There are several different Texas criminal charges that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. However, there is no crime that is actually called domestic violence in Texas. Crimes that signify domestic violence are all versions of assault that are committed against a family member or household member. There are three separate crimes of domestic violence in the Texas Penal Code: assault family violence, aggravated assault, and continuous violence against the family. Family member and household member are very inclusive and broad terms. These terms are defined by Chapter 71 of the Texas Family Code and they include:
- your married partner (current or former spouse)
- your girlfriend or a person with whom you have an ongoing romantic or dating relationship
- someone with whom you have children
- someone who lives with you (this includes people with whom you do not have a relationship, such as roommates)
- someone who is a family member by marriage or blood or a child you have adopted
- your child from a current or former spouse
- your foster child or your foster parent
If you are a loved one who has been accused of a crime of domestic violence, it is crucially important to consult with and retain a criminal defense attorney who knows how to work these cases. Domestic violence cases are often complex criminal cases that require experience and finesse to defend. Also, the consequences of domestic violence charges can be severe and lasting. The outcome of your case may impact your ability to own a gun. If you plead guilty to an assault charge involving a family member, under Federal Law you can again never own a firearm or transport a firearm or ammunition ever again. This prohibition even includes an assault family violence charge reduced to a Class C misdemeanor. Furthermore, you cannot take a domestic violence charge off of your record, even if you receive deferred adjudication.
What is Assault Domestic Violence?
The definition of assault is found in Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code. Assault family violence is an assault that is committed against a family member, household member, or either a current dating partner or someone you have dated in the past. Here is the definition for assault:
Section 22.01. Assault.
- A person commits an offense if the person:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;
- intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or,
- intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
Causing bodily injury to a family member or household member under 22.01 (a)(1) is the domestic violence charge that probably arises most often in Fort Worth, and all across Texas for that matter. Other than DWI, it is something that gets charged more than anything else. Assault family violence with bodily injury is a Class A misdemeanor. This means that it carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
However, the stakes get higher if you’ve been around the block before. If you have one previous 22.01(a)(1) conviction and you get charged with the same offense again, you will be facing a third degree felony. This carries a penalty of between two and ten years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. So things can escalate rather quickly. Also, if you are accused of choking a family member or household member by impeding their breathing, that is also a third degree felony.
Offenses that are charged under 22.01(a)(2) and (3) are class C misdemeanors, unless the person who is threatened is an elderly or disabled person. In that case, it jumps to a class A misdemeanor. Or if you are accused of threatening a participant (player, coach, referee) in a sports competition or game, then it is a class B misdemeanor.
What is Aggravated Assault Domestic Violence?
Aggravated Assault against a family member is a more serious version of domestic violence. It is an assault, but with increasingly serious penalties. The term “aggravated” indicates an element that goes beyond simple assault. The statute is found in Section 22.02 in the Texas Penal Code.
- A person commits an offense if the person commits assault as defined in section 22.01 and the person
- Cause serious bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse; or,
- Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense
If the state of Texas alleges that you did something that falls under either of these categories, you will be charged with a second degree felony. A second degree felony carries a possible range of punishment of two and twenty years in Texas prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is serious bodily injury? Texas Penal Code Section 1.07 (46) defines it as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
What is a deadly weapon? Section 1.07 (17) defines it as:
- A firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or
- Anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
If it is alleged that you caused both serious bodily injury and used a deadly weapon against a family member, romantic partner, the charge can become a first degree felony. This carries a possible range of punishment between five and ninety nine years, and up to a $10,000 fine.
What is Continuous Violence Against the Family?
This domestic violence statute was created in an effort to try to stop individuals who are repeat offenders. This charge is about persons who commit two or more assaults within one year against a family member, romantic partner, or household member.
- A person commits an offense if, during a period that is 12 months or less in duration, the person two or more times engages in conduct that constitutes an offense under 22.01(a) against another person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by [Chapter 71 of the Family Code].
What is provocative and unique about this domestic violence statute is that a person does not have to be arrested or convicted of either of the underlying assault charges. In addition, there is no requirement that the offenses be committed against the same victim.
The Importance of Great Representation
If you or someone you love are charged with any kind of domestic violence, I cannot underscore the importance and the value of hiring a great attorney who knows how to work these cases. Because assault charges are often complex, negotiating the cases is often an art. You need an attorney who knows how to present these cases, frame them the right way, and pursue great results for you. These cases can have serious consequences for you. Call my office and let’s talk about your case. I love helping my clients, and I’m happy to offer you a free consultation.