Across the United States, local and federal law enforcement agencies have reported a spike in domestic violence crimes during the coronavirus pandemic. With millions of people cooped up at home together under shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, this trend is sad but not entirely surprising.
If you or a loved one are charged with family violence assault in Texas, here are some of the potential legal consequences you could face.
First offense for domestic assault
Family violence is usually a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. To be guilty of this crime a person must cause bodily injury to a family member or to someone the person is in a dating relationship with.
The definition of “family member” under Texas law is quite broad, and can include roommates who are not related to each other. Inflicting “bodily injury” upon another simply means causing that person to experience pain. A slap to the face, a shove against the wall, or some other minor aggression is enough to charge someone with misdemeanor for family violence or assault.
Enhanced penalties for family violence
There are several situations in which an allegation of domestic violence can be a felony, even if it’s a first offense. The most common of these situations include an assault committed against someone over the age of 65, an assault of a pregnant woman, or an assault committed by choking someone so that the person cannot breathe.
Another way in which domestic violence can be a felony is if there is an allegation that the accused used a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
Collateral consequences of domestic assault in Texas
Fines and prison time are some of the direct consequences of being charged with domestic assault or family violence in Texas. However, there are many collateral consequences for domestic violence that most people are unaware of when they resolve their cases in court.
For instance, under federal law a person who pleads guilty to a domestic violence crime (even if there is no final conviction) will be stripped of their ability to own or possess a firearm for life.
Additionally, a family violence case will never come off of your record if you plead guilty or no contest to the charge, even if you receive deferred adjudication probation in exchange for your plea. This is because Texas law does not permit a person with an affirmative finding of family violence to seal or expunge that case off their record.
When you need help from an experienced Texas defense attorney
In many cases, domestic violence can be difficult for the state to prosecute because the person who is the victim of the assault doesn’t want to press charges. However, this doesn’t mean that the case will automatically be dismissed. Many District Attorneys’ offices have special divisions set up to deal with these types of cases, and they will seek a conviction even if the victim is uncooperative.
This is why it’s so important to have a competent attorney fighting for you.