Family and Domestic Violence, Domestic Abuse
Texas recognizes numerous domestic violence crimes, including, but not limited to:
- Assault causing bodily injury;
- Assault by threat;
- Assault impeding breath;
- Assault impeding breath with prior conviction;
- Assault with prior conviction;
- Continuous family violence;
- Aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury;
- Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;
- Injury to child or elderly; and
- Violation of a protective order
Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code defines “family violence” as an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the family or household member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault.
If an offense involves family violence as defined by Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code, the Court shall make an affirmative finding of that fact and then enter the finding into the Judgment of Conviction.
In Texas, family violence is considered a very serious crime. Depending on the nature of the offense, a finding of guilt can result in jail time, revocation of the right to bear arms, and a permanent criminal record.
Family and Domestic Violence Victims
If you or someone you know is in a dangerous situation, or witnessing domestic violence, help is available.
If you are experiencing family violence, call 911 immediately. Law enforcement and emergency medical care will be dispatched to assist you. Police reports are also beneficial when filing charges of family and domestic violence in Texas.
Another vital resource is The National Domestic Violence Hotline. They are available 24/7 to help with crisis intervention, child protection, safety planning, and referrals to domestic violence shelters. You can call the domestic violence hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or chat with a representative online.
Forms of abuse
If you experience elder abuse, psychological abuse, domestic violence, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, or have been accused of family violence, it is essential to speak with an experienced family, domestic violence, and defense attorney as soon as possible. They will help you navigate this difficult situation and ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Who Are the Victims of Family Violence?
Anyone can be a victim of family violence, including men. However, according to The Department of Family and Protective Services, women make up most family violence victims. This includes wives, mothers, and intimate female partners.
Family violence is most common among people aged 20 – 40 but can affect people of any age group. Elder abuse can also be considered family and domestic violence depending on the alleged offender’s relationship with the victim.
Children and Families Experiencing or Witnessing Domestic Violence
Physical victims are not the only ones impacted by family violence. Anyone in the home, especially children, can be deeply affected by the lasting effects of witnessing family violence.
Domestic violence overview
What Does the State of Texas Consider a Family?
In Texas, the term ‘family’ is construed broader than a group of people related by blood, marriage, or adoption. It may include a:
- Current or former spouse
- Child of a current or former spouse
- A person with whom you have a child or children
- Foster child or foster parent
- Any person with whom you have a dating relationship
- The spouse of a family member
What Does the State of Texas Consider a Household?
Crimes of family violence in Texas can include any member of a household. This term refers to a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are related to each other.
What Does the State of Texas Consider a “Dating Relationship”?
Texas law defines a “dating relationship” as one that is, or was, ongoing and of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship is determined based on consideration of the length of the relationship, the nature of the relationship, and the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.”
Effect of domestic violence
How Can Family Violence Affect Victims?
While the immediate concern is for any physical injuries, family violence can leave substantial mental and emotional scars. Victims may suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They are also at increased risk of addiction to drugs and alcohol to cope with the trauma of their experiences. Victims may also suffer economic hardship due to missing work due to injury or the threat of violence.
Witnessing family violence can also have a severe impact on child development. Children who witness family violence may experience dramatic emotional changes. They may become more fearful or angry. They may also have difficulty sleeping or focusing in school. Long-term effects may include seeking drugs or alcohol to cope with the trauma of their experiences. They are also more likely to struggle to make friends, may enter or seek out abusive relationships, and are at an increased risk of suicide. Many witnesses of family violence suffer detrimental trauma and will need counseling and mental health care.
What is Family and Domestic Violence?
In Texas, family violence and domestic violence are crimes carrying severe punishments under the law. These crimes, as listed in TX Penal Code Ch 71.004 include:
- Acts that threaten physical harm or bodily injury
- Acts that put the victim in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm or bodily injury
- Acts intended to result in physical harm or bodily injury
- Assault, aggravated assault, or sexual assault
- Continuous violence against the family; and
- Abuse of a child
These crimes constitute family or domestic violence if committed against a family member, member of the household, or a person the offender currently has or has had an ongoing dating relationship.
These crimes may include the various forms of abuse:
- Psychological abuse (emotional abuse) – acts that result in psychological trauma, causing anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD
- Sexual abuse – using force or coercion to get the victim to engage in sex acts, including marital rape and sexual abuse of a minor
- Economic abuse – when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to financial resources, diminishing their ability to support themselves
If you are a survivor or are facing charges of domestic violence, it is essential to know the difference between these crimes.
As with the broad definition of domestic violence, domestic assault consists of an assault against a family member, household member, or a romantic partner in which the offender:
- Purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person
- Purposefully or knowingly threatened another person with imminent bodily injury; abuse; sexual assault; or
- Purposefully or knowingly caused physical contact with another person that the offender knows or should reasonably know the victim will find offensive or provocative.
Depending on the specifics of the case, there is a broad spectrum of penalties that one could face. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both. While a third-degree felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
What is Recklessness?
The domestic assault might include charges of recklessness. A reckless act might be one committed without the intent to harm but with disregard for the outcome. One example might be throwing dishware in anger. While the purpose may not have been to harm another person, you may face charges of recklessness if the act results in injury.
What is Provocative or Offensive Contact?
Provocative or offensive contact is an act that is upsetting and leaves the victim feeling violated. This could be brushing up against someone in a suggestive manner or threatening gestures such as poking someone in the chest during an argument. For the court to recognize the contact as a domestic assault it must cause the victim pain.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
Aggravated domestic assault is when the offender commits an act against a family member, member of the household, or a romantic partner and:
- Purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly caused serious bodily injury to another person; or
- Used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the assault, including threatening another person with bodily harm or engaging in behaviors the victim is likely to find offensive.
What is Bodily Injury and Serious Bodily Injury?
Bodily injury is physical pain, illness, or impairment of physical condition. Serious bodily injury is risk of death, permanent disfigurement, loss, or impairment of the function of an organ.
What is a Deadly Weapon?
In Texas’s great state, a deadly weapon is any object that is capable of causing severe harm or death that is used in a manner that could conceivably cause either result. Anything ranging from a handgun, metal pipe, baseball bat, knife, tree branch, or even a car could constitute a deadly weapon depending on how it is used.
Continuous Violence and Abuse Against the Family
Even without a prior arrest, if an individual commits two or more acts of domestic assault or abuse within 12 months, they may be convicted of continuous violence against the family. These acts need not be against the same victim. One action could have been against a household member, children, and another be against a former spouse. This crime is a third-degree felony and is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Penalties for Domestic Crimes
Penalties for crimes of domestic violence and abuse carry substantial costs. Convictions range from a “Class C” misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine to a 1st degree felony which can require a penalty from 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
In the case of simple assault, in Texas, the court may require the offender to pay restitution. This is a reimbursement to the victim for any expenses related to the crime. This might be the cost to replace or repair damaged property. It can also include the cost of medical care, counseling, or therapy needed as a result of the assault.
If pleading guilty to first-time domestic or family violence charges, the judge may grant a deferred adjudication. This is when the court postpones sentencing on the condition that the offender meets specific requirements during that time. Requirements the offender may need to comply with include:
- No new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period
- Community service program and help
- Complete a Domestic Violence Offender treatment programs; or
- Paying restitution
If the offender successfully meets these requirements, the court will dismiss the case. However, the arrest, charges, and deferral will still appear on the offender’s criminal record. Should the offender fail to meet the court’s requirements, then sentencing will begin, and the court will enter a conviction. This alternative is rarely available to repeat offenders or in cases of aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon.
Community supervision, or probation, may be an alternative to jail or prison time for offenders who plead guilty or who were convicted of domestic or family violence in Texas. If the crime was a misdemeanor, probation might last for up to 2 years and up to 10 years for felonies.
While on probation, the court requires that the offender:
- Meet with a probation officer
- Pay probation costs
- Maintain employment
- Have a curfew
- Submit to drug testing; and
- Avoid any further criminal activity or arrests
If the offender violates the conditions of their probation, the court may enforce a jail sentence. This jail time is proportional to the crimes the offender was convicted of. If they were initially on probation for a Class A misdemeanor, they will receive their original sentence of up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $4,000. The court may apply additional charges as appropriate.
The consequences of family and domestic violence charges run far deeper than possible jail time and fines. Having a domestic violence-related arrest in Texas can also affect:
- Custody Rights – This is especially true if you are already facing a custody battle. Depending on the nature of your conviction, the judge can deny you custody or even terminate your parental rights.
- Firearms Ownership – Even if the charges against you are only a misdemeanor, you can still lose possession of and the right to own firearms.
- Loss of Employment – As a matter of public record, an arrest, charges, or domestic violence conviction will show up on a background check. This can affect current employment as well as make it challenging to find jobs in the future.
- Loss of Housing Opportunities – As with employment, landlords rely on background checks to decide who to rent their property to. An arrest, charges, or a conviction of domestic violence can make it challenging to find a landlord who will rent to you.
Have You Been Falsely Accused of Texas Family Violence?
Law enforcement arrests the man 99% of the time in a domestic violence call. Even if a female partner initiated the altercation, unfortunately, even having an arrest for domestic violence can have severe and far-reaching effects. If you have been falsely accused of Texas family violence, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don’t leave the outcome of your case to chance.
- Self Defense – A person is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force. An example of this would be if your ex began assaulting you and you exercised force to defend yourself.
- Defense of Others – A person is justified in using force under the circumstances as the actor reasonably believes them to be, if the actor would be justified in using force to protect himself against the unlawful force, he reasonably believes to be threatening the third person he seeks to protect; and the actor reasonably believes that his intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person. An example of this would be if your ex was harming your child and you physically intervened to protect the child.
Can an Alleged Victim Withdraw the Complaint and Refuse to Press Charges?
Yes, an alleged victim of family violence in Texas can withdraw their complaint and refuse to press charges. However, the prosecutor can choose to pursue charges against the alleged offender regardless of the victim’s wishes and without their cooperation.
Talk to an Experienced Family, Domestic Violence and Defense Attorney About Your Case
In Texas, family violence is a serious matter with severe consequences for the alleged offender. If you are experiencing or have been accused of family violence, seek out an experienced attorney immediately. With proper representation, your attorney can help build a case to protect you and your family from the effects of domestic violence. The attorneys at Jimenez Law Firm can help you if you are the victim of violence to seek justice.Lawyers for Family Violence, Domestic Violence, Domestic Assault & Protective Orders Serving Addison, Andrews, Argyle, Bedford, Carrollton, Colleyville, Coppell, Crane, Dallas, Denton, Euless, Flower Mound, Fort Worth, Frisco, Garden City, Gardendale, Goldsmith, Grandfalls, Grapevine, Hurst, Irving, Justin, Keller, Kermit, Lake Dallas, Lenorah, Lewisville, Little Elm, Mc Camey, Midkiff, Midland, Monahans, North Richland Hills, Notrees, Odessa, Plano, Rankin, Roanoke, Southlake, Stanton, Tarzan, The Colony, Wickett, and Wink.
Family Violence Resources
Texas Penal Code – Assaultive Offenses
This chapter of the Texas Penal Code defines the criminal law elements of family violence-related crimes along with the punishment an individual may expect if they commit one of the listed violence cases.
Texas Penal Code – Offenses Against the Family
This section of the Texas Penal Code defines several family violence offenses such as:
- Violations of protective orders
- Continued family violence
It also includes the consequences an individual may face if convicted of these crimes.
An Abuse, Rape, Family violence Aid, and Resource Collection
AARDVARC is a nationwide organization aiming to provide both resources and information on family violence in Texas and other states.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
This website provides useful information regarding Texas child protective services as well as general family laws. There’s also access to report child abuse or family abuse as well as other resources regarding protective services in the state of Texas.
Definitions for Family Violence
It’s not uncommon for domestic violence or family violence situations to involve terms that may be unfamiliar to many people. These terms and their meanings are identified in the Texas Family Code:
Commonly referred to as domestic abuse, domestic violence, or dating violence, this is an intentional act by one family member against another with the intention of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.
An intentional act by an individual in a dating relationship against the other individual in the dating relationship. Also applies to intentional acts that cause physical or bodily harm by an individual against another individual they were previously in a dating relationship with.
Anyone related by blood or marriage, including a former spouse, parents of the same child, foster parents, or stepparents.
Anyone who resides or previously resided in the same home including individuals who are not considered family members.
Commonly referred to as a restraining order, protection order, or protection against family violence, this is a court order issued if a judge determined that violence has occurred and will likely occur again.
Protective Order Hearing
A hearing at which the judge determines if violence has occurred and is likely to occur again after both parties present evidence and witnesses.
Family Violence Offenses
The most commonly charged family violence offenses include:
1. Domestic Assault
intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury, threaten, or physically contact a family member, household member, or person they are dating.
2. Aggravated Domestic Assault
commit assault with a deadly weapon against a family member or cause serious bodily injury to a family member, household member, or person they are dating.
3. Violation of a Protective Order
knowingly or intentionally violating the terms of a protective order including communicating with the person who requested the order or going to their place of business or their home.
repeatedly and knowingly engaging in conduct targeted at a specific person and perceived as threatening that causes them to be afraid they will be seriously harmed and that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death to themselves or their family members.
communicating with another person through e-mail or other electronic means with the intention of harassing that person.
6. Child Abuse
intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, causing any type of serious bodily harm or injury to a child or an elderly adult.
Punishments for Domestic Violence
The Texas Penal Code defines the general penalties for family violence offenses. However, it’s important to understand that these penalties vary depending on the age and status of the victim and if a weapon was used during the crime, as well as the degree of violence and if bodily injury or death resulted from the violent offense. The previous criminal history of the offender also plays a role.
- Class C Misdemeanor Assault – Fine of up to $500
- Class B Misdemeanor Domestic Assault – no more than 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000
- Class A Misdemeanor Violation of a Protection Order – up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000
- Third-Degree Felony Domestic Assault, Violation of a Protective Order, Stalking, or Child Abuse – a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- Second-Degree Felony Domestic Assault, Aggravated Domestic Assault, Stalking, or Child Abuse – a prison sentence ranging from two to twenty years and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- First-Degree Felony Aggravated Domestic Assault or Child Abuse – prison term ranging between five and 99 years or life imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000
In addition, a person who commits continuous violence (two or more times within a 12-month period) against a family or household member can be convicted of a third-degree felony offense.
Common Questions About Texas Domestic Violence Laws
Are most domestic violence cases dismissed?
Just as with other types of cases, many domestic violence cases never go to trial. It’s not uncommon for these cases to either end up reaching a plea agreement or get dismissed. Prosecutors are often overburdened and will try to reach a plea agreement to avoid the time they’d sacrifice for a trial.
Can a domestic violence charge be reduced to disorderly conduct?
Just as there are many degrees of charges surrounding domestic violence, there are also several degrees of disorderly conduct. To learn more about if this is an option for your specific circumstances, speak with qualified family violence attorneys. They’ll discuss your case with you and your possible outcomes while also going over the laws and creating a defense strategy.
Can I be arrested for shoving or slapping?
Yes. In the state of Texas, choking, kicking, hitting, slapping, and hair-pulling are all considered various types of assault. If you have a romantic relationship, a familial relationship, or a roommate relationship with the person you shove or slap then you can face domestic assault charges. Assault can also include poking someone in the chest during an argument, getting in someone’s face in a threatening way, or brushing up against someone in a sexually suggestive manner.
This holds true regardless of the sex or gender of the assailant or the victim. Law enforcement officers ascertain what happened during the altercation and have the authority to arrest the individual who used violence against the other person.
Is domestic violence a felony in Texas?
Texas has a broad definition of family violence. Depending on the circumstances, it is either a misdemeanor or felony charge.
What can I do if I’m falsely accused of domestic violence?
The best thing you can do for yourself if you have been falsely accused of domestic violence is to hire a skilled family violence lawyer. Do not engage in an argument with the person who falsely accused you. Domestic abuse attorneys will help you understand your rights. Discuss your case with your attorney as soon as possible and do not agree to a police interview unless your attorney is present.
What happens if it is my first domestic violence offense?
Being charged with a crime can be challenging on many levels. However, there are certain stigmas that exist that make domestic violence charges particularly concerning. If it’s your first offense, there are many factors that will go into what may happen.
If you have no existing criminal history and your assault charges indicate there are no aggravating factors, you may be able to request deferred adjudication. Once you finish deferred adjudication without any additional incidents, your case will eventually be dismissed, and you will not be convicted. It’s very important that you satisfy each of your probation requirements in order to request that the court will dismiss the charges against you. Take this probation period seriously to avoid jail time.
It’s also possible that the court may issue an affirmative finding of family violence. In this case, it will stay with you throughout your future. At this point, if you’re ever charged with assaulting a family member again, then prosecutors take this seriously and will bring felony charges against you due to your prior domestic violence conviction.
What is domestic violence fraud?
In some unfortunate cases, as many as 10% of people accused of either domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse are falsely accused. Domestic violence fraud occurs when someone falsely accuses another of these crimes without proof.