August 30, 2018
Domestic violence affects over 200,000 victims each year in Texas alone. Our state has strict laws against offenders who commit acts of domestic violence, but not all domestic violence charges are the same.
If you have been charged with violent crimes that happened in your home, get to know the difference between charges like “domestic violence” and “family violence.” The more you know about the charges you face, the better equipped you will be to fight these charges and walk away without penalties.
What Is Domestic Violence under Texas Law?
When an assault occurs between people involved in a familial or romantic relationship, Texas penalizes the offender with harsher consequences than they would receive if the victim had been a stranger. Before we get into domestic violence charges, let’s look at what constitutes as an “assault” in Texas.
According to Texas law, assault occurs if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
- Cause bodily harm to another person
- Threaten another person with imminent bodily injury
- Cause physical contact with another person that the victim believes is offensive or provocative
A simple assault charge in Texas starts at a Class C misdemeanor, and the penalties usually end up being a few hundred dollars in fines. However, a domestic assault is more serious.
What constitutes a familial or romantic relationship, legally speaking?
- Spouses, former spouses, or their children
- Family members (including blood relatives, adopted family members, and family members by marriage)
- Roommates or housemates
- People who are or were formerly involved in a romantic relationship
If any of these relationships exist, the alleged perpetrator will face a “domestic assault” charge. Domestic assault charges in Texas begin at a Class A misdemeanor. Penalties for a class A misdemeanor include up to a year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. This is a big jump from a Class C misdemeanor, but if additional assaults occur, the charges could be increased even further.
When Is Domestic Violence Considered “Family Violence?”
In addition to domestic violence charges, Texas also has a specific statute covering “continuous family violence.” This charge refers to a pattern of domestic violence that occurs within the home.
Prosecutors can charge a person with “continuous family violence” if they allegedly commit two acts of domestic assault within a year. Continuous family violence is a third degree felony in Texas. Penalties include up to 10 years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines.
Although continuous family violence charges require more than one assault, these assaults do not have to be proven by a prior arrest or conviction. They do not have to involve the same victim, either.
To be clear, even if you are merely accused of assaulting a family member – or two different family members – within 12 months, you can face these charges.
The jump from misdemeanor to felony charges comes with additional penalties and restrictions, even after you have served your sentence. If you are charged with family violence crimes, it’s even more important to get in touch with a defense lawyer so you can fight back.
Defending against Texas Family Violence Charges
If you are charged with a more serious assault crime, like continuous family violence, you have many options for building a successful defense. One option is to pick apart the prosecution’s story and target individual accounts of alleged assaults. If the prosecution cannot prove that you committed two domestic assaults in one year, your charges will have to be reduced to less serious charges.
The most important thing is that you put together an actual defense rather than sitting idly by. You can reach a positive resolution in these types of cases, but only if you act quickly and intelligently.
About the Author:
The strength of Brian S. Eppes as a lawyer is in his unique and varied background. Like many other private attorneys, at one point he worked as a prosecutor. However, he also served in George W. Bush’s White House, has helped Texas legislators to write laws, and spent time at a tax and estate planning firm. These experiences have enabled him to look at cases in a different way than his peers and find creative solutions that benefit his clients.