Being charged with assault can seriously impact your life. Aside from the possibility of going to jail, a misdemeanor or felony assault conviction can affect your professional license, livelihood, immigration status and relationships.
Given the number of recent high-profile domestic violence cases, prosecutors are aggressive in these cases and do not dismiss them unless a defense attorney convinces them the case cannot be proven. Even if the complainant does not want to pursue charges, the prosecution will still proceed. The prosecution will not dismiss charges just because the complainant does not want to go forward.
If you have been accused of domestic assault or family violence in Texas, you should be aware of the state's penalties for such a crime if you are charged. Then, you can proceed with your legal defense by engaging an experienced domestic assault defense attorney.
A domestic violence charge is often determined by what constitutes or amounts to an assault in Texas.
According to the Texas Penal Code (Title 5, Chapter 22), an assault occurs when a person:
It is also illegal to engage in offensive or provocative contact, which occurs when an action doesn't cause physical pain or injury but does upset the victim and makes them feel violated or insecure.
As for what is domestic assault or family violence, it is a distinct form of assault (also known as domestic violence). Such violence can mean many things.
A domestic assault offense may involve an assault against a spouse, a member of a family by blood, marriage or adoption, a member of a household who lives in the same place as the defendant (such as a nanny or a roommate), or a former or current dating partner.
In Texas, domestic violence laws can apply to persons related by "affinity," which includes foster parents and foster children. Texas domestic assault laws can also apply when the alleged victim was a former spouse, a child of a spouse or former spouse, or a person with whom the defendant had offspring.
In addition, domestic assaults can include criminal threats, unlawful confinement and kidnapping when such things occur at home, as well as emotional abuse, which can be due to threats. As for physical acts, domestic violence may mean hitting, punching or kicking a person, or attacking with a weapon. Domestic violence also constitutes rape of a spouse or abuse of a child.
Texas law classifies three kinds of domestic violence. In addition to domestic assault, Texas punishes the crimes of aggravated domestic assault and continuous violence against the family.
As for other penalties for family violence and domestic assault in Texas, it depends on the circumstances or nature of the crime.
Such circumstances may include the victim's relationship to the defendant, whether strangulation or suffocation was involved in the assault (which is a felony) and whether the defendant had past convictions for domestic violence (also a felony), even if those led to deferred adjudication or probation.
If a family violence defendant is found to have knowingly, intentionally or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person, including a spouse, that is a Class A misdemeanor for which punishment in Texas includes a fine of up to $4,000 and county jail time of up to 1 year.
Certain circumstances can elevate a family violence charge to a felony of the third degree, a far more serious crime, when the defendant was in a dating relationship with the victim. A dating relationship is established by such circumstances as the length and nature of the romantic or intimate relationship, including the frequency and types of interaction between the individuals.
A domestic assault charge may also be upgraded to a third-degree felony if the defendant had 1 or more previous convictions for domestic assault. The penalties for a third-degree felony in Texas include prison time of 2 to 10 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Those convicted of domestic assault or family violence in Texas will also have a permanent criminal record which can impact their future educational or employment opportunities.
Individuals who are convicted might have to take violence counseling or perform community service. In addition, they may be required to cease contact with a spouse, a child or others in a close relationship, and they may lose their right to bear arms.
Clearly, the penalties for domestic assault and family violence in Texas can be quite severe. That makes it especially important for defendants to engage a knowledgeable assault and domestic violence defense lawyer to protect their legal rights.
A defense lawyer can explore a variety of defenses against a domestic violence charge. These can include establishing that the assault was in self-defense.
A claim of self-defense is the most common defense against a charge of assault, whether it is a domestic assault or otherwise. To assert this, a defendant who is accused of assault must prove that he or she was threatened with unlawful force or harm and responded appropriately in self-defense.
Further, there must have been no reasonable chance of escaping or retreating from such a threat, and the force used by the defendant must have been in proportion to the nature of the threat against them.
For instance, if someone simply threatened to harm you verbally, and you responded by attacking them with a weapon, that response would not be considered commensurate with the verbal threat. Overreacting undercuts the claim of self-defense.
Other defenses against a domestic violence charge can include establishing that the assault was unintentional, was a mistake or was performed with lack of knowledge.
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Your defense attorney might be able to establish that no assault, in fact, occurred, and that you were falsely accused of domestic violence. Such claims often occur in Houston and other cities when a person is accused of domestic violence during a child custody battle or a bitter divorce proceeding. The claim is false, but is used as leverage.
A skilled domestic violence defense lawyer may be able to get a complainant to retract such a claim. However, a complainant has no legal ability to drop a charge after admitting that a claim was false.
In fact, if you are charged with domestic violence based on a false accusation, and even if that accusation is withdrawn, a district attorney may still decide to prosecute you. That's why it's vital to get a family violence defense attorney on your side as soon as possible — perhaps after an accusation is made but before any charges are filed.
Our criminal defense lawyers believe that everyone has the right to discretion and an expert defense, and we regularly handle these cases. Here are some examples:
But act quickly.
Whether you live in Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County or elsewhere in southeast Texas, penalties for domestic assault and family violence in Texas should not be taken lightly. Get the best family violence defense lawyer you can find to stand up for your legal rights.
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