Under Texas law, domestic violence is a serious, significant charge not to be taken lightly. It is arguably the most pressing misdemeanor offense an individual may be charged with, carrying weighty repercussions if convicted. A domestic violence conviction could result in heavy fines, imprisonment, loss of certain rights, or a stringent period of probation. If there are past domestic violence convictions on one's record, a new domestic violence misdemeanor may be upgraded to a felony charge. This illustrates the state's clear and evident aim of reducing repeat offenses, and consequently repeat victims.
If you find yourself accused of domestic violence in Texas, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel right away so as to ensure your case is well-handled and aggressively fought in the courtroom. Contact Doug Murphy today at 713-229-8333.
Domestic Violence Laws In Texas
Texas legally classifies domestic violence in three forms: domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, and continuous violence against one's family.
Family violence is defined under Texas law as "an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.”
Not all circumstances that result in a domestic violence arrest necessarily warranted such action. A good lawyer can evaluate the specifics of your case to ensure fair treatment was provided for all parties, including the accused - who remains innocent until proven guilty.
Domestic Assault In Texas
A domestic assault occurs if an individual commits any of the following acts against their family member, household member, or a current or past dating partner:
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
- intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury; or
- intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive (Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.01.)
Recklessness implies that the perpetrator did not mean to inflict harm, but did so regardless and likely should have been aware that there was potential to inflict harm with their action. Provocative or offensive contact does not refer to acts that injured a person per se, rather left the person feeling personally violated.
Aggravated Domestic Assault in Texas
A charge of aggravated domestic assault is an intensified, graver cousin of a domestic assault charge. It is a more severe charge in that it deals with cases that led to “serious” bodily injury of an intimate partner, family or household member. It also concerns cases in which a deadly weapon was used or presented. A person will be charged with aggravated domestic assault is they:
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another person
- use or exhibit a deadly weapon in the course of committing any assault crime, including threatening another with bodily injury or engaging in conduct that the victim likely will find offensive (Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.02.)
Continuous Violence Against Family In Texas
A 'continuous violence against family' charge is incurred if an individual allegedly commits two domestic assaults within a twelve-month time frame. Neither of these two assaults needs to have resulted in an arrest or conviction. Thus, an individual with no domestic assault record can receive a CVAF charge, as long as there were two prior incidents that involved domestic assault (regardless of conviction or arrest). This could include cases that ended in police visit but no arrest or ended in deferred adjudication.
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Texas
Punishments for domestic violence convictions are as follows:
- Class A misdemeanor – up to 1 year in jail, or a fine up to $4,000, or both
- 3rd-degree felony – from 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- 2nd-degree felony – from 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- 1st-degree felony -- from 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
In addition, a conviction for assault may require that the convicted individual reimburse the victim for expenses that resulted from the crime, such as medical and counseling expenses. This is known as restitution. It is important to note that what sentence is imposed will depend on what occurred in the case and that more serious offenses can lead to lengthier and more severe sentences.
Alternatives to Jail Time
In Texas, there are a few alternatives to jail time including deferred adjudication and community supervision.
Deferred adjudication means that the court postpones sentencing on the condition that the defendant dutifully complies with all requirements laid out by the court. This could include paying restitution, completing probation without incident, no new arrests, completing domestic violence offender treatment, or volunteering in one's community. Deferred adjudication is, generally speaking, an option for first-time offenders of domestic assault only, and is not available to those charged with aggravated domestic assault. If all court requirements are completed successfully and satisfactorily, the defendant could be discharged and the case dismissed. Failure to comply with court requirements will lead to a sentence and conviction being carried out.
Community supervision/probation is an alternative to jail time for those who are convicted. The defendant may be required to spend some time in jail prior to beginning community supervision - 30 days for misdemeanors and 180 days felonies. Once supervised probation begins, it could last up to 2 years for a misdemeanor and up to 10 years for a felony.
Stipulations of probation may include:
- Meetings with a probation officer
- Paying probation costs
- Receiving treatment
- Maintaining employment
- Drug tests
- Avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Sometimes situations get out of hand or actions are misinterpreted. There are some defenses that could be raised in a domestic violence case. These include:
- Unintentional or mistake
- Lack of knowledge
- No offense occurred
What defenses are applicable and appropriate will depend on the facts and circumstances of a particular case.
Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney
There is intrinsic and indispensable value in good legal representation. If you have been accused of domestic violence, contact Doug Murphy today to discuss your case with an experienced and skilled Texas criminal defense attorney. You can reach our office at 713-229-8333 or contact us online.