Texas domestic violence laws

Learn the consequences for the various types of domestic violence charges in Texas

In Texas, you have the right to seek justice for any abuse through the court system, but when family violence and domestic assault are involved, the case takes on a different meaning. Texas has domestic violence laws in place to help family members and victims seek safety and resolution, in addition to criminal penalties. These can be found under Texas Family Code § 71.0021.to 71.004

In short, there are 3 types of domestic violence in Texas by law:

  1. Domestic assault. An act of violence, even just a verbal threat, against a victim who is in an intimate relationship with the defendant. These relationships must be proven in court and also have their own classification (listed below).
  2. Aggravated domestic assault. If the accused committed serious bodily injury to the victim or was caught using a deadly weapon during the assault or while threatening the assault, then Texas deems this “aggravated domestic assault.” These acts are committed typically with deadly weapons.
  3. Continuous violence. When a defendant has already been involved in 2 or more domestic assaults, then a “continuous violence against the family” charge may be brought to court. This charge applies even if the previous cases were only arrests and not convictions.

What is domestic assault in Texas?

Any time violence is carried out against someone who has a relationship with the defendant, it’s considered to be “domestic” assault. These relationships are classified as follows:

  • Current or ex-spouse
  • Current or ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend
  • Parent of your child
  • Child of current or ex-spouse
  • Foster child or parent of a foster child
  • Other blood and adopted relatives
  • Roommate

The act of assault must also follow certain parameters to be considered threatening or violent. With Texas law, domestic violence is characterized as an act of assault or a threat of bodily injury to anyone who matches a relationship status above. The act may or may not involve physical contact.

For a first-time conviction, defendants may receive fines and penalties, including a Class A misdemeanor. However, prior convictions may lead to a higher level of punishment of a third-degree felony, as stated in Texas domestic violence statutes.

Statute of limitations on Texas domestic violence

In Texas, you typically have 3 years to report a domestic violence case. However, with very little evidence, you may not be able to bring a case to court, and the offender may not be prosecuted.

Evidence that may help your case includes:

  • Documentation of abuse, such as text messages or emails
  • Photos of marks and other signs of maltreatment
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Voice recordings (These are typically not admitted to court unless the defendant knew they were being recorded.)

What to know about domestic violence penalties in Texas

Here are some other important considerations for domestic assault in Texas:

  • Victims don’t have to be physically touched to file a domestic assault report.
  • If no physical injury or lasting harm was suffered, a first-time offense is a Class C misdemeanor and punishable with a $500 fine.
  • If there was physical injury or even a small pain, such as a slap, then the offender can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Depending on the severity, these charges can lead to a year in jail and carry fines up to $4,000.
  • Even if it was a first-time offense, choking can still lead to being charged with a third-degree felony, carrying up to 2-10 years in a Texas prison.
  • For any defendants with prior arrests or convictions, the offense gets bumped to a third-degree felony, carrying higher fines and up to 10 years in prison.

Aggravated domestic assault in Texas

For acts of abuse that involve considerable bodily injury to the victim or that were carried out with a deadly weapon, Texas deems the charge as “aggravated domestic assault.” This refers to any assault or threat of an assault while armed.

These are the cases where significant pain was inflicted on the victim or there was an imminent threat of death using a deadly weapon. For example, if an ex-spouse waved a gun at you in a parking lot after threatening to hurt you.

Deadly weapons pertaining to this charge include:

  • Baseball bats
  • Certain types of rope

 

 

Depending on how the weapon was raised against the victim, other items could be considered a deadly weapon. These are second-degree felony charges under the Texas domestic violence statutes.

Continuous violence in Texas

For cases involving continuous violence against the family, defendants will be charged with a third-degree felony, which carries a longer prison sentence and higher fines. To receive this charge, the defendant must have been arrested at least twice for domestic assaults. This applies even if the defendant was not convicted on those charges.

The same felony charges apply if it were different victims or even if the act was committed several years prior to the current charges. Penalties include a prison sentence of 2-10 years.

Legal representation is the best way to get a fair and just outcome. If you’re in need of help due to a domestic violence case, talk to Matt Sharp today about your options.

Contact us right away for your free consultation.

Coronavirus and domestic violence

Across the United States, local and federal law enforcement agencies have reported a spike in domestic violence crimes during the coronavirus pandemic. If you or a loved one are charged with family violence assault in Texas, continue reading to learn about some of the potential legal consequences you could face. Read more

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