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 domestic violence is also called assault family violence. This 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. When defending a felony, the process works its way through the justice system differently. Felonies need to be indicted and must go through the grand jury.
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) 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].
(b) If the jury is the trier of fact, members of the jury are not required to unanimously on the specific conduct in which the defendant engaged that constituted an offense under Section 22.01(a)(1) against the person or person described by Subsection (a) or the exact date when that conduct occurred. The jury must agree unanimously that the defendant, during a period that is 12 months or less in duration, two or more times engaged in conduct that constituted an offense under Section 22.01(a)(1) against the person or persons described by subsection (a).
(c) A defendant may not be convicted in the same criminal action of another offense the victim of which is an alleged victim of the offense under subsection (a) and an element of which is any conduct that is alleged as an element of the offense under Subsection (a) unless the other offense:
(1) is charged in the alternative;
(2) occurred outside the period in which the offense alleged under Subsection (a) was committed; or
(3) is considered by the trier of fact to be a lesser included offense of the offense alleged under Subsection (b).
(d) a defendant may not be charged with more than one count under subsection (a) if all of the specific conduct that is alleged to have been engaged in is alleged to have been committed against a single victim or members of the same household, as defined by Section 71.005, Family Code.
(e) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree
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.
Defending Domestic Assault Charges
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. These cases have dangerous implications for your future. Because assault charges are often complex, negotiating the cases is often an important skill for a criminal defense lawyer. Why are assault cases complex? Generally, the victim and the defendant are involved romantically and often have children together. Furthermore, many times they are still together and live together. If the victim does not want to go forward with the charges, this causes more trouble with prosecuting the case. Situations in which the victim does not want to prosecute will not result in a dismissal automatically. However, this will create problems for the state.
The involved relationships between the victim and the defendant are one reason these cases are complex. Another reason these cases are complex is the nature of the evidence in assault cases. Although sometimes there are pictures and videos of injuries, there is not always this evidence. Many times, the evidence could be largely testimonial. This means that the only evidence is what the victim says happened, and this can create reasonable doubt if there is conflicting testimony about what actually happened. This is compounded further if the victim does not want to testify against the defendant. For these reasons, assault domestic violence charges are unique and require a certain approach to defense.
How Does These Charges Take Shape?
Many times on a domestic violence call, the victim does not understand the implications of calling the police. Obviously, domestic violence is a serious crime that should be taken seriously. However, because of how seriously it is taken, police are trained to make arrests The implications of calling the police for a domestic violence charge is that there will almost always be an arrest. Sometimes the victim calls the police, sometimes friends or neighbors call the police, and sometimes the defendant calls the police. If police are called, and this is especially true is alcohol is involved, there is almost always an arrest.
From the beginning, when police are called on a domestic violence charge, they will begin to build the case against you. What does this mean? This means that the 911 call will be recorded. When police officers show up, they will begin recording with body cameras if they have them. If they do not have body cameras, they will take photographs of the injury and anything else that is relevant. They will be taking statements from everyone present. They will get specific statements from the victim and the defendant and anyone else who is present who has witnessed the event. These detailed statements, from the victim especially, will make up the most powerful evidence in the case. If there are photographs or video depicting injuries, this will be the most powerful evidence in the case. However, many domestic violence cases have photographs that either do not show injuries, or show very minor injuries or red marks that are unclear in nature.
Call My Office to Discuss Your Charge
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. We can sit down and discuss your case from all angles, and we will talk about how your case will work through the criminal justice system. If your case is a felony domestic violence, either aggravated assault or impeding breath or circulation, your case will go through the grand jury process and will be either indicted or no-billed. If indicted, your case will end up in a Criminal District Court or a District Court, depending on the County. In Tarrant County, for instance, there are ten Criminal District Courts. In Parker County, there are two District Courts. Defending a felony means the lingering possibility of prison time so of course that increases the stakes. Every case is different and the goals of each case are slightly different, and the approach is always unique to the given facts of the case. However, the goals of every felony case will be to avoid going to prison and to avoid a conviction. If you are facing a misdemeanor domestic violence assault, your case will not be indicted. Your case will end up in either County Criminal Court or a County Court at Law, depending on the County.