Domestic violence is a serious criminal offense in Texas, and the ramifications are far-reaching. Understanding the legal consequences of a domestic violence conviction is extremely important for those facing allegations. In this post, the Texas domestic violence attorney team at Stephen T Bowling, DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys, discuss the potential penalties for domestic violence in Texas.
Understanding Domestic Violence and Family Violence in Texas
In Texas, domestic violence is often referred to as family violence. According to the Texas Family Code, family violence is defined 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 member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.” (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 71.0021 to 71.006 (2023)).
This legal definition covers a broad spectrum of violent acts, not just among spouses but also among other family members and individuals in a household. It encompasses physical abuse, threats of violence, and sexual assault, reflecting the diverse nature of domestic violence situations.
Types of Domestic Violence in Texas
Texas law categorizes domestic violence into different types, each carrying its own set of penalties:
- Domestic Assault: Occurs when an individual intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily harm to another person or threatens them with imminent bodily harm.
- Aggravated Domestic Assault: Involves causing serious bodily injury or using a deadly weapon during the assault.
- Continuous Violence Against the Family: Charged when an individual commits two or more domestic assaults within a 12-month period.
- Violation of Protective Orders: Occurs when an individual violates the terms of a court-issued protective order.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses in Texas
The legal penalties for domestic violence offenses in Texas are stringent, aiming to curb the prevalence of such harmful behaviors:
- Misdemeanor Domestic Assault Penalties: These could range from a fine of up to $500 for threats or offensive contact to up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine if bodily injury is inflicted.
- Felony Domestic Assault Penalties: If the assault involves injury and the defendant has prior domestic assault convictions or the offense involves strangulation, it is classified as a felony, with penalties ranging from 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Penalties for Aggravated Domestic Assault: These range from 2 to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, escalating to 5 to 99 years or life in prison if the assault involves a deadly weapon and causes serious bodily injury.
- Penalties for Continuous Violence Against the Family: This offense carries penalties of 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Penalties for Violation of a Family Protective Order: These range from up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine to 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for repeated violations or assaults.
Legal Procedures and Restrictions in Domestic Violence Cases
Apart from the penalties, individuals charged with domestic violence in Texas also face additional legal restrictions and procedures:
- Arrests: Law enforcement officers have the authority to arrest suspects without a warrant if there’s probable cause of domestic violence.
- Bail and Bond Conditions: These may include orders to stay away from the victim, GPS monitoring, and firearm possession prohibitions.
- Firearm Restrictions: A domestic violence conviction can lead to the loss of firearm possession rights, with some cases resulting in a lifetime ban on owning or possessing a firearm.
Mitigating the Penalties for Domestic Violence in Texas
Facing domestic violence charges in Texas comes with the potential for severe penalties. However, with the right legal strategy, it is possible to mitigate these penalties or even have the charges dismissed. Here are some avenues through which an attorney can help mitigate the penalties for domestic violence in Texas:
- Challenging the Evidence: An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can review the evidence provided by the prosecution, challenging its credibility, accuracy, and admissibility in court. This could lead to a weakening of the prosecution’s case or even a dismissal of the charges.
- Proving False Accusations: False accusations of domestic violence are unfortunately common. An attorney can work to uncover the truth, gathering evidence to prove the allegations are false.
- Negotiating a Plea Deal: Plea bargaining can result in reduced charges or lesser penalties. With the help of a domestic violence attorney, Texas domestic violence defendants can negotiate a favorable plea deal with the prosecution, which could lead to a reduction in the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor or even a dismissal.
- Utilizing Diversion Programs: Texas offers diversion programs for first-time offenders, which, if successfully completed, could lead to the dismissal of the charges. An attorney can advise on eligibility and assist in the application process.
- Demonstrating Rehabilitation: Showcasing steps taken towards rehabilitation, such as completing anger management or counseling programs, can positively impact the court’s perception and potentially lead to lesser penalties.
- Arguing for Deferred Adjudication: Deferred adjudication, if granted, could prevent a conviction from being finalized on your record, provided you comply with certain conditions set by the court. An attorney can argue for deferred adjudication, presenting a compelling case on your behalf.
- Appealing a Conviction: If convicted, an attorney can explore the grounds for appeal, working to overturn or lessen the conviction, which could result in reduced penalties.
- Expungement or Sealing of Records: In certain circumstances, you may be eligible for expungement or sealing of your criminal records, which an attorney can facilitate, helping to mitigate the long-term consequences of a domestic violence charge.
- Sentencing Alternatives: Your attorney can argue for alternative sentencing options such as probation, community service, or electronic monitoring, which can significantly mitigate the penalties associated with a domestic violence charge.
The process of mitigating domestic violence penalties requires a comprehensive understanding of Texas domestic violence laws and a tailored legal strategy. An experienced domestic violence attorney in Texas can provide invaluable assistance in navigating these legal avenues, aiming to secure a more favorable outcome in your case. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and explore legal options today.