If you have been arrested for or accused of domestic violence in Texas, you may wonder about the potential penalties in your case. Domestic violence is a serious crime that can come with lasting consequences. If you are facing these charges, you will want to learn more and build a strong defense as soon as possible. Consider contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer from Jason English Law by calling (512) 454-7548 to schedule a confidential consultation.
How Does Domestic Violence Work in Texas?
According to the Attorney General of Texas, family violence occurs when one member of a family, household, or romantic couple acts in a way toward another member that is intended to cause physical harm, assault, or sexual assault. This can include threats of any of the preceding actions. Domestic violence crimes concern individuals who are:
- Related by blood or marriage
- Current or former spouses
- Co-parents of the same child
- Foster children and parents
- Involved in an ongoing romantic relationship
When a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime involving family violence, the officer can arrest the suspect without a warrant. An arrest is not mandatory, but police officers must remain at the scene to maintain the peace.
What Is the Rate of Domestic Violence in Texas?
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 197,023 family violence incidents occurred in Texas in 2018. However, nearly half of domestic violence incidents go unreported. Of the incidents that are reported, there are several different types of domestic violence crimes. The type of crime that a person is charged with dictates the potential penalties he or she might face if convicted.
Simple assault against a family or household member that causes or threatens bodily injury or sexual assault can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. Physical contact is not necessary for this charge. If there are prior convictions, a third-degree felony and greater penalties may apply.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
Aggravated domestic assault applies if the alleged victim suffers serious bodily injury or if the suspect uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the incident. Serious bodily injury includes such injuries as:
- Broken bones
- Injuries that require surgery or hospitalization
Continuous Violence Against the Family
According to Texas Penal Code Sec. 25.11, continuous violence against the family occurs when a person has already been involved in two or more domestic assault incidents within the last 12 months. Notably, this charge can be made even if the previous incidents did not result in convictions or if the alleged victim is a different person than in the previous incidents.
Violation of a Family Protective Order
Violating a family protective order can subject the suspect to a Class A misdemeanor charge. Repeated violations of the same order can result in a third-degree felony charge.
Possible Penalties for Domestic Violence in Texas
The penalties that a person may face depend on the type of crime and the classification of the charge, as follows:
- Class C misdemeanor—Crimes in this classification include simple assault and are punishable by a fine of up to $500
- Class A misdemeanor—This classification includes domestic assaults that cause the victim to suffer bodily injury and carry a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. Violating a family protective order is also considered a Class A misdemeanor
- Third-degree felony—If the suspect has previous convictions for domestic violence or if the alleged crime involved strangulation or suffocation, the potential penalties include up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Repeated violations of a family protective order within a 12-month period or continuous violence against the family can also be charged as third-degree felonies
- Second-degree felony—A domestic assault of this classification can result in imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Aggravated domestic assault is usually charged as a second-degree felony
- First-degree felony—This classification can be punishable by up to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 and may be used in domestic violence cases in which the alleged victim suffered serious bodily injury and the suspect used a deadly weapon
Additional Penalties and Consequences for Domestic Violence in Texas
In addition to possible jail/prison time and fines, individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence in Texas may face additional penalties and consequences that can include:
- Being ordered to stay away from the alleged victim
- GPS monitoring
- Loss of the right to possess firearms
- Loss of custody rights
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
If you are facing charges for domestic violence in Texas, a criminal defense lawyer from Jason English Law may be able to help determine whether any of the following defenses apply:
- There was no criminal intent
- The victim or witness is not credible
- The defendant was acting in self-defense
- Statute of limitations has expired
There Was No Criminal Intent
A domestic violence conviction requires showing that the defendant had the intent to hurt the alleged victim. If the injury was an accident, the lack of criminal intent could be a valid defense, especially if the victim recanted the accusations against the defendant.
The Victim or Witness Is Not Credible
In many domestic violence cases, defendants find themselves facing serious charges because of false accusations. The alleged victim or a witness may falsely claim that a domestic violence incident occurred because he or she is:
- Trying to obtain custody of a shared child
- Attempting to get even after the defendant cheated or ended the relationship
- Begrudging the defendant or the defendant's new relationship
- Attempting to obtain legal immigration status by being considered a crime victim
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help to investigate the accusations against the defendant to look for inconsistencies. If found, this information can erode the credibility of the alleged victim or witness.
The Defendant Was Acting in Self-Defense
If the alleged victim attacked the defendant, prompting an act of self-defense, the defendant can use this information as an affirmative defense to the charges against him or her.
The Statute of Limitations Has Expired
Generally, the alleged victim only has three years to report a domestic violence incident. If the prosecution attempts to bring a case after this deadline, the defendant may be able to have the case dismissed based on an expired state of limitations.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Texas, you will want to know more about the penalties you may be facing. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can help with these and other questions related to your case and help to determine your best defense strategy. Consider calling Jason English Law at (512) 454-7548 to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about your legal rights.