Under Texas law, you could face domestic violence charges for any violent incident involving your spouse, domestic partner, family member, dating partner, or roommate. In many cases, just the threat of violence will enough to prompt criminal charges.
A domestic or family violence conviction can carry harsh penalties that threaten your future. A family domestic violence lawyer in Fort Worth from the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg can help build a strong case on your behalf and work to protect your legal rights. Give us a call today: 214-696-9253.
How does Texas law define domestic and family violence?
The difference between domestic violence and family violence in Texas can cause confusion because, although these crimes share many similarities, different portions of the state statutes define them. They also carry slightly different penalties, and proceedings take place in different divisions of the court system.
Domestic violence, sometimes called dating violence, describes an assault against someone with whom you have or previously had a romantic relationship. This may include someone you have had a romantic relationship with, someone you are or were married to, or someone with whom you share a child.
If the victim is or was related to you, either biologically or by marriage (e.g., an in-law), or if you share a child with that individual, family violence statutes will apply. In some cases, the court may also apply these laws to violence involving a dating partner, depending on the nature of the relationship.
Despite the differences, both charges stem from any violent physical contact, threat of violence, use or threat of using a weapon, or physical intimidation. You may face charges regardless of whether any actual injury occurred.
What are the penalties for a family domestic violence conviction?
The charges filed against you will depend on the events of the incident and your prior criminal history. A threat of violence or incidental physical contact may be a misdemeanor; whereas serious physical harm or the use of a weapon may lead to felony charges.
Texas law provides for more serious charges for any incident that involves impeding a victim’s ability to breathe, such as choking or smothering, and for incidents involving a child.
The potential penalties for each class of charge are as follows.
- Class C Misdemeanor (charge for threatening imminent bodily injury or causing “physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative”): up to a $500 fine.
- Class A Misdemeanor (charge for “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse”): up to 1 year’s incarceration and up to a $4,000 fine.
- Third-Degree Felony (charge for assault involving suffocation or strangulation, or for a second charge of assault on a family member or dating partner) a family member: from 2 to 10 years’ incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Second-Degree Felony (charge for a second instance of assault involving suffocation or strangulation): from 2 to 20 years’ incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine.
- First-Degree Felony (charge for aggravated assault): from 5 to 99 years’ incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine.
When considering which category of charges to file, the prosecutor will consider the degree to which the incident caused the victim pain, impairment, or risk of death. Because these cases rely on “he said, she said,” the facts are not always clear and might lead to a charge much higher than you deserve. Our team will investigate the incident to determine whether we can persuade the prosecutor to lessen the charges or drop the case.
How does a family or domestic violence conviction affect you?
Domestic violence convictions are not eligible for expungement. This means that a conviction will remain on your record for the rest of your life, carrying many significant consequences.
For example, a conviction can interfere with professional licensing. Physicians, nurses, attorneys, counselors, real estate and mortgage brokers, teachers, contractors, architects, and even hair stylists might lose their license for a domestic violence conviction.
Because your domestic violence charge is not eligible for sealing or expungement, it will show up on any background check, potentially putting your future employment at risk. You will be unable to purchase or own a gun nor will you be able to obtain a Texas hunting or fishing license.
Finally, upon a domestic violence conviction, you stand to potentially lose custody of your children.
How can you fight domestic violence charges in Fort Worth?
As with any crime, you are not guilty of family or domestic violence until proven so in court. But the social stigma attached to these crimes may make you feel as though your community — and even your family — has already passed judgment against you.
This makes mounting a strong defense even more important.
It is important to note that, for family violence charges, police officers do not have to witness the event to arrest and charge you. In the case of domestic violence, the officer need not witness the incident; your accuser needs only to file a police report.
Once that happens, even if your accuser changes her mind, the prosecution will move forward with your case, as Tarrant County practices a “no-drop” policy, even when accusers recant their accusations.
Our team can work to gather information and evidence to help defend you. Some of the potential strategies for fighting Texas family or domestic violence charges include:
- Self-Defense: This strategy is appropriate if the incident occurred because you acted in self-defense, the defense of someone else, or of your property. For this approach to apply, you must have faced a real and imminent threat of danger and responded accordingly. You must not have been able to reasonably walk away to avoid the threat.
- False Accusations: If your accuser stood to gain some advantage by leveling false accusations, this strategy may provide an appropriate defense. False accusations often arise from ulterior motives held by your accuser, such as the attempt to gain an advantage in a child custody dispute.
- Accident: This approach is appropriate if your actions were unintentional. In other words, your attorney must be able to prove that any injuries that occurred were the result of a legitimate accident.
- Lack of Evidence/Counterevidence: A lack of evidence or evidence that counters or contradicts your accuser’s account of the incident may help us defend you against family or domestic violence charges.
Seeking Help from a Family Domestic Violence Lawyer in Fort Worth
Because a domestic or family violence conviction carries such dire consequences, it is imperative that you seek legal representation immediately. The Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg understands how difficult it can be to fight these matters in a public forum. However, your future depends on your ability to mount a strong defense.
Contact us today for a complimentary consultation and review of your case by one of our Fort Worth family domestic violence lawyers: 214-696-9253.