The lockdowns which were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have had many unintended and in some cases catastrophic consequences. From businesses around the country shutting their doors for good to children losing valuable education time, these consequences have been severe.
One consequence that is not receiving much attention has been the sudden and dramatic rise in domestic violence cases in cities around the country — including Texas cities. Hospitals and police departments have been overrun with everything from severe child abuse cases to spousal violence.
Domestic violence is considered a severe crime here in Texas, with severe penalties for those who are found guilty. We’ll examine what the exact definition of the crime is and look at some examples before delving into possible penalties for those found guilty of the crime.
What Is Domestic Violence in Texas?
There are actually three different laws in our state which could be classified as domestic violence laws. These are:
According to the Texas Penal Code, domestic assault is defined as:
“…an assault against a family member, household member, or a current or past dating partner including:
- 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.”
It is important to note that the wording is very specific for a reason. In instances where injury has occurred by accident, the person cannot be charged with domestic assault. To help differentiate an accident from assault, the word reckless is used. Recklessness is defined as an act that disregards the outcome even if an injury is not the intention.
An example of the difference between the two would be if your spouse accidentally bumps into you and knocks you over. Whether you are injured from this or not, this is not domestic assault as the act was neither intentional nor reckless. On the other hand, if during a fight they shove you to the ground, even without the intention to injure you, they can be charged with domestic violence under the argument that the act was reckless.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
The crime of aggravated domestic assault is similar in nature to regular domestic assault — with a few primary differences. The main difference is that aggravated domestic assault deals with the bodily injury of a person or the use of a deadly weapon.
For example, if you are in an argument with your spouse and you use a baseball bat to hit them, this is considered aggravated domestic assault. Another example would be if you brandish a firearm and threaten them with it. Even if the firearm is not used and no injuries are sustained, you could be charged with aggravated domestic assault.
Continuous Violence Against the Family
This crime is for individuals who rack up multiple charges of domestic assault or aggravated domestic assault. In order to be charged with this crime, a person must be found guilty of domestic assault twice in a 12-month period.
The common element in all three of these crimes is the person committing the crime and their victim. In order for a violent crime to be classified as a domestic crime, the victim must be one of a handful of roles in relation to the suspect. These include spouses, children, adopted children, common-law spouses, parents of a child (regardless of whether or not they live together), those in dating relationships, and others living in the same household.
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in Texas?
Domestic violence is a serious offense in the state of Texas and the penalties for the above three crimes are reflective of such.
Domestic assault is classified as a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. This carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4,000. In the event a person has a prior conviction for this crime, it becomes a third-degree felony. The penalty would then be no less than two years in prison and no more than 10 years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
For the crime of aggravated domestic assault, a person can be charged with a second-degree felony. The penalty for this crime is no less than two years in prison and no more than 20 years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. If a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the crime it becomes a first-degree felony. The penalty would then become no less than five years in prison and no more than 99 years and/ or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The crime of continuous violence against the family is considered a third-degree felony. This will be charged in addition to other charges related to the assault. Continuous violence against the family can be charged in either a domestic assault or aggravated domestic assault.
These are very serious crimes, so it is important to avoid being in a situation where you can potentially be charged. In the event you find yourself overstressed, especially due to the current COVID-19 lockdowns, remember to vent appropriately. Seek out professional help if you know you are prone to outbursts of anger. Above all, remember that the possible consequences of a domestic violence charge can be the rest of your life in prison.
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.