Texas Domestic Violence FAQ Guide

Man holding woman's wrists and about to push her while she is grabbing his shirt.In some cases arguments can develop into physical assault, resulting in a domestic violence accusation. Domestic violence accusations can cause significant distress for all parties involved. In most cases, domestic violence victims are the spousal partners of the accused.

During the pandemic, cases of domestic violence rose significantly as a result of an increased amount of stress regarding employment and health, mixed with spending more time at home. What can start as a simple mistake can lead to a conviction affecting all aspects of your life. If you have questions about domestic violence charges, contact our legal team today on 832-843-1691.

What Offenses Are Considered Domestic Violence?

Any type of assault against family members is deemed domestic violence. Family violence can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor through to a first-degree felony. Below are some of the most common incidents of family violence.

  • Threatening imminent bodily harm.
  • Intentional physical contact that the accused is aware that the victim may deem offensive or provocative, for example sexual assault.
  • Intentionally causing physical pain or bodily harm.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Choking or suffocating.
  • Aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm.
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon present.
  • Aggravated assault, where the deadly weapon was used to cause serious bodily injury.

How Does Domestic Violence Differ From Domestic Assault?

Even though every incident of domestic abuse is serious, domestic violence charges are at the lower end of the scale. Domestic assault involves knowingly and recklessly harming a family member or children and is in relation to the serious bodily injury caused.

What Is Aggravated Domestic Assault?

Aggravated domestic assault includes an aggravating factor, such as causing serious injury or using/ brandishing a deadly weapon during the assault. This is how a simple assault can be escalated to an aggravated domestic violence charge.

What Are The Domestic Violence Laws In Texas?

Texas flag and American flag on a flag pole. There are no specific domestic violence laws within the state of Texas. Instead, any violence or sexual abuse of this type is covered under assault charges.

If the alleged victims of domestic violence are a family relation, someone living within the same household or someone the accused is dating, the restrictions and penalties change.

Assault charges in Texas are labeled as simple assault or aggravated assault.

Simple Assault Charges

The criteria for a simple assault charge is when an individual is alleged to have knowingly or recklessly engaged in:

  • Causing someone harm.
  • Engaging in an activity that they knew or should have known could cause the other person offense.
  • Threatening someone with harm.

What Are The Penalties Related To Simple Assault?

A simple assault charge can be broken down into the following penalties:

  • Second-degree felony assault – this charge is associated with victims that are on duty police officers or a family relation whose airflow has been disrupted during the assault. This charge can result in 2-20 years in prison and fines up to $10, 000.
  • Third-degree felony assault – this conviction is a result if the victim is a public servant, emergency personnel, a security officer or government official. A conviction can range from 2 to 10 years jail time and fines of up to $10, 000.
  • Class A Misdemeanor assault – This charge is associated with the accused recklessly and knowingly causing another person to be harmed. A conviction can result in up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
  • Class C Misdemeanor Assault – This charge is typically when the accused has threatened harm without causing it or they have engaged in provocative or offensive physical contact. This type of conviction does not lead to jail time but a fine of up to $500 can apply.

Aggravated Assault Charges

An aggravated assault charge is when someone knowingly or recklessly:

  • Causes someone serious harm.
  • Uses or brandishes a deadly weapon whilst assaulting someone.

What Are The Penalties Related To Aggravated Assault?

As the crime of aggravated assault is more serious than simple assault, the conviction is also more severe. There are two categories of convictions an aggravated assault charge can fall into.

  • First degree felony aggravated assault – A conviction for this crime ranges from 5 to 99 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
  • Second degree felony aggravated assault charge – A conviction for this crime ranges from 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1o, 000.

How Is Sexual Abuse Defined In Domestic Abuse Laws?

Domestic sexual abuse is the sexual abuse against a person covered by family law in Texas. The following circumstances are covered by the domestic abuse laws in Texas.

  • Sexual conduct or misconduct, sexual abuse or molestation, sexual exploitation, sexual touching, sexualized interaction, sexual comments about a person’s body, or other verbal or non-verbal behaviors. Any circumstances of these acts against a family relation is deemed domestic abuse, even if the victim didn’t deem the acts as abuse.
  • Sexual abuse involves behaviors including penetration or inappropriate touching of the victim’s body and other bodily contact.
  • Sexual abuse can also include non-contact abuse. These behaviors include observing or making images of a victim’s naked body, making pornography, or forcing the victim to  behave in sexual behavior.
  • Requesting personal sexual favors for “rewards” is also a form of sexual abuse.

Similarly to domestic abuse, the victims of sexual abuse can be blood relatives or members of a household.

How Else Can A Domestic Violence Charge Impact My Life?

Firstly, the second amendment right is withdrawn and a person with a domestic violence conviction cannot own or possess firearms.

In addition, they cannot obtain a Texas fishing or hunting license.

Both current and future employment opportunities can be impacted. This is especially prominent for military personnel, teachers, pilots, health care workers and state employees.

Finally, there can be ramifications in relation to divorce and child custody. Especially if a restraining order is put in place.

How Are Custody Rights Impacted By A Domestic Violence Conviction?

An individual’s basic parental rights can be impacted as a result of a domestic violence charge. If an ongoing child custody dispute was already in place prior to the conviction, it can have even more serious consequences. In some cases, it can result in the loss of custody for your children.

In addition, custody rights being revoked can become even more severe if a protection order is put in place. This type of restraining order could require a certain distance between the victim and the accused, including the children involved.

When Does Assault Develop Into Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is often associated with abuse towards a spousal partner however, there are many other relations that count towards domestic violence in the state of Texas.

  • Any blood relative, including children, adopted children and siblings.
  • Foster children and foster parents.
  • Anyone with whom you have children.
  • An individual you are related to by marriage.
  • Current spouses and former spouses.
  • Any household member.
  • Anyone, you have an ongoing dating relationship with or romantic relationship.

What Is The Criteria Of Domestic Violence While Dating?

Those who are dating are considered victims under the umbrella of family law with regard to domestic violence. If there is violence from an intimate partner, the court still treats these victims as family relations. The difficulty is identifying these relationships, therefore the court will consider three aspects.

  • The length of the relationship.
  • How often or frequently the partners interact.
  • The nature of the relationship.

What Happens To First-Time Offenders Of Domestic Violence In Texas?

Similarly to most first-time offenders, the answer to this question is incredibly broad. Like with most criminal cases, it depends upon the severity of each case, including the injuries involved and the victim’s feelings regarding the case.

Because of the many factors that affect the outcome of each case, it is difficult to say what a first-time domestic violence offender should expect. For those without a criminal history, a misdemeanor for domestic violence can lead to deferred adjudication. This is a special type of probation that means the individual could have the case dismissed, and they may not be convicted if the probation period is completed without additional incidents.

Can Assault Charges Be Dismissed?

It is a frequent occurrence that assault charges are dismissed. Sometimes, an attorney can present to the state the circumstances that can warrant a dismissal.

For example, a violent occurrence during an alcohol-fueled argument between a married couple. If both parties have calmed down following an arrest and neither party has a history of criminal violence, these circumstances can be used to convince the state to dismiss the charges. In an event like this, the arrested individual can be given the opportunity to take a domestic violence class instead.

Is Choking A Felony In Texas?

An event of family violence that includes choking is a felony in Texas. However, if two strangers engage in violent behavior and one is choked, this is not a felony. It is only choking a family relation that is a felony in Texas.

What Is Continued Violence Against A Family Relation?

This type of assault is the continued violence or abusive behavior on a family member within a certain time period. This criterion within an abusive relationship is what makes this crime a felony. A felony charge is due to the continued assaults being multiple misdemeanor assaults committed against a family relation. These multiple misdemeanors accumulate into a felony.

Can The State Of Texas Prosecute Without A Victim?

Within the state of Texas prosecution of domestic violence can take place without the victim.

However, the law states the accused has the right to confront their accuser, and in the case of no victim, it can become complicated and lead to a dismissed charge.

There are exceptions to this situation, however, such as a 911 call, local police or emergency services being able to provide evidence to the court hearing without the victim being present.

The prosecuting attorney may also bring an expert to court to discuss why the victim of domestic abuse could be too afraid to testify.

Within all these situations, it is fact specific to each individual case, and an experienced defense attorney will be able to offer support for every step of the case.

Do All Domestic Abuse Cases In Texas Go To Trial?

No, each individual domestic abuse case is different and complex. Some cases get dismissed, plead out, and some go to court. Every individual case is driven by facts, but similar to all criminal cases, there are multiple ways to dismiss a case within the criminal justice system.

What Are The Most Common Defenses Against A Family Violence Charge?

In some cases of domestic abuse, there are appropriate defenses that are heard in court. Some of these include:

  • False accusation – a defense attorney may look for any inconsistencies in the victim’s version of events or any potential motives that may be the reason for the false accusation
  • A mistake or accidental – This defense requires an experienced, skillful defense attorney to prove. However, it can be proven that an injury was accidental or a mistake.
  • The injuries were not caused by the accused – A prosecution may wrongly relate an injury on the victim as caused by the accused. As the extent of injuries is what contributes to the type of conviction, it is vital the true source of injuries is known to reach justice.
  • Self-defense – Within Texas laws, all individuals have the right to use reasonable force against an aggressor to defend themselves. An effective defense attorney will look at all the evidence that could justify the force against the victim. For example, the accused could actually have an abusive partner in the first place. However, this defense becomes more difficult as more and more force is used across a period of time.

What Support Is Available For Victims Of Domestic Abuse In Texas?

Family violence can disrupt all aspects of life for the entire family involved. There are many ways victims of domestic violence can access support locally or through the court to rebuild their lives.

A local domestic violence program can provide support financially and offer legal help for victims. This can include medical bills, therapy, loss of earnings, loss of support and childcare.

Victims of domestic violence may also be eligible for a lump sum of money to relocate to a safer location. This can include financial support for rent, moving vans and utility deposits.

A court hearing can also implement restraining orders within a criminal case of domestic abuse. This type of protection order can look after families in the long term whilst they rebuild their lives.

What Is A Restraining Order?

A criminal case of domestic abuse against a family or household member can result in a restraining order from a court order.

A restraining order can also be known as a protection order, put in place for the victims of domestic violence. It is imperative that if a victim is feeling threatened or vulnerable; they contact local law enforcement to start the process of a restraining order.

A restraining order is put in place by the court following a conviction of domestic abuse to the victim of domestic violence. Here are the ways a protection order can support a victim of domestic violence.

  • A restraining order can prevent a person from threatening to cause injury or actually causing bodily injury.
  • A restraining order can stop the abuser from contacting the victim of domestic violence and from being within a certain distance of the victim. The protected person can be provided with a safe place by the court papers.
  • A restraining order can also include the family members and children of the victim to offer further protection for the victim.
  • A restraining order can strip a person of their right to bear arms, preventing them from owning or purchasing a gun.

What Is An Emergency Protection Order?

An emergency protection order is a type of court order issued against the accused after an arrest for family violence and is implemented to stop an individual from engaging in abusive, threatening or harassing/ stalking behavior. It may also prevent an accused from contacting the victim in any way, including in person or via social media.

The order is usually issued by the court hearing shortly after an individual has been arrested and while they are still in jail. Depending on the circumstances, an emergency protective order can be issued anywhere from 31 days up to 91 days. An emergency protective order can also include an order by the law to evict the accused from their residence.

A violation of an emergency protection order can result in an additional misdemeanor or felony criminal charge, depending on the circumstances of the alleged violation.

Contact An Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney

If you or someone you love has been arrested in relation to a domestic abuse charge, it is imperative they hire a skilled defense attorney at the earliest opportunity to support their case.

Contact us at 832-843-1691 to speak to an experienced attorney at The Love DuCote Law Firm today.

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