Domestic violence can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the specifics of the charges you face and whether you have been convicted of the same or similar offenses before. Keep reading to learn more about domestic violence offenses and penalties in Dallas. Find out what you can do to protect your rights if you are facing domestic violence charges.
You cannot know for certain if your case will be classified as a misdemeanor until you are charged, or those charges are referenced by the police, investigators, or the local District Attorney’s office. Either way, these charges cannot be expunged from your record in the future.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence—sometimes called family violence—involves any situation in which someone known the victim commits an act of aggression on their person. Domestic violence can involve:
- Significant others
- Immediate or extended family members
Domestic violence is prevalent in Texas. These situations could involve:
- Bodily injury
- Physical harm
- Sexual assault
Additionally, threats are just as serious as the act of violence. The only exception to these statutes is self-defense, in which the perpetrator feared for their life or personal safety.
Misdemeanor Penalties vs. Felony Penalties
Domestic violence (called “family violence” in Texas) can include any number of behaviors, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, or the threat of any of the above under Texas Family Code § 71.004.
For illustrative purposes, this section will focus on the crime of assault, which includes purposely harming or threatening to harm another person (in this case, a family member). Other charges work in similar ways, with penalties becoming stricter as the severity of the crime and/or the number of convictions increases.
Assault as a Misdemeanor
Some types of assault are categorized as misdemeanors. For example, threatening or intimidating another person is, in most cases, categorized as a Class C misdemeanor, according to Texas Penal Code § 22. Per the Texas Politics Project, the potential penalty for a Class C misdemeanor conviction is a maximum fine of $500.
Assault as a Felony
State Penal Code also outlines that intentionally injuring a relative is a third-degree felony. The penalties associated with felony charges are much more stringent than those associated with misdemeanors. A third-degree felony may result in:
- A maximum fine of $10,000
- A maximum jail sentence of between 2 and 10 years
If you have prior convictions for domestic assault, this can upgrade a misdemeanor to a felony under Texas Penal Code § 25.07(g)(2)(A). You could be charged with a second-degree felony. These felonies are characterized by serious bodily injury that includes broken bones or disfigurement, or the use of a deadly weapon.
The Consequences of Family Violence Conviction in Texas
As you can see, the punishments for family violence crimes vary widely and can affect you in many ways. Fines can cause you noticeable financial harm, especially if you face a felony charge.
A prison sentence can take you away from your job, education, friends, and family for an extended period. You may not be able to get all of those things back when you get out.
Having a conviction on your record can affect you professionally and personally. Employers may be reluctant to hire someone with a family violence conviction, and you may no longer have the right to own a gun or vote. This is in addition to the psychological effect of knowing that you have been convicted of such a serious crime.
Hiring a Lawyer to Defend You Can Benefit Your Case
Hiring legal representation is a good way to ensure your civil rights are protected and you do not inadvertently make mistakes that undercut your defense. This is especially important with family violence cases. Due to the highly personal and intimate nature of the charges, you may find it particularly difficult to mount a strong defense if you do not have an attorney on your side.
Your attorney will help you determine the best course of action and how to proceed. Do not attempt to fight these charges on your own, and do not assume that your case is either simple or complex based on your own understanding.
They Will Investigate Your Charges
Why hire a domestic violence defense lawyer in Dallas to investigate when the police have already done so? Your lawyer will look for different kinds of evidence than the authorities. Specifically, they will comb through witness statements, surveillance footage, police reports, medical records, and more. They will do this with the goals of:
- Discrediting the plaintiff’s story
- Introducing enough doubt in the jury’s minds that they must acquit you
- Proving police misconduct, if there was any
They Will Help You Get Your Life Back
There are several ways a lawyer can fight for you. In some cases, they can try to convince a judge to reduce or dismiss the charges against you. Even a reduction in charges can be very beneficial to you, costing you less money in fees and less time in jail.
In other cases, they may have to go to court and present your case before a jury. Either way, your attorney will be there every step of the way, defending you and your rights however they can.
They Will Address Your Legal Questions and Concerns
Not sure whether or not to accept a plea deal? Want someone to explain a legal term to you? Just call your lawyer and ask. One of their most important duties is to make sure you are as comfortable as possible with the legal process and what they are doing to secure your freedom.
Call Our Team Today, So We Can Get Started in Your Domestic Violence Case
Regarding whether domestic violence is a felony or a misdemeanor, you now know it can be both. The case’s circumstances and your lawyer’s diligent defense determine how the case will be tried and how you could be sentenced.
Whether you have been charged with a domestic violence felony or misdemeanor, the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg would like to help. With over three decades of experience in all aspects of the law, Randy Isenberg has a broad understanding of how the legal system works and how to make it work in your favor. Give us a call at (214) 253-8687 to get started.