In Texas, there are five common domestic violence charges:
- Assault with Injury Family Violence
- Terroristic Threat of a Family Member.
- Family Violence with Strangulation
- Aggravated Assault of a Family Member.
- Continuous violence against a family member.
Each charge comes with different legal consequences, and it’s important to know the laws for each one.
Assault with Injury Family Violence
- Causing bodily injury to another person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. A reckless act is not necessarily with intent to harm another but is more focused on the outcome of an action. For example, if you are throwing objects in someone’s direction but not intending to hit them, it could be considered reckless assault.
- Causing physical contact with another that you know, or should reasonably know, the victim will find provocative or offensive. Provocative or offensive contact is an act that isn’t causing direct physical injury or pain but causes the victim to feel violated. This can encompass a wide range of actions, like poking someone in the chest during an argument or brushing up against a person in an offensive manner. This type of contact is typically filed as a Class C misdemeanor.
If you have no prior domestic assault convictions, domestic assault is considered a Class A misdemeanor. If you have any prior domestic assault convictions, it is considered a third-degree felony.
Terroristic Threat of a Family Member
This is a type of domestic violence charge that involves no actual physical contact.
- A person commits a terroristic threat to a family member when they place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. This is a Class A misdemeanor.
Family Violence involving Strangulation.
- Assault Family Violence involving strangulation is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.
- This is a third-degree felony. The act of strangulation enhances the penalty range of an otherwise misdemeanor assault.
Aggravated Assault of a Family Member
Aggravated assault of a family member occurs if a person:
- Causes serious injury to another person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. Some serious injuries include broken bones, disfigurement, loss of a limb, serious head injury, or an injury that requires surgery and/or hospitalization.
- Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon while committing an assault crime. This can include threatening another with injury or engaging in offensive conduct. A deadly weapon is any object that is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Weapons like a firearm or large knife are deadly weapons by definition. However, everyday items like a rope, baseball bat, or wrench could be considered deadly weapons because of how they are used. Even a motor vehicle could be considered a deadly weapon.
This crime is a first-degree felony if the aggravated domestic assault causes serious bodily injury and is with a deadly weapon. Any other form of aggravated domestic assault is a second-degree felony.
Continuous Violence Against The Family
Continuous violence against the family is when a person commits two domestic assaults in a period of twelve months. Even if one or both of the assaults have not resulted in an arrest or conviction, or if they are committed against different victims, they can still count towards a charge of continuous violence against the family.
A charge of continuous violence against the family is a third-degree felony.
What Are the Penalties of Domestic Violence Crimes?
Because domestic violence crimes can be either a misdemeanor or felony, there is a broad range of potential penalties you could face.
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000
- Third-degree felony: 2-10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- Second-degree felony: 2-20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- First-degree felony: 5-99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
What Usually Happens in a Domestic Violence Case?
Family violence charges start with the initial charge. The defendant will be arrested and charged with the crime before their case goes to court.
It is possible that after the arrest the prosecutor and the defense attorney negotiate a plea agreement. This could involve steps to get the case dismissed. Or, it could involve pleading guilty and being punished with jail time or probation. It is also possible that the defense attorney convinces the prosecutor that the case has no merit and they decide to dismiss it.
If the defendant does not agree to a plea agreement and the charge is not dismissed, the case will be presented to a jury. Once both the prosecutor and defendant present their arguments and facts about the case, it is up to the jury to determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charge of domestic violence.
If the defendant is found guilty, the defendant gets to make an election for sentencing by the judge or the jury. If a defendant is found not guilty, or if the case is dismissed through a plea agreement or for another reason, the defendant will be eligible to have the arrest record expunged. Once a case is expunged, there is no record of it. It is as if the charge never happened.
Will a Domestic Violence Charge Show on a Background Check?
Yes, a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence conviction will appear on your background check. At some point after arrest, the pending charge will show on a background check as well. Having a domestic violence charge on your background check can directly affect your employment and housing opportunities and will be on your record for your entire life.
Do Domestic Violence Cases Get Dismissed?
Yes, domestic violence cases can be dismissed. And, it is common for cases to be dismissed. But, there are some special rules involved with dropping charges.
Victims can’t drop the charges. Even if the victim of a crime wants to drop the charge, they cannot drop the charges once they’re filed. That is only a decision that the prosecutor handling your case can make. A victim can recant (take back) their statements, but it is up to the prosecuting attorney to determine if the case will be dismissed or not, depending on the amount of evidence that is available.
How Long Do Domestic Violence Cases Last?
The length of a domestic violence case depends on the severity of the violence as well as the caseload in your area. Cases can take anywhere from a few months to two years. For the best results, you should have an experienced defense lawyer handle your case.
At the law offices of Eric Harron, we are passionate about every case we take and have years of experience helping defend our clients. Contact us today to make sure you are treated fairly and get the defense you deserve.