How Serious Are Family Violence Penalties in Texas?

By May 26, 2019September 16th, 2021Domestic Violence, Family Violence

UPDATED 7/29/2021, Original Post: May 26, 2019

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If you are reading this guide, then you, a friend, or a family member is probably going through a difficult time because of a potential domestic violence assault charge. These types of criminal charges are very serious and can have extreme consequences. This guide – which has been prepared by the experienced domestic violence criminal defense attorneys at The Hampton Law Firm – covers the crimes of domestic violence, the penalties, what the arrest and trial process looks like, and the significant benefits of hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight for your rights. The right law firm will have the knowledge and resources to make sure the criminal justice system treats you fairly. There may be specific circumstances that are not covered in this guide, so having the right representation on your side ensures that all of your questions can be answered fully.

In today’s society, the publicity surrounding a charge of domestic violence against an individual will usually mean that the person is convicted first in the court of public opinion, even if no facts have been released to the press. Most people will believe that you are guilty once they learn that you have been arrested. The notion that the police are infallible and never arrest innocent people is still pervasive in our society, although that notion is becoming weaker and weaker. Sometimes innocent people are arrested. Sometimes, in domestic assault cases, there are false or exaggerated allegations made. In many instances, the police will believe one party over the other, especially if the alleged victim is a woman and the alleged aggressor is a man. The criminal defense attorneys at The Hampton Law Firm have years of experience representing people accused of domestic violence, we understand what it takes to convince the press, the police, the judges, and the juries to view the case in a different light and make a decision based upon the facts of the case.

This guide will give you a solid understanding of the domestic violence laws in Texas and what should be done to defend you against charges and protect your rights. If you believe that you will be arrested and charged with domestic violence, the smartest thing to do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Bringing in a domestic violence criminal defense attorney before you are arrested and charged will allow the attorney more time to investigate and discover the facts of the case and be an intermediary contact between the accused and the police.

Criminal Charge Classifications

While all charges for domestic violence are serious, the criminal charge classifications are broken down into two groups: misdemeanors (less serious) and felonies (more serious). Each degree of misdemeanor and each degree of felony comes with differing levels of punishment, including jail time and fines. Whether an accused is charged with a misdemeanor or felony will depend upon the facts of the case and the accused’s criminal history. Here are the potential penalties for each domestic assault charge classification:

  • First degree felony – punishable by imprisonment for life, or 5–99 years, and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Second degree felony – punishable by a prison sentence of 2–20 years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Third degree felony – punishable by a prison sentence of 2–10 years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • State jail felony – punishable by confinement in a state jail for 180 days up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Class A misdemeanor – punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000
  • Class B misdemeanor – punishable by a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000
  • Class C misdemeanor – punishable by a fine of up to $500

What To Do

If you are accused of domestic violence, there are things that you should do and things that you should definitely not do. Following these rules could have significant consequences for your case, including whether you will spend time in prison.

Remain Silent

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to remain silent if being questioned by the police. You should take advantage of that right and not talk to the police. The police are not your friends and are not there to help you. They will often try to talk to you before you are formally arrested. If they do this, they do not have to give you a Miranda warning (inform you of your right to be silent and your right to an attorney). The police might invite you down to the station for an informal conversation and make it seem like it is not a big deal. They may attempt to lull you into a sense of relaxation and hope that you will say something incriminating. If they call you in for a meeting, please understand that they likely already believe you are guilty and are just fishing for more information.

Some people believe that if they refuse to talk to the police, they will appear guilty. Do not fall into this trap. If you talk to the police, even if you are innocent, they can twist your words and get you to agree to things that you should not agree to. Many innocent people have had their lives turned upside down because they spoke to the police and tried to be helpful in their investigation. If the police ask you questions, the only thing you should say to them is the following: “I will speak to you only when my attorney is present and advises me to answer your questions.”

Seek Legal Representation

Many people believe that you only hire a lawyer once you are arrested and going to jail. But this is not the case. The best-case scenario is to have an experienced criminal defense attorney already on retainer and ready to help at a moment’s notice. Hiring an attorney before you are arrested is a way to get in front of the investigation. In some instances, having a lawyer talk to the police beforehand can convince them not to arrest you. The lawyer can be an intermediary between you and the police without you having to testify or even speak to them.

Be On Good Behavior

If you suspect that the police are looking at you and investigating you for a potential domestic assault charge, be on your best behavior and do not give them any other reasons to arrest you. You are already on their radar, so do not give them a reason to add to the potential charges.

What Not To Do

These are the things that you should not do if you believe you might be charged with a criminal offense:

Don’t Talk To Anyone

Do not talk to anyone about your case, except the criminal defense attorney you have hired to represent you. This means that you should not talk to your family or friends about the facts of the case. If you do, your family members and friends could be witnesses against you if a criminal trial takes place.

Don’t Contact Your Accuser

Do not speak with your accuser, even if you think you can convince your accuser to withdraw the charges. This means no communication with your accuser at all, including email, text, or any other kind of communication. Just don’t do it. If you attempt to talk to your accuser, you might find yourself facing a witness-tampering charge and a protection order, meaning that you could go to jail if you even get in the vicinity of your accuser.

Don’t Delay Hiring An Attorney

The best defense is to hire an experienced domestic abuse attorney as soon as possible. If hired early, a good criminal defense lawyer will be able to do a full investigation and stay a few steps ahead of the police. Obviously, the main goal is to not get arrested in the first place. So if your attorney aggressively investigates the issue, he or she might be able to uncover evidence that would convince the police not to arrest you. Your attorney can take the facts and apply the law of Texas to convince the police that they are wasting their time. But this can’t happen if you do not hire an attorney first.

The Law Of Domestic Assault

Assault On A Family Member

In Texas, there are assault crimes, and then there are domestic assault crimes. Not every case of assault falls into the category of domestic assault. In order for it to be domestic assault, there has to be a relationship of familial intimacy between the alleged victim and the accused. Two friends or two strangers getting drunk and fighting each other at a bar would not fall under the category of domestic assault.

Texas law defines the familial relationship for domestic assault as the following:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Natural or adopted children
  • Children of a spouse or former spouse
  • Relatives with whom you share a common ancestor
  • Relatives (in-laws) who share a common ancestor with your spouse or former spouse
  • Household members—people who currently or once lived in your dwelling, but needn’t be related (e.g., a roommate)

The type of violence that is necessary to support a charge of domestic assault is defined by Texas law as follows:

  • An act committed by the accused against another member of the accused’s family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault; and/or
  • A threat that reasonably places a member of the accused’s family or household in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. This does not include any act of self-defense.

The type of activity that is necessary to support a charge of domestic child abuse is defined by Texas law as follows:

  • Genuinely threatening or inflicting physical injury that results in substantial harm to a child;
  • Sexual contact with a child; and/or
  • Compelling or encouraging a child to engage in sexual conduct.

Dating Domestic Assault

Domestic abuse between individuals who are considered dating is a completely different category, and the courts have to make certain findings of fact in order to support a charge of dating domestic abuse. Texas law requires the following:

  • An act intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault; and/or
  • A threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.

This type of criminal assault can only be supported if the accuser is or was in a dating relationship with the accused. Whether or not there is or was a dating relationship will ultimately be decided by the court. Sometimes the facts are not very clear as to whether two people are or were “dating.” For example, do two people going on one date create a “dating relationship”? Probably not. Further, casual friendships and meeting for drinks or food after work would not rise to the level of a dating relationship either. However, if there is evidence of romance or sexual intimacy, the court could find that a dating relationship exists. Here are the factors that a court would consider:

  • The length of the relationship;
  • The nature of the relationship;
  • The frequency of interaction between the people in the relationship; and
  • The type of interaction between the people in the relationship.

Penalties For Assault

The penalties for a charge of assault will depend upon what kind of assault occurred and the circumstances surrounding the charge. Was the accused’s action just a verbal threat or offensive contact, or were there actual injuries involved in the altercation? Below is a summary of the different kinds of assault and the potential penalties, as applied to family members and domestic assault charges.

Assault By Threat

To obtain a conviction of assault by threat, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • intentionally or knowingly
  • threatened imminent bodily injury (either by words or actions)
  • to another person, including the accused’s spouse.

Assault By Offensive Contact

Assault by offensive contact requires that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • intentionally or knowingly
  • caused physical contact
  • with another person, including the spouse of the accused,
  • when the accused knew or should reasonably have believed that the other person would regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

Assault Causing Injury

To convict someone of assault causing injury, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
  • caused bodily injury
  • to another person, including the spouse of the accused.

Penalties In General

Assault by verbally threatening someone or communicating a threat to them is usually a Class C misdemeanor. Assault by offensive contact is also a Class C misdemeanor. However, an assault that causes injury to someone is usually a Class A misdemeanor. There are variations though, given the facts of the case. For example, if there was a Class C misdemeanor for offensive contact on an elderly person, then that charge could be raised to a Class A misdemeanor with the increased penalties.

Continuous Violence Against The Family

Texas recognizes the crime of continuous violence against the family. This charge is a third degree felony and requires proof of the following:

  • The accused committed at least two assaults causing injury, as defined earlier
  • Within any 12-month period
  • Against one or more persons who were in a dating relationship with the accused or were a family member or household member of the accused.

Aggravated Assault

Texas law recognizes the enhanced charge of aggravated assault. This charge is applicable if there are certain aggravating factors that are outlined in the law. As it applies to domestic violence, there are three pertinent areas of aggravated assault.

  1. Aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury:

An assault causing serious bodily injury, a second degree felony, requires the prosecution to prove the same elements as an assault causing bodily injury as described previously, except that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the bodily injury was serious—one with either

substantial risk of, or that causes, death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of any limb or organ.

  1. Aggravated assault using a deadly weapon:

A charge of assault using a deadly weapon, a second degree felony, requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
  • exhibited (displayed) a deadly weapon
  • during the assault of another person.

This charge does not require an actual injury to another person with the use of the weapon. The very fact of merely brandishing a weapon in the assault attempt is enough to satisfy the requirements of this charge.

  1.  Family violence aggravated assault:

A charge of family violence aggravated assault, a first degree felony, requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
  • caused serious bodily injury
  • to a person who was in a dating relationship with the accused or was a family member or household member of the accused at the time the assault occurred, and
  • the accused exhibited a deadly weapon during the assault.

Sentencing For Domestic Assault Crimes

When a judge issues a sentence after a guilty verdict or a voluntary guilty plea agreed to by the defendant, many factors will come into play as to what sentence will be handed down. The judge will consider the severity of the crime, the types of injuries involved, any monetary factors involved, the prosecution’s suggestions, and any criminal history the defendant may have.

Sentences And Community Supervision

If you are convicted of a crime, the court will impose a sentence, a fine, or a term of community supervision as punishment. Texas domestic violence categories not involving homicide are:

  • First degree felony – punishable by either a life sentence or 5–99 years, and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Second degree felony – punishable by a prison sentence of 2–20 years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Third degree felony – punishable by a prison sentence of 2–10 years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • State jail felony – confinement in a state jail for 180 days to two years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Class A misdemeanor – punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000
  • Class B misdemeanor – punishable by a jail sentence less than 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000
  • Class C misdemeanor – punishable by a fine of up to $500

A record of prior criminal convictions may increase the maximum penalty and/or raise the level of your charge so that it is subjected to a higher penalty.

Minimum Sentences And Probation

If the judge decides to impose a minimum prison sentence, serving time can be avoided in a couple of ways:

  • The court can elect to impose community supervision (probation). If you obey its rules and complete it successfully, you’ll be discharged without imprisonment. If you don’t and probation is revoked, you’ll return to court for sentencing. In most cases, the court then imposes a prison sentence of at least the minimum sentence authorized for the offense.
  • The judge can impose the minimum sentence and “stay” part or all of your sentence while you’re on probation. That means you don’t actually serve the stayed portion of your sentence as long as you obey the court’s rules.

Probation is available for most crimes of domestic violence, although it’s more difficult to obtain if you used or displayed a weapon when committing the crime, in which case you’ll want to talk to your lawyer about whether to have a jury or a judge decide punishment. Only a jury can recommend probation for certain offenses that involve the use of a firearm. If you’re granted probation for a family violence offense, the court assesses an additional $100 fee, which is given to a family violence center located in the county where you were sentenced.

Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication refers to an agreement made with the prosecutors where, if all of the requirements of the agreement are met, the conviction will be ultimately wiped clean from the defendant’s record. The agreement usually requires the defendant to plead guilty or no contest and agree to certain terms of probation. The terms of the agreement can include many things, including a period of time for probation, community service, paying fines, keeping out of trouble, etc. If the terms are met, then the matter is dismissed, and there is no record of the conviction.

Deferred adjudication can be used in domestic violence cases, but not every case will be eligible. Usually, people who are facing first-time charges and do not have a criminal history will be able to take advantage of such a deal. However, if the terms of the agreement are not met by the defendant, then the criminal case is reinstated and the defendant will be sentenced under the full terms of the law. This is one reason why you should have an experienced criminal defense lawyer representing you, so that you can understand the full terms of the agreement and make sure you’re able to comply with them before admitting any kind of guilt.

Sentencing Strategy

One way to get the best sentence possible is to take a proactive approach to your situation. If it is clear that there will be some sort of guilty plea and an agreement with the prosecution, you may want to put yourself in the best light when you go in front of the judge for sentencing. Telling the judge that you are sorry for your actions and for the harm that you may have caused the victim is the first thing to do. Demonstrating that you are paying any restitution that is required would also weigh in your favor.

If you can also tell the judge that you have already started some form of counseling or therapy program, that would help as well. For example, if the assault happened while you were intoxicated, it would be smart to enter into some sort of rehabilitation program or alcohol addiction program, such as going to AA meetings and getting an AA sponsor. If it is an anger issue, you could begin seeing an anger management therapist and tell the judge that you are working on your anger issues. Being able to present a report from your counselor about how well you are doing within the program and how you are progressing with your addiction or anger issues will help. Anything that demonstrates to the judge that you take this seriously, that you are sorry, and that you are getting better will help in lowering your sentence. You have to give the judge reason to grant you a more lenient sentence.

Tarrant County Domestic Violence Diversion Program

If you have been arrested in Tarrant County, Texas, on a domestic violence criminal charge, you may be able to take advantage of the Tarrant County Domestic Violence Diversion Program. This is a pre-trial diversion program available for domestic assault and violence cases and/or violence between romantic partners. The program is in lieu of traditional criminal case processing, placing a defendant who meets all of the qualifications into a monitoring program where the court can keep an eye on the defendant’s progress with the various requirements of the program.

The program consists of a one-year monitoring process where the defendant is required to report in person to a case manager once a week during the first 30 days, then maintain a minimum of two contacts per month for the remainder of the program. An initial assessment is completed by the case manager where, depending upon the defendant and the nature of the case, certain treatment and/or counseling programs are recommended. There will be at least one progress hearing with the court during the 12-month period of the program. Finally, there is a $60-per-month supervision fee that the defendant must pay.

Admission Criteria

After a detailed screening process, the court will determine if the defendant meets the Tarrant County Domestic Violence Diversion Program admission criteria:

  • The defendant must have a pending allegation of partner-on-partner violence;
  • The defendant must not have any current or prior violations of protective orders;
  • There is no allegation of stalking activity;
  • The defendant cannot have any outstanding arrest warrants;
  • The defendant cannot have any other pending charges;
  • The defendant cannot have previously participated in a diversion program;
  • The defendant must demonstrate a commitment to completing a prescribed program; and
  • The victim (injured party) must give consent for offender participation.

The program focuses on providing services that help identify the causes of domestic violence and prevent those triggering events from occurring. It also focuses on preventing violence against women. If the defendant meets all of the qualifications listed above, certain things have to be done by the defendant and their criminal defense attorney to enter the program:

  • The Tarrant County District Attorney recommends the defendant for participation in the program.
  • The defendant must enroll in the program at the first consultation docket.
  • The defendant is assessed for appropriate programs.
  • The victim must sign a consent form for the defendant to participate in the Domestic Violence Diversion Program.
  • The defendant enters a plea of guilty to Assault (Family Violence), and the judge recesses, or delays, the hearing for one year.
  • The defendant completes the diversion program as a condition of bond.
  • Once the defendant successfully completes the program, the defendant is allowed to withdraw the plea of guilty, and the judge dismisses the case.

Having an experienced Tarrant County, Texas domestic violence criminal defense attorney on your side will increase your chances of being allowed into the diversion program. Your attorney can negotiate the deal with the prosecution and make sure everything is done properly. After a year in the program, this matter could be dismissed, and you could move on without having a criminal conviction destroy your life.

Collateral Consequences To Domestic Violence Conviction

There are many consequences associated with a conviction for domestic violence beyond whatever sentence the judge imposes. Besides jail time, fines, and probation, there could also be ancillary consequences of a criminal conviction that do not have anything to do with the case, such as the inability to vote or hold a public office due to a felony conviction.

Child Custody Consequences

A conviction or even an arrest for domestic violence or assault can affect family law matters like child custody or divorce proceedings. A family law judge might not be inclined to let a criminal defendant:

  • Obtain custody of a child;
  • Obtain unsupervised visits with a child;
  • Have unrestricted electronic communication with a child; and/or
  • Be appointed as a conservator for a child.

If the accused is convicted of a family violence crime against a spouse less than two years before the start of a divorce proceeding or while a divorce proceeding is pending, the divorce court can order the accused to pay spousal maintenance of up to $2,500/month or up to 20% of the accused’s monthly

income for up to three years, and sometimes longer, even if maintenance would ordinarily be disallowed. In addition, anyone convicted of family violence within the previous two years is generally not permitted unsupervised contact with their minor children, even if the children were not victims of the crime.

Gun Ownership

With any kind of felony conviction or guilty plea, whether it relates to domestic violence or not, federal law dictates that the defendant can never own a firearm or ammunition again. If there is a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, federal law will also ban gun ownership if one of the following elements is present:

  • An element of the crime made it a domestic violence crime, such that the prosecution was required to prove the crime was committed against a family member in order to obtain a conviction; or
  • The court that imposed the conviction made a finding that the crime involved domestic violence. The “family violence” finding made by Texas judges satisfies that condition.

Texas will not allow a person to hold a concealed-carry permit if they have been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes. It is also illegal in Texas to possess a firearm for a period of 5 years if convicted of misdemeanor assault. The 5-year period begins on the date the accused is released from confinement or community supervision, whichever is later.

Occupational Licenses

Convictions for domestic violence might also affect your ability to obtain certain occupational licenses that are required in the state of Texas. If the application process for the specific license requires a determination of the applicant’s character, the governing body that issues the license will consider any criminal violations of moral turpitude, which includes any domestic violence convictions. Even violating a family violence protective order is viewed as a crime of moral turpitude if the violation involved the use or threat of violence. Here are some examples of occupational licenses that might be affected by a domestic violence conviction:

  • Childcare or preschool business
  • K-12 teaching certificate
  • Real estate license
  • Nursing
  • Plumbing
  • Professional licenses, such as an attorney’s or physician’s license

Immigration

There are many things that can affect a person’s immigration status, and being a convicted felon does not help. Someone with a domestic violence conviction on their record could be denied citizenship based upon that conviction alone. Also, there is a substantial risk of the person being deported, depending upon the nature of the crime. Further, if an immigrant was convicted of a crime, then left the United States, they may not be allowed to re-enter the country based upon that conviction.

Military Service

In the past, the conventional wisdom was that the military would take just about anyone who wanted to join. This is not the case in today’s military. Any criminal conviction, whether or not a conviction for domestic violence, can affect a person’s ability to join the military. A felony conviction can definitely prevent you from joining. If you are already a member of the military and are charged with domestic assault or domestic violence, the court is obligated to notify the staff advocate general or the provost marshal of the military installation to which you are assigned. At that point, it is up to your commanding officer to determine how the military will respond to the charges and/or conviction.

Timeline Of Criminal Domestic Violence Case

Usually, a case of domestic violence will begin by the police becoming involved. Whether the case is reported by an alleged victim or some other witness, like a neighbor, somehow the police are called to the scene. Once that happens, the process often takes over and the defendant has very little say in what happens. In most situations, if there has been an allegation of an assault, then someone is getting arrested. The police generally will arrest someone even based solely on the allegation of the victim alone. The police may interview everyone who was involved with or witnessed the incident. The police may also attempt to speak to the accused to get their side of the story. But we caution anyone who is about to be arrested or has already been arrested not to speak to the police about the incident unless you have an attorney present. The police will attempt to have you waive your right to not talk to them, but resist the urge and wait to be represented by an attorney.

If the accused is not at the scene of the incident when the claim is initially called in, then often the police will contact the accused to have them come to the station to “give their side of the story.” Again, do not do this without an attorney present. If the police invite you down to meet with them, they likely already think you are guilty and are just trying to gather more evidence against you. Any conversation that they have with you will be recorded, and anything you say can possibly be used against you in securing your conviction. That is why it is imperative that you do not meet with the police by yourself and that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to go with you to protect you and your rights.

Your defense attorney can act as a conduit between you and the police, if necessary, without having you speak to the police. The attorney can convey whatever information they deem necessary for the police to know, with the idea of having their client’s best interest in mind. Some people think it will make them look guilty if they hire a lawyer. But the police already think you are guilty. If you hire an attorney to defend you right from the get-go, then you are demonstrating how smart you are, not your guilt.

Once the accused is arrested and specific charges are filed, they will be taken to the police station and processed, which involves a mug shot and fingerprints being taken, and other information being obtained. At no point during this process should the accused speak to the police about the case or anything of substance. At some point soon after the arrest, the accused will be taken in front of a magistrate judge, where an arraignment will take place. The judge will explain the charges to the defendant, who will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this stage, a bond is usually set for the defendant’s release. Having an attorney present at this stage is very helpful in order to make sure the defendant does not spend any unnecessary time in jail.

New court dates are set after the arraignment, with pre-trial negotiations set on the first date. This is where your attorney discusses the case with the prosecution to negotiate a favorable resolution. This discussion may include the circumstances, any criminal history of the defendant, the victim’s history, any injuries that were sustained, and other factors related to the case, all of which may first need to be investigated by the lawyer. Witnesses who are usually interviewed for the defense include people familiar with the relationship of the accused and the alleged victim, those with personal relationships with the defendant, those who witness the alleged crimes, and anyone that may have favorable comments about the accused’s character. At some point thereafter, a trial date is set, and you and your defense attorney will prepare for the trial and the presentation of evidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What is the definition of “domestic violence” or “family violence” under Texas statutes?

A:  Domestic violence under Texas law consists of assault, child abuse, and other acts of violence by a person against one of their family members, as defined by the statute. This relationship includes a person who is in a dating relationship or was in a dating relationship with the accused.

Q:  Can a woman be charged with domestic violence?

A:  Yes. Anyone can be charged with domestic violence if they meet the criteria as outlined in the statute, no matter their gender.

Q:  What do I do if I have been charged with a domestic violence offense?

A:  You should immediately contact and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you through the process, answer all of your questions, and begin investigating the case. If you can afford to, post bond to make sure you get out of jail to better help your attorney investigate and prepare the case. But if you cannot afford both an attorney and bond, then use your money to hire an attorney. That will be more important and more beneficial to you in the long run.

Q:  The police want to meet with me to get “my side of the story.” What should I do?

A:  Never talk to the police without having an attorney present. The police are not your friends and are trying to find more evidence against you. If the police want to meet with you, then they already think you are guilty. The bottom line is to not discuss the case with anyone—the police, friends, family, investigators, or anyone, besides your attorney.

Q:  What if the case is based on mere allegations of my spouse or significant other, but no other evidence?

A:  Allegations of one person, without any other evidence or witnesses, is still enough to justify an arrest of the accused. A mere allegation is even enough to justify a conviction of domestic abuse in the state of Texas.

Q:  What if my spouse calls the police on me?

A:  If the police come to your home because your spouse called them, the first thing you should do is whatever they tell you to do. Follow their commands so that the situation does not become worse. If they tell you to leave, then leave without incident. If you have bruises, cuts, or abrasions, make sure the police know this and make sure you immediately take pictures of them. If you are arrested, say nothing to the police and contact an experienced Texas domestic abuse criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Q:  I never physically harmed my spouse. How can I be charged with family violence?

A:  For a family violence charge, a physical injury is not necessary to arrest someone. A mere threat of physical violence might be enough to support a charge of family violence.

Q:  My spouse wants to drop the charges against me, but the prosecutor will not do it. Is that allowed under the law?

A:  A domestic violence charge is a criminal violation brought against you by the state, not by the alleged victim. A prosecutor does not have to rely upon the wishes of the victim to decide to go forward with the case. There are certainly some cases that cannot be won by the state without the help from the victim. But the prosecutor can take the case to trial.

Q:  How long will my case take to be finished?

A:  Every case is different and may have a different timeline to completion. But a domestic abuse case can take a few months to a few years to resolve. It might depend upon the prosecutor’s office and the size of the county and how busy the courts are. Plus, an effective defense investigation often takes time, including obtaining audio statements, medical records, background information of the person making the accusations, as well as interviewing witnesses. Cases are set for trial depending on their age, and whether the defendant is currently being held in custody. If a defendant has a new case and is out on bond, their case will not be at the front of the line to be tried.

Q:  Can I change lawyers if I’m not happy with my current one?

A:  Yes, you can change lawyers if you are not happy with your representation. This actually happens quite often. You should have the best representation for your case and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who has the knowledge, skills, and resources to fight for your rights.

Q:  I’ve talked to several lawyers. How can I feel certain I’m choosing the right one for my case?

A:  You should hire the lawyer you feel is the most qualified and with whom you feel most

comfortable. Examine the lawyer’s experience. Has he or she practiced for just a few years, or for many years? Have they handled many domestic abuse cases? What is their record of success? Do they focus their law practice on criminal defense? Also, consider the lawyer’s credentials and their ratings. Client reviews can also be helpful. Do not hire an attorney based on price alone. Hiring a cheap, overworked or inexperienced attorney can cost you your freedom, career, family relationships, and reputation.

Texas Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer

Getting charged with a domestic violence crime in Texas can lead to unimaginable outcomes including long-term prison sentences and substantial fines. With this domestic violence charge being brought against you, a lot is at stake right now. For this reason, you’ll want to promptly hire an experienced lawyer to defend you and protect your rights. Domestic violence criminal defense lawyers at The Hampton Law Firm are well-informed, skilled, and experienced at representing those in Texas who are accused of domestic violence and other crimes. We are here for you and will work tirelessly to help you get the best result possible. Reach out to The Hampton Law Firm today by calling (817) 826-9885 or by contacting us online.

Domestic violence occurs when a person commits an assault upon a family or household member. Charges of Continuous Violence Against the Family may be brought when someone commits two acts of domestic violence within a twelve-month period.

Beware, neither incident of domestic assault has to have resulted in arrest or conviction, and even when the alleged assaults refer to more than a single victim, you may be charged. The crime is a felony of the third degree.

If you are currently facing allegations of continuous family violence, it is imperative you speak with an experienced Texas family violence attorney as soon as you can.

This charge can elevate your misdemeanor offenses to felony charges, and Texas domestic violence law grants the court wide discretion when it comes to civil penalties – not to mention the social repercussions you will be subjected to if convicted.

Texas Criminal Penalties for Family Violence

Whereas a Class A Misdemeanor charge for a single offense of domestic violence carries a one-year jail sentence and a $4,000 fine, according to Penal Code, a Continuous Violence Against the Family conviction in Texas can be far more steep.

When the court rules against you on even just two offenses within a single year, your fine could nearly triple ($10,000 max), and you could face a prison term 10 times as long (up to 10 years).

You may also be required to complete a rehabilitation program designed specifically for domestic violence offenders.

Further, the statute says it does not “deprive the court of authority” to impose other penalties such as suspending or cancelling various licenses or permits, or forcing the offender to forfeit certain property. The law also grants the court permission to include any other civil penalty it warrants.

Court Discretion Regarding Additional Civil Penalties in Texas

Due to the growing body of research showing long-term adverse physical and mental health effects upon victims of family violence – children and adults – Texas courts have taken a hardline approach to curtailing repeat offenders.

One way to do that is by requiring an offender to pay restitution. Should a victim incur expenses in conjunction with any instance of domestic assault – the cost of medical treatment, therapy, or even repair and replacement of any property damaged during a given incident – it is entirely up to the court whether and how much the offender will pay.

In any case, a protective order is likely to accompany your judgment, and the exact terms will depend upon the circumstances surrounding your case. These orders only impose further limitations upon you, and could quite possibly leave you searching for separate housing from your family while you continue to pay for their living expenses – it may even prevent you from visiting with your children altogether.

The Social Repercussions

When you are convicted of felony domestic violence charges such as this one, the conviction lands on your permanent record and lists the exact offense(s). This can have serious repercussions.

How Serious Are Family Violence Penalties in Texas?

You immediately lose your right to own or possess firearms. It can affect your employment and housing opportunities, and eliminate your eligibility for certain types of educational and other financial aid. Depending on the exact crime, you may even have to report your information to other public sources for a period of time – or indefinitely.

As you can see, charges of continued family violence are no joke in Texas. You are going to need the most effective defense team you can find to ensure you don’t end up paying a hefty price.

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. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.

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