If the police have arrested you or someone you love on a domestic violence charge, you need a domestic violence defense attorney with a proven track record of success who can help you navigate a path where police and prosecutors consistently assume the worst about you. Often, police officers called to a domestic disturbance hear one side of the story and make an arrest as soon as they hear a few magic words, even though the complaining witness may not want to press charges. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this situation hundreds of times, but I can assure you, there is hope. While Texas laws against domestic violence carry harsh punishments with long-term consequences, there are several paths to resolving these matters where you can ultimately move forward with a clean record. If you find yourself facing domestic violence charges in Texas, contact this domestic violence attorney for a free consultation.
Domestic Violence Charges in Texas
In Texas, domestic violence laws are spread across the Texas Penal Code, the Texas Family Code, and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The provisions in these codes interact in complicated ways. That is why it is so important to seek the advice of an experienced domestic violence defense attorney with a proven track record of success.
If the police arrested you for a domestic violence charge in Texas, the criminal statute involved falls under a broad category in the Texas Penal Code called Assault Family Violence. Frequently, an arrest for assault family violence triggers an Order of Protection, which is governed by the Texas Family Code. Important provisions in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure impact the potential long-term consequences of a Texas assault family violence charge. The paragraphs below summarize important statutes implicated by a domestic violence charge in Texas. Click on the links contained within those paragraphs for more detailed information. And call, email, or go online to schedule your free consultation with me anytime.
Assault Family Violence Texas
The following section will focus entirely on penal code provisions regarding Texas domestic violence laws. I always recommend consulting a domestic violence defense attorney on how the various provisions of each code impact each other.
Texas Penal Code Assault Family Violence
Assault family violence takes the statutory elements of regular assault and applies them to specific dating, family, and household relationships as defined by the Texas Family Code.
Assault (Texas Penal Code § 22.01)
- (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;
- Intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or
- Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
Family Violence (Texas Family Code § 71.004)
For our purposes, the definition of family violence provided in § 71.004(1) is most applicable, and it defines family violence 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.
In the context of assault family violence, the definition of family violence applies to:
§ 71.003 (Family) – “Family” includes individuals related by consanguinity or affinity, as determined under Sections 573.022 and 573.024, Government Code, individuals who are former spouses of each other, individuals who are the parents of the same child, without regard to marriage, and a foster child and foster parent, without regard to whether those individuals reside together.
§ 71.005 (Household) – “Household” means a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are related to each other.
§ 71.0021(b) (Dating Relationship) – “Dating Relationship” means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on consideration of:
- The length of the relationship;
- The nature of the relationship; and
- The frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
Assault Family Violence in Texas
Texas domestic violence laws take the penal code elements of assault and apply them across relationships defined by the family code. As a result, there are numerous points where an experienced domestic violence defense attorney can attack the prosecution’s case against you. For example, under Penal Code § 22.01(a)(1), prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt you acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. Accidentally causing bodily injury to a family member is not a criminal violation. Continuing with § 22.01(a)(1), prosecutors have to prove you caused bodily injury to a family member. That means they have to prove you caused your family member to feel pain. Merely offensive contact falls under § 22.01(a)(3) and carries a punishment equivalent to a speeding ticket. Finally, under this example, prosecutors must prove the complaining witness meets the criteria of one of the relationships defined above in the family code. I’ve represented clients where police officers assumed the existence of a dating relationship when no such relationship existed, and the prosecution’s case fell apart as a result.
Assault Family Violence Texas Punishment
Texas Penal Code § 22.01 describes various forms of domestic violence conduct and prescribes different ranges of punishment based on the severity and frequency of that conduct. The information below is a summary. For more detailed information on domestic violence charges in Texas, click here. And for more information about potential punishments, click here.
§ 22.01(a)(3) – Class C Misdemeanor Assault Family Violence
- Offensive or provocative contact with a family member
- Punished by fine only
§ 22.01(a)(1) – Class A Misdemeanor Assault Family Violence
- Contact with a family member that causes bodily injury
- Punished by Fine, County Jail Sentence, and/or Probation
§ 22.01(b)(2)(A) – Assault Family Violence with Previous Conviction
- Assault family violence with a previous conviction for assault family violence, regardless whether the complaining witnesses are the same
- Punished by Fine, Prison Sentence, and/or Probation
§ 22.01(b)(2)(B) – Assault Family Violence Impede Breath or Circulation
- Bodily injury to a family member cause by temporarily impeding breath or blood flow
- Punished by Fine, Prison Sentence, or Probation
- Contact with a family member that causes serious bodily injury; or
- Committing assault family violence while using or exhibiting a deadly weapon
- Punished by Fine, Prison Sentence, and/or Probation
Is domestic violence a felony in Texas?
Texas domestic violence laws define some forms of assaultive conduct against family members as misdemeanors while other forms of conduct are defined as felonies. For more information on felony domestic violence charges in Texas, click here.
Frequently asked questions
- Can you buy a gun in Texas with a domestic violence charge?
- Can a domestic violence charge be expunged in Texas?
- What is an affidavit of non-prosecution?
- How to get an order of protection dismissed?