestic violence may involve either physical violence, such as kicking, hitting, punching, spousal rape, or the abuse of a child. Domestic violence may also involve emotional abuse, such as economic abuse or threatening a family member or householder with serious bodily harm.
Charges of domestic abuse are taken seriously in Texas. If convicted of a domestic violence charge, you face jail or prison, monetary fines, violence counseling, community service and, of course, a permanent criminal record that will affect employment or education prospects as well as personal relationships for the rest of your life. A conviction can also mean you’re forced to cease contact with a spouse, children, or other close relationship. You might also lose your right to bear arms if convicted.
A domestic violence charge is a major threat to the family unit. It’s not uncommon for an innocent person to be falsely accused of a domestic violence action in a child custody fight or during a contentious divorce battle. In either scenario, you must hire a knowledgeable Houston criminal defense attorney to vigorously defend your rights.
Some charges of domestic violence are prosecuted as felonies in Texas. Even when an accuser agrees to drop charges against you, the district attorney’s office may decide to proceed to try the case anyway. Realize that a felony conviction might put you in jail for years. Don’t risk your freedom by hiring an inexperienced or weak defense counsel—and don’t ever consider representing yourself.
What are the Legal Definitions of Domestic Violence?
Domestic assault as detailed in Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.01, involves assault against a member of the family, another person in your household (e.g. a roommate or nanny), or someone you currently date or dated in the past. Domestic assault involves “intentionally,” “knowingly,” or “recklessly:”
- causing another person bodily injury
- threatening to commit bodily injury on an imminent basis to another person
- committing an action the offender knows the victim may find offensive or provocative
The offender is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor in Texas if he or she has no previous domestic assault convictions. However, if he or she has prior convictions, third-degree felony punishments may apply. A domestic violence charge is serious. You need deep criminal defense experience to prevail.
What is recklessness under Texas law?
Under Texas law, a reckless action is one that the alleged offender commits without considering the outcome. He or she may commit the action without conscious intention to harm another person. For instance, pushing a date out of the way in a concert crowd to get through may be considered assault if he or she falls and sustains any injury.
What is provocative or offensive contact under Texas law?
“Provocative” or “offensive contact” relates to an action that doesn’t result in physical pain or injury. The action upsets or makes the other party feel insecure or violated. For instance, if the defendant pokes his or her dating partner in the chest during an argument or brushes up against him or her in a sexually aggressive or suggestive way, it’s possible to be convicted of a domestic violence charge in Texas.
Aggravated domestic assault occurs when an offender commits an aggravated assault action against his or her spouse, other family members, or dating partner as described above. Under Tex. Penal Code § 22.02, an offender commits an aggravated assault action if the action was performed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
- causes serious bodily injury to someone else
- exhibits or uses a weapon in the action of committing an assault crime (including making threats to perform bodily injury or demonstrates conduct that his or her victim is likely to consider offensive)
If the offender uses a deadly weapon to commit an action of aggravated domestic assault and serious bodily injury to the victim, he or she faces first-degree felony penalties. Other aggravated domestic assault types are considered second-degree felonies in Texas.
What is meant by “deadly weapon” under the law?
In Texas, a deadly weapon is an object that has the potential to cause serious bodily injury or death. Examples include firearms, brass knuckles, baseball bat, or hunting knife. If used to strangle another party, a rope may be considered a deadly weapon. Even a car, truck, or motorcycle might be considered a deadly weapon if the offender attempted to harm the other party with it.
Continuous violence against the family, as described by Texas Penal Code § 25.11, is applicable if the offender commits two or more domestic assault crimes within a 12-month period. He or she may be convicted of continuous violence against the family without a single assault charge resulting in either a conviction or arrest. The charge includes two or more assaults committed against members of the unit, not necessarily the same member. If convicted, continuous violence against the family is a third-degree felony.
What are the Different Forms of Domestic Violence?
There are many different forms of domestic violence. It’s not necessary for the offender to cause bodily harm. A charge of domestic may include spousal abuse, child abuse, spousal rape, making threats to a relative or intimate partner, use of a deadly weapon, family violence assault, or felony family violence.
If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence (or a family violence charge under Texas Family Code 71.004), or if someone else is seeking a protective order against you, it’s essential to seek representation from a proven Houston criminal defense lawyer now. Contact Texas board-certified criminal defense attorney Brett A. Podolsky for a free initial case analysis.
What are the Legal Repercussions of Domestic Violence?
Punishments for domestic violence crimes in Texas are punishable as follows:
- Punishment of a Class A misdemeanor may involve a 12-month jail sentence or a maximum $4,000 fine, or a combination of both.
- Punishment of a third-degree felony involves a two to 10-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
- Punishment of a second-degree felony involves a two to 20-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
- Punishment of a first-degree felony involves a five to 99-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
What is restitution?
If convicted of simple assault in Texas, the state may require the offender to pay the victim or his or her family restitution. This involves repaying the victim for expenses that occurred as a result of the crime. Medical treatment, repair-replacement of property, trauma or grief counseling costs are examples of restitution.
What is community supervision?
The court may grant probation or community supervision instead or jail or prison: 1) up to two years for misdemeanor crimes and 2) up to 10 years for felony crimes. The court may also require the offender to serve some of a jail or prison sentence before initiating a term of community supervision. Typically, the offender serves 30 days (misdemeanor) or 180 days (felony).
The offender must complete community supervision as well as other court-imposed conditions. If he or she fails to successfully complete community supervision, the court may require completion of the jail or prison sentence.
During community supervision, the offender must report to a probation officer, pay costs associated with probation, and maintain compliance with the court, such as keeping a job, submitting to drug testing or addiction treatment, and avoid additional arrests or criminal activities.
What is deferred adjudication?
Texas laws provide some alternatives to a jail or prison term for an individual convicted of a domestic assault crime. If the offender pleads guilty to the charge, the court may agree to a deferred adjudication. In other words, the court agrees to postpone sentencing for the crime for a certain period as long as he or she complies with terms of probation, pays restitution, performs volunteer work, and doesn’t get arrested during a conditional period.
If the offender meets the court’s requirements, the court agrees to discharge him or her. The prior arrest, deferred adjudication, and dismissal are included in the offender’s permanent criminal record. Deferred adjudication may be available for first-time offenders of domestic assault crimes–not aggravated domestic assault crimes.
Serious Consequences of Domestic Violence in Texas
As you can see, you face serious consequences if found guilty of domestic violence in Texas. Perhaps you were arrested on the spot when a spouse or dating partner made an accusation of domestic violence. In Texas, the officer isn’t required to witness the incident to make an arrest.
Before you take another step, call Texas Board of Legal Specialization Board-certified criminal defense attorney Brett A. Podolsky. He will aggressively defend you against domestic violence charges, including dating violence or family violence allegations in Houston and throughout Texas.