Domestic violence in Texas is a serious accusation, and a domestic violence conviction carries heavy penalties. As domestic violence is a broad spectrum that runs from the verbal threat of violence all the way through to aggravated domestic assault, sexual assault, and continuous violence, the severity of the charges can vary greatly. A whole range of convictions are possible, from misdemeanor assault charges through to a first-degree felony. These will be determined by the actions of the accused, the frequency of the accused’s actions, the presence of prior convictions for domestic violence, and more.
However, no matter what the domestic violence charges are, Texas law dictates that any domestic violence conviction will result in a lifelong criminal record that cannot be expunged or sealed. In this way, even a misdemeanor charge for domestic violence carries similar criminal record penalties to a felony-level conviction. This makes receiving a not guilty verdict or getting domestic violence charges dropped even more important – meaning that you will need the assistance of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been accused.
Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC our law office boasts a team of criminal defense lawyers with a wealth of skills and experience in this field. We have fought and won cases for people in your position before, and have the compassion and knowledge to formulate the strongest possible defensive case for your unique set of circumstances.
Do not let a false accusation of domestic violence define the rest of your life. Call our team today at 832-471-6904.
How Is Domestic Violence Defined Under Texas Law?
The Texas penal code defines domestic violence (or, as it is sometimes known, family violence) as any threat of or actual bodily injury inflicted against a family member or a member of the same household.
The bodily injury or threat, in this case, must be intentionally, recklessly, or negligently caused to the other party.
A bodily injury in this context is defined by Texas Penal Code Section 1.07 (8) as an incident of physical pain, illness, or another kind of physical impairment or condition.
Which Parties Are Eligible To Make An Accusation Of Domestic Violence?
When discussing domestic violence, the alternative term family violence can be misleading. This is because the other party does not necessarily have to be a family member for you to receive a domestic violence/family violence charge.
People who are able to take the role of the alleged victim include:
- Any family members, biological or non-biological, including a foster child or parent, in-laws, parents, children, siblings, and half-relatives.
- Anyone who you have had an intimate, sexual, or romantic relationship with in the present or the past. This is known as dating violence.
- Any extended family or household member, including cousins, aunts, other extended family members, and roommates.
The Various Levels Of Domestic Violence Charges In Texas
If you are facing domestic violence charges, the consequences and criminal penalties you could stand to be up against will vary widely depending on the exact circumstances of your alleged actions.
In the following sections, we will break down the different domestic violence charge types and explain how someone qualifies for each type and what the potential punishments are if a criminal conviction is reached.
Non-Physical Domestic Or Family Violence
Not all domestic or family violence charges need to include actual bodily harm. A person can still face criminal charges if they threaten the alleged victim with physical contact or an imminent bodily injury.
Similarly, physical contact does not have to take place for charges of domestic violence in Texas to be issued if other types of abuse take place. These can include financial abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, or technological abuse.
If a domestic violence crime does not involve actual physical harm, the most likely result of a successful conviction will be a class C misdemeanor.
A class C misdemeanor usually means a fine that should not exceed $500. However, Texas domestic violence laws mean that the domestic violence crimes will stay on the guilty party’s record for life, even if the crime is a misdemeanor. We will go into more detail on this further down the page.
Domestic assault charges are usually those which result in actual physical harm to the alleged victim. However, once again, sometimes the threat of an imminent bodily injury is enough for the accused to face domestic assault charges.
With this type of violence against the family or household member, the consequences will be determined by the severity of injuries the alleged victim suffered or the actions of the accused.
A minor bodily injury, such as scratching or hair pulling, will still count as a domestic assault family violence charge. This type of action will usually result in a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor is usually punishable with up to a year in county jail and a fine that can go as high as $4,000.
Sexual assault is also considered domestic assault in Texas. These types of domestic assaults are potentially punishable by a second-degree felony charge. A second-degree felony can mean a prison sentence of between two to twenty years and a fine as high as $10,000.
Domestic Assault Impeding Breath
This is a specialized category of domestic assault in Texas, reserved for when someone is accused of knowingly or intentionally cutting off the air supply of the alleged victim – usually through choking or strangulation.
Since this type of bodily injury is potentially much more dangerous, it carries more serious criminal penalties than many types of domestic assault. Usually, if a person is convicted of domestic assault impeding breath, they will face a third-degree felony charge.
A third-degree felony in Texas is punishable with a sentence in prison of between two and ten years, plus a fine that could be as high as $10,000.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
Aggravated assault occurs in cases where physical domestic violence has the intention to cause or results in a serious bodily injury. Aggravated assault charges will also be given if there is the presence of a potentially deadly weapon during the violence against the family or household member, even if that deadly weapon is not utilized.
An aggravated assault charge for a serious bodily injury is most likely to result in first-degree felony charges. This will mean a sentence in prison of anywhere between five and ninety-nine years, plus a fine that could go as high as $10,000. Furthermore, the guilty party in an aggravated domestic assault case could be ordered to pay a monetary amount of restitution to their victim.
Continuous violence against the family or household member is a separate type of charge that occurs when at least two domestic assaults occur within a one-year time frame. These two assaults do not need to be directed at the same victim to classify as continuous violence.
Continuous violence against the family member or household member will be charged as a third-degree felony domestic violence charge. This can mean up to ten years of imprisonment and a fine that could be as high as $10,000. Furthermore, this charge will occur in addition to the two domestic assault charges that caused it.
Domestic Or Family Violence Convictions Stay On Your Record For Life
Texas law states that all domestic violence cases that receive a guilty conviction cause a criminal record that stays for life, whether that conviction is for a class C or class A misdemeanor, or for a third-degree felony or greater.
Having a domestic or family violence conviction on your record can result in any of the following, depending on the severity of the charge:
- Reduced chances of gainful employment, as all potential employers will be able to see your criminal record.
- Extremely low chances of receiving a favorable result in any future child custody battle situations.
- Problems securing certain types of professional or leisure licenses.
- Difficulty gaining credit from a bank, such as an overdraft, loan, or mortgage.
- A higher likelihood of being declined on housing or educational applications.
- The inability to vote in state or federal elections.
- A ban from owning firearms.
A record of domestic or family violence will not be confined to the State of Texas alone. Your record and its consequences will follow you around the entirety of the United States.
This is why it is so important to secure the backing of a skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, and proactive criminal defense lawyer if you are falsely accused of domestic or family violence. The consequences of a conviction extend far beyond prison sentences or fines, and can haunt you for the rest of your life.
Expunging A Domestic Or Family Violence Arrest Record
There is no way to get a domestic or family violence conviction expunged from your record. Expungement is the process by which a record is removed from public view.
However, if you were only arrested for domestic or family violence, there are some circumstances where you can have the record of your arrest expunged. This is only possible in the following cases:
- If you received a verdict of not guilty in the court.
- If your case was dismissed and the statute of limitations has expired. The statute of limitations is either two or three years, depending on the severity of your domestic or family violence accusations.
If you meet the above criteria and want your arrest record for domestic or family violence expunged, there is a process you must follow. You will need to file a request for expungement and attend a court hearing to make it official.
Both of these things involve bureaucratic complexities and are not guaranteed to be successful. In order to stand the best chance of having your record expunged, we strongly recommend the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Possible Defenses Against A Domestic Or Family Violence Charge
As you have seen above, domestic, family, or dating violence charges carry extremely heavy consequences in Texas – even if no serious bodily injury occurred.
In fact, the only way to escape a lifelong record is to overcome the criminal charges, having them either dropped or downgraded to something outside the definition of domestic violence.
The good news is that there are precedents for defending against these types of charges. As criminal charges, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a level of reasonable doubt. A strong defense formed by a capable lawyer will mean this is a possibility.
It may be possible to challenge the evidence provided by the prosecution, especially if the evidence or their argument is weak. It may also be possible to claim self-defense, if the other party initiated the violence. With false accusations, it is also possible to demonstrate the injury came from another source that is not the accused.
Every domestic violence case is different, so we will always work with the specifics of your case to ensure that we personalize the strongest defense possible for your circumstances.
Call A Family Violence Lawyer Today
Accusations of domestic or family violence are extremely serious, even if no serious bodily injury, or even any bodily injury at all, took place. A permanent record of criminality can seriously impede the way you live the rest of your life.
This is why you need the support of a dedicated professional lawyer with the time, knowledge, and tenacity to commit to your case 100%. This is the service we here at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC are proud to provide to people falsely accused of domestic or family violence across Texas.
Do not take a chance with your future. Secure an experienced attorney to fight on your side today by calling 832-471-6904.