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Domestic Violence Charges in Texas

Couples and family members get into heated arguments. Stress, money problems, and being in such close quarters with someone day in and day out can increase the likelihood of getting into a fight. Even if you take things too far, a one-time mistake shouldn't have to ruin the rest of your life. A domestic violence conviction can leave you with a permanent criminal record and limit your future opportunities. Before going to court, talk to an Austin criminal defense lawyer about your options.

Texas criminal defense lawyer Jason S. English was a criminal prosecutor in Texas for 15 years. Now he uses his experience to fight for people accused of committing domestic abuse. Contact Jason S. English Law, PLLC today for a no charge criminal case consultation.

Texas Domestic Violence Laws 

There is not a specific domestic violence statute in Texas. Instead, family violence or dating violence falls under Texas assault statutes. However, the penalties for assault against a family member, those in a dating relationship, or those in the same household may be subject to additional penalties and restrictions where there was a prior assault.  

Simple assault occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

  1. Causes bodily injury to another person
  2. Threatens another person with imminent bodily injury, or
  3. Causes physical contact with another person knowing (or reasonably should have known) that person would find it provocative or offensive.

Aggravated assault occurs when a person commits simple assault, and: 

  1. Causes serious bodily injury to another person, including a spouse; or
  2. Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.

Family or Household Member or Those in a Dating Relationship

The relationship between the alleged abuser and alleged victim can increase the classification of the crime, increasing a misdemeanor to a felony or raising the degree of felony offense. The special relationship of domestic assault includes: 

  • Family Violence
  • Household Member Violence
  • Dating Violence

Family Violence 

According to Tex. Family Code § 71.004, family violence is an act against a family member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. Family violence also includes a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent harm, injury, or assault. 

Family is defined as including individuals related by blood or affinity (like marriage). This includes: 

  • Spouse, 
  • Former spouse, 
  • Parents of the same child, 
  • Adopted children,
  • Foster children
  • Foster parents, 
  • Children, 
  • Grandchildren, 
  • Parents, 
  • Grandparents, 
  • Siblings, 
  • Aunts and uncles,
  • and
  • Cousins.

Household Member Violence

Under Tex. Family Code § 71.005, a household member includes those who live in the same dwelling, without regard to relation. It also includes a person who previously lived in a household. 

Dating Violence

Under Tex. Family Code § 71.0021, dating violence is committed against a victim or applicant for a protective order, with whom the actor has or has had a dating relationship. This also includes marriage to or dating relationship with an individual whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage. Dating relationships include individuals who have or have had a romantic or intimate relationship. 

For example, violence against a boyfriend's ex-girlfriend may be considered dating violence even if the current girlfriend was never in a relationship directly with the ex-girlfriend. However, a casual acquaintance would not generally be considered a dating relationship.

Simple Assault Against a Family or Household Member

Simple assault is generally a Class A misdemeanor. However, domestic simple assault is a 3rd degree felony if the defendant:

  • Has committed a prior domestic assault, or 
  • The assault involved impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure to the person's throat or neck or by blocking the person's nose or mouth. 

Simple assault is a 2nd degree felony if the defendant has committed a prior domestic assault and the attack involves choking, strangulation, or blocking the victim's breathing.

Aggravated Assault Against a Family or Household Member

Aggravated assault is generally a 2nd degree felony. However, domestic aggravated is a 1st degree felony if the defendant uses a weapon during the commission of the assault and causes serious bodily injury. 

Making Threats Against a Family or Household Member

Even if someone does not physically harm someone, making a serious enough threat could result in terrorist threat charges. Under Tex. Criminal Code § 22.07, a threat of violence to a person that places them in fear of imminent serious bodily injury is generally a Class B misdemeanor. However, a terrorist threat against a family or household member is a Class A misdemeanor. 

Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction in Texas

The penalties for domestic violence depend on a number of factors, including if the victim suffered a serious bodily injury, and the prior criminal history of the defendant. 

  • Class A misdemeanor domestic threat conviction can result in up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000. 
  • 3rd Degree felony domestic assault can include incarceration for 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000. 
  • 2nd Degree felony domestic assault can include incarceration for 2 to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. 
  • 1st Degree felony aggravated domestic assault can include incarceration for 5 to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000. 

In addition to prison time and fines, the defendant may have to pay victim restitution, go through domestic violence or substance abuse counseling, and lose the right to own or possess a firearm. A felony conviction can make it more difficult to find a job, find housing, or receive certain benefits.

A conviction for domestic violence can also hurt your child custody case in a divorce or separation. A court may be more likely to restrict custody to a parent with a domestic violence conviction or require supervised visitation. The consequences of a domestic violence conviction can follow you for years after serving your time. Talk to a Texas criminal defense lawyer about your rights and how to keep a criminal conviction off your record. 

Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges in Texas

When the police show up to a domestic violence call, they may place you under arrest without hearing your side of the story or giving you a chance to explain what really happened. Just because the police treat you like you are guilty does not mean you have to be convicted. 

In a criminal case, the prosecutor can get a conviction only if the defendant pleads guilty or if the prosecutor proves every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, you should be found not guilty of domestic violence if the alleged victim is not considered a family member, household member, or in a dating relationship. 

Many people accused of domestic violence never committed any crime. Instead, they are falsely accused of domestic violence out of anger or jealousy. In a bitter divorce, break-up, or child custody battle, the former partner, former partner's new boyfriend or girlfriend, or former partner's family members may make up stories of abuse to punish someone. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about building a strong defense against false accusations. 

It can be an affirmative defense to domestic violence charges if the defendant was acting in self-defense or defense of others. For example, if your ex was beating your child and you shoved your ex away to protect the child, that may be considered a defense to domestic violence charges if your ex claims you were committing an assault. 

Austin Domestic Violence Defense

Jason S. English was a criminal prosecutor for 15 years. He understands how prosecutors approach domestic violence cases and what they do to try and get the accused to plead guilty. Before pleading guilty to any crime, make sure you understand your rights and options to fight the criminal charges. 

If you are accused of domestic assault in Texas, it is important to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. Contact Austin criminal defense lawyer Jason S. English online or call (512) 454-7548. With his many years of experience prosecuting criminal cases, Jason S. English is well-prepared to fight for your constitutional rights.

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