It seems as though every month is an official month for raising awareness about some sort of cause, disease, or issue in the world. Some of these, including Pride Month in June or Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, are very present on social media and in the news.
Other titles fly under the radar. One of these is Dating Violence Awareness Month, which just wrapped up in October.
Dating violence is a serious epidemic that affects Texas, and statistics have sadly shown a sharp increase in cases. In 2011, 193,000 people were injured or died due to dating violence. By 2017, that number had risen to 214,000 people.
As law enforcement agencies try and crack down on dating violence, alleged offenders may find themselves facing years behind bars and losing opportunities to get jobs or hold certain rights.
If you have been accused of dating violence, make sure you know what charges you are up against. Our state considers dating violence to be a form of domestic violence, so if you are charged, you will face similar consequences.
In order to walk away from dating violence charges without a conviction, you will need to use an aggressive defense that adheres to all of the rules and laws surrounding dating violence in Texas.
How Does Texas Define Dating Violence?
Dating violence seems pretty self-explanatory. It refers to violent acts that occur between two people who consider themselves to be “dating.” (The term also applies to people who are engaged or married.)
Texas law, however, clears this definition up further by listing factors that must be present in order for a person to be charged with dating violence:
- The two people must be in a dating relationship or were formerly in a dating relationship (yes, exes count)
- The person must have intentions to harm or threaten the victim to the point that they believe that harm is imminent
- The person was not acting in self-defense
This crime includes bodily injury, sexual assault, or stalking charges – and keep in mind that dating violence is not just physical. Threats of harm could considered to be acts of mental or emotional abuse.
To say that as clearly as possible, even if you do not touch or hit your partner in a violent way, you may still find yourself facing charges.
Dating Violence Is “Domestic” Violence Even When Partners Live Separately
“Domestic violence” is an umbrella term that refers to violence that occurs between two people engaged in a domestic relationship.
Now, you might think this means that those people have to be living together to face this charge, but that’s not true. Domestic violence is determined by the relationship of the people involved in the incident, and it is not limited to roommates. Since dating violence falls under the umbrella of domestic violence, you can face charges even if you do not live together or spend a lot of time under the same roof with the alleged victim.
Domestic violence is a crime that comes with serious legal repercussions for offenders. Federal law says that people who have been convicted of domestic violence cannot own a firearm, even if their crime was a misdemeanor. In Texas, domestic violence offenders may find themselves having to disclose this information on job or apartment applications.
The charges and penalties for domestic violence will range based on the nature of the crime and the criminal record of the defendant. In our state, most domestic assault crimes start at a class A misdemeanor, but charges are increased to a felony in the third degree if the defendant has a prior conviction on their record. Stalking is also a felony in the third degree. If the defendant uses a deadly weapon during the course of the crime or causes serious bodily injury to the victim, they will face felony in the first degree charges.
How Texas Determines If an Incident Should be Classified as “Dating” Violence
Texas lawmakers understand that physical or romantic relationships aren’t always cut and dry. The difference in two people who are dating and two people who simply know each other could result in different penalties or charges. When prosecutors look at a case of possible dating violence, they will consider the following factors as stated in Texas law:
- “the length of the relationship;
- the nature of the relationship; and
- the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
If you are accused of dating violence and your relationship with the alleged victim was not exactly romantic, you may use this information as a part of your defense strategy.
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.