family violence in Texas is an emotionally charged and complex ordeal. The resulting stress, family conflicts, and legal implications can place a tremendous burden on everyone involved. Throughout the legal process, those accused of family violence may encounter protective orders, potential loss of custody or visitation rights for children, and severe penalties if convicted.
The Texas court system takes these cases very seriously, and the legal landscape can be challenging to navigate without proper guidance. However, you have undeniable rights and options under Texas and federal law. At the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, our experienced family violence attorneys are here to offer a beacon of hope. We understand the gravity of the situation you are facing and the impact it can have on your life. A strong defense lawyer is key to protecting your best interests and securing a favorable outcome.
Family violence, as defined by Chapter 71 of the Texas Family Code, is “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.” However, family violence goes beyond physical aspects and includes “threats that reasonably place the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.”
Depending on the nature of the relationship between the alleged perpetrator and the victim and certain aggravating factors, the offense can be classified differently. For instance, a misdemeanor may be raised to a felony, or the degree of a felony or misdemeanor may be elevated under specific conditions.
Texas law encompasses a wide range of individuals under its family violence statutes and considers the unique vulnerability within certain familial relationships. The relationship between the alleged abuser and the victim plays a significant role in determining the severity of domestic violence charges in Texas, prompting the state to impose more stringent penalties for family violence. This includes individuals related by blood or affinity (like marriage or adoption), including:
Talk to an experienced family violence lawyer in Austin, TX, from the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, today about your case.
While Texas domestic violence laws emphasize protecting vulnerable family members, the scope of these laws extends to other types of relationships. Two significant categories include violence against household members and dating violence. These relationships can lead to domestic violence charges, even for non-relatives and unmarried couples.
Household members include individuals who reside together in the same dwelling (such as roommates), irrespective of their familial ties. This category can involve current or former roommates.
Dating violence involves acts of abuse against a person with whom the accused shares or has shared a romantic or intimate relationship. This category includes both current partners and former partners.
Family violence laws in Texas recognize that domestic abuse can vary in severity and intensity. As such, the legal system takes a nuanced approach to determining appropriate punishments. Numerous factors can come into play, shaping the outcome of the case and the potential penalties the accused faces. These factors, commonly known as “aggravating factors,” extend beyond the surface level of physical harm or assault, delving into the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense.
In Texas, simple assault against a family or household member is categorized based on the specific factors of intent and physical harm or threat of harm. This means that the assault involves causing or threatening bodily harm or injury to the victim, such as hitting, slapping, kicking, or pushing. Also, the alleged abuser must be shown to have acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly to cause bodily injury.
Texas law classifies simple assault against a family or household member as a Class A misdemeanor. However, the domestic simple assault charge can be elevated to a felony if the accused was convicted of a prior domestic assault or if the assault involved strangulation or impeding the victim’s breath or circulation.
In Texas, domestic violence cases, an “aggravated assault” charge is one of the most severe offenses that can be brought against an alleged abuser. Aggravated assault involves intentionally causing serious bodily injury to a family or household member or using or exhibiting a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
Aggravated assault charges are classified as second-degree felonies. However, if the assault includes using a deadly weapon and causes bodily injury, the charge is elevated to a first-degree felony.
In Texas, domestic violence cases, a “domestic assault” charge revolves around the actual presence of harm caused by physical contact between the alleged abuser and the victim. Unlike domestic assault, where the threat of harm or the intent to cause harm is sufficient grounds for a charge, domestic assault charges are rooted in the harmful physical act itself.
Domestic assault requires the presence of physical contact between the alleged abuser and the victim, resulting in tangible evidence of injury. The contact can be offensive, harmful, or done without the victim’s consent. Domestic assault with no prior convictions is considered a Class A misdemeanor.
A “false imprisonment” charge involves unlawfully restraining or confining a family or household member against their will. Unlike assault charges, false imprisonment does not necessarily involve physical harm but rather focuses on restricting someone’s freedom, leading to emotional distress and violating their rights. False imprisonment can include physical restraint or confinement, threats or intimidation, or any other means that prevent the victim from leaving or moving freely.
Based on the offense’s specific circumstances, false imprisonment can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony in domestic violence cases. Several factors are considered to determine the severity of the charge, such as the use of weapons and the duration that the victim was held against their will.
In Texas family violence cases, “sexual assault” is any intentional sexual act committed against an unwilling family or household member. At the core of a sexual assault charge is the absence of consent, which means that the victim did not or could not freely agree to engage in the sexual activity. This includes minors below the age of consent, those with mental disabilities, or any other individual who could not give a clear and voluntary agreement.
Sexual assault is considered a felony and can range from first-degree to third-degree, with penalties increasing in severity based on the circumstances of the offense. Factors such as incapacitation of the victim, the use of weapons, physical force, or threats of violence can elevate the charges.
Stalking is a form of domestic violence that involves a pattern of harassing or threatening behavior aimed at a specific individual, causing them fear, intimidation, or distress. The course of conduct must involve two or more incidents, and these acts can include following, monitoring, communicating, or any other actions that cause the victim to feel unsafe or targeted.
Stalking in family violence cases can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on whether the perpetrator had previously been convicted of the same or a similar offense.
In domestic violence cases, the court may issue protective orders, also known as restraining orders. These orders are designed to provide immediate protection to victims of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or any other threatening behavior. A protective order typically prohibits the person named in the order (the respondent) from contacting or communicating with the protected individual (the petitioner). It may also include other specific provisions such as weapons surrenders and exclusive residence possession.
The first instance of violating a protective order is classified as a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. However, under certain circumstances, violating a protective order can escalate to a third-degree felony, such as in cases where the accused has prior convictions for violating court orders or if they violated the order by committing an assault.
Family violence cases in Texas carry significant penalties that can vary based on the severity of the harm inflicted upon the victim and the defendant’s prior criminal history. However, regardless of the charge type, those found guilty of domestic violence will not be eligible to expunge their records. The types of convictions and potential penalties for domestic abuse charges are as follows:
A family violence conviction in Texas can have far-reaching repercussions beyond imprisonment and fines. The legal system often imposes various additional consequences to address the gravity of the offense and uphold accountability. These repercussions aim to protect the victim, deter future offenses, and promote rehabilitation for the convicted individual. In addition to imprisonment and fines, a domestic violence conviction may carry additional consequences, such as:
For parents facing domestic violence charges in the context of a divorce or separation, the stakes are particularly high regarding child custody proceedings. Courts prioritize the child’s best interests above all else, and a domestic violence conviction can profoundly impact custody decisions. Courts may be more inclined to restrict custody or visitation rights to a parent with a domestic violence conviction. These restrictions can include:
Like many jurisdictions, Travis County employs a “no-drop” policy regarding family violence cases. This policy means that once a family or household member calls the police regarding a domestic incident, prosecutors are committed to pursuing the charges. This holds even if the alleged victim no longer wishes to press charges or has reconciled with the accused. The “no-drop” policy aims to safeguard victims of domestic violence and prevent potential pressure or intimidation that may dissuade them from seeking justice.
The “no-drop” policy can present unique challenges for the accused individuals in domestic violence cases. However, there are still legal avenues for the accused to explore in convincing prosecutors not to pursue the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney advocating on your behalf is the surest way to achieve the best possible outcome.
When you have questions about the “no-drop” policy in Texas, talk to an experienced family violence lawyer from the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, about your situation. You deserve to have a strong defense on your side when fighting accusations of family violence.
Anyone can become a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of age or gender. Likewise, anyone can be accused of family violence and have charges brought against them. Being falsely accused of domestic violence is an immensely upsetting experience that can completely shift a narrative, sometimes even reversing the alleged dynamic of abuser vs. abused. In other cases, misleading or exaggerated allegations can arise from misunderstandings, personal vendettas, or attempts to gain an advantage in legal matters such as divorce or child custody.
When facing such serious charges, it is crucial to take immediate action to protect yourself and uphold your rights. Building a strong defense with the help of a qualified family violence lawyer can put you on the most promising path toward justice. At the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, our experienced Texas attorneys can assist you in the following ways:
The consequences of a family violence conviction can be severe and long-lasting, forever marring your record, reputation, and life trajectory. To secure a just outcome and defend your rights, seek the guidance of a knowledgeable family violence lawyer in Austin, Texas. At the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, we have ardently defended victims of false accusations and firmly believe in the presumption of innocence for our clients. Contact us today for a free and confidential case review, and let us help you secure the just outcome you deserve.
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David D. White
Criminal Defense Lawyer
David is both professional and easy to interact with. I cannot say enough good things about his ability to provide the best service possible. If I had another legal matter in the future I would definitely use David again. I highly recommend him.