In certain types of criminal cases, Texas courts may rule for an affirmative finding of family violence. This ruling applies in cases that involve various forms of domestic violence and abuse charges. An individual who is convicted of family violence and related crimes may face severe penalties and lifelong consequences based on his or her criminal record. In these types of cases (as in all types of criminal cases), a strong defense is critical. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help to fight the charges and serve as a guide through the criminal justice process. If you are facing the possibility of a family violence finding, consider contacting an Austin criminal defense lawyer at Jason English Law by calling (512) 454-7548 to learn more about your legal rights.
How Do Texas Courts Define Family Violence?
According to Texas Family Code Section 71.004, “family violence” is a term that refers to an act committed by one family member against another that is intended to cause physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. This term also applies in cases that involve threats of physical harm or sexual assault.
An affirmative finding of family violence may be made in cases listed under Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code, which include the following:
- Sexual assault/aggravated sexual assault
- Capital murder
- Criminally negligent homicide
- False imprisonment
- Smuggling or trafficking of persons
- Public lewdness
- Indecent exposure
- Indecency with a child
- Improper photography
- Injury to child, elderly, or disabled persons
- Abandoning or endangering a child
- Deadly conduct
- Leaving a child in a vehicle
- Terroristic threats
- Aiding suicide
Issuing an Order of Protection Based on Family Violence
If the court makes an affirmative finding of family violence, this ruling may be used to issue an order of emergency protection. A magistrate has the option to issue such an order either on her or her own motion or based on the request of the victim, a peace officer, or the prosecution. An order of protection must be issued in cases that involve serious bodily injury to the victim or the use of a deadly weapon. An order of protection in Texas will place the following restrictions on the defendant:
- No committing family violence or assault against the person protected by the order
- No communicating with the family member or household of the protected person
- No visiting or going near the residence, place of employment, or business of the protected person and his or her family
- No possession of a firearm
If you have been issued a protection order following a family violence finding in Texas, you can learn more about your legal options from an experienced Austin criminal defense lawyer at Jason English Law.
What Is the Most Common Type of Family Violence?
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), family violence in the state is most commonly committed between married spouses (45.4 percent). Cases involving violence perpetrated by a parent against his or her child account for approximately 15 percent of cases, while cases involving all other types of family members make up about 39 percent of total cases.
The overwhelming majority of family violence cases involve various forms of assault (96.9 percent). Simple assault is the most common form of assault in these cases at about 73.3 percent of the total. About 15 percent of cases involve aggravated assault, and 8.7 percent involve intimidation.
Consequences of an Affirmative Finding of Family Violence
A conviction for a family violence offense and an affirmative finding of family violence can have serious lifelong consequences for the defendant. The criminal charges for these offenses range from Class A misdemeanors to 1st-degree felonies, and they come with penalties from one year in jail to up to 99 years in prison, depending on the nature of the offense.
In addition, there are other potential consequences one might face outside of the criminal penalties:
- Trouble finding employment—A family violence offense on a criminal record can impact employment opportunities. A person convicted of such an offense may lose his or her current job and have trouble finding a new one. He or she can also lose a professional license, such as medicine or law, and be barred from holding public service jobs like teaching or nursing.
- Loss of rights—A family violence conviction can result in the loss or reduction of certain rights or privileges, such as owning a firearm, fostering or adopting a child, and obtaining a hunting or fishing license.
- Subsequent convictions—Future convictions can be enhanced from misdemeanors to felonies if the defendant has a previous affirmative finding of family violence. The charges can be upgraded even if the family violence finding was in relation to a low-level Class C misdemeanor.
Can a Family Violence Finding Be Set Aside in Texas?
In Texas, certain types of offenses are eligible to be “set aside,” which means that the case would be considered dismissed and the conviction would be removed from the person's criminal record. This process is often called “expungement” in other states. However, family violence findings are not eligible to be set aside or expunged in Texas. Therefore, an affirmative finding of family violence will remain on the defendant's record for his or her entire life.
The permanent nature of these findings makes it imperative to have a strong defense. Because the consequences of such a finding can easily be lifelong, people who have been charged with family violence offenses may want to consider speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Contact an Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Have you been charged with a family violence offense in Texas? While the potential consequences may be dire, you have legal rights in the criminal justice system. A sound legal defense can be vital for one who is facing a potential family violence finding. A skilled Austin criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your case and develop a strong defense strategy. If you are facing family violence charges, consider contacting Jason English Law today at (512) 454-7548 to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal rights.