The shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic have had many unintended side effects. One of the main concerns has been the seeming rise in domestic violence cases across the country.
There is some contradictory reporting coming in. Some law enforcement agencies are reporting fewer cases of domestic violence. On the other hand, some victim’s rights groups and agencies in other cities are reporting a rise in domestic violence.
Whichever is the case, one thing is certain, domestic violence is a crime, and authorities in Texas are taking every allegation seriously. This is why it’s important to understand what constitutes domestic violence and what penalties you might face if charged.
What is Domestic Violence in Texas?
Here in Texas domestic violence is typically charged in conjunction with another crime. It is viewed as an enhancement. Enhancements are utilized in increasing the severity of your charges and are taken into consideration during sentencing.
There are three primary domestic violence enhancements: domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, and continuous violence against the family.
When Your Assault Charge Involves a Family Member
Assault in the state of Texas is defined as:
- “(intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;
- intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
- intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.”
This crime can be elevated in severity if the victim of the crime is a family member. In the state of Texas, a family member is classified as, but not limited to:
- A person who the suspect is dating
- A person to whom the suspect is married
- Former spouses
- A person whom the suspect has a child with (regardless of marital status)
- The children of a suspect
- The foster children of a suspect
Aggravated Domestic Assault
The term aggravated is a further enhancement to a domestic assault crime. In this case, when a person commits an assault crime on a family member and the incident involves either of the following, the charge may be classified as an aggravated domestic assault:
- Serious bodily injury to the victim; or
- Use or exhibition of a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault
Continuous Violence Against the Family
The third crime that falls under the label of domestic violence is continuous violence against the family. This is described in the Texas Penal Code as:
“A person commits an offense if, during a period that is 12 months or less in duration, the person two or more times engages in conduct…against [a family member as described].”
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Texas
The penalties for domestic violence vary based on which (or how many) of the above crimes were committed. For the crime of simple domestic assault, a person can be charged with a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4,000.
However, those who are convicted of aggravated domestic violence crimes or have a history of domestic violence could face 10, 20, or even 99 years behind bars depending on the circumstances. Not to mention up to $10,000 in fines.
One important way to get ahead of charges like this in this heightened state of stress is by understanding your possible triggers and creating a strategy for avoiding them. In these trying times, it is vital to remain calm and under control.
If you need help, reach out to local authorities and they can provide you with the resources you need to manage your situation the best way possible.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.