Houston Family Violence Defense Attorneys

What is the statute that criminalizes domestic violence in Texas?

Texas does not have a specific statute for domestic violence. These charges most often involve assault crimes listed in Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code.

How does the Texas Family Code define the term family?

  • Persons related by consanguinity (blood relatives) or affinity (they are married to each other or the spouse of one of the persons is related by consanguinity to the other person);
  • People who are ex-spouses of each other;
  • People who are the mother/father of the same child, regardless of marriage; and
  • An adoptive child and an adoptive parent, regardless of whether those people live together.

How is a home define?

It is a unit made up of people who live together in the same house, regardless of whether they are related to each other. Under Texas Family Code §71.006, a household member includes a person who previously lived in a household.

Common members of a family or household include:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Children of a current or former spouse
  • Domestic companions
  • Individuals in a relationship
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents and grandchildren
  • Adoptive children or adoptive mother/father

How is a dating relationship defined?

A relationship between people who have or have had an ongoing relationship of romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship is determined based on:

  • the duration of the relationship;
  • the nature of the relationship; and/or
  • the frequency and type of interaction between the people involved in the relationship.

How does Texas Family Code §71.004 define the phrase family violence?

  • An act by a family or household member against another family or household member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, sexual assault, or is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect himself/herself;
  • Abuse by a family or household member towards a child of the family or household; or
  • Dating violence.

Types of family violence problems in Texas?

  • Domestic violence
  • Ongoing Family Violence – A person who commits two domestic assaults in a twelve-month period. This can occur even if no assault resulted in an arrest or conviction. Furthermore, the two assaults do not even have to have been committed against the same victim. This crime is considered a third degree felony in Texas.
  • Endangering minors
  • Kidnapping
  • Protection orders
  • Harassment and stalking

Types of child abuse scenarios?

  • Physical injury resulting in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial physical harm to the child, including an injury that does not match the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or administrative or possessory guardian who does not expose the minor to a substantial risk of harm;
  • Sexual conduct harmful to the mental, emotional or physical well-being of a minor, including conduct that constitutes the crime of continuous sexual abuse of a minor or minors, indecency with a minor, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault ;
  • Forcing or encouraging the minor to engage in sexual conduct, including forcing or encouraging the minor in a way that constitutes a crime of human trafficking, prostitution or forced prostitution;
  • Cause, allow, encourage, participate or permit the minor’s photography, filming or representation if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film or representation of the minor is obscene or pornographic;
  • A person’s current use of a controlled substance in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional harm to a minor;
  • Causing, expressly allowing, or encouraging a minor to use a controlled substance;
  • Causing, permitting, encouraging, participating in or permitting a sexual performance of a minor;
  • Force or coerce a minor to marry.

What is dating violence?

Dating violence is a type of family violence that does not require family members. Dating violence is defined in Texas as an act, other than a defensive measure to protect yourself, by a suspected criminal that:

  • is committed against a victim or applicant for a protection order with whom the alleged offender has or has had a dating relationship or due to the marriage or dating relationship of the alleged victim or applicant with a person with whom the alleged offender is or has been in a relationship or marriage; and
  • is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, sexual assault, or is a threat that reasonably places the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or sexual assault.

Bail conditions in domestic violence cases?

Judges are authorized by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure §17.40 to “impose any reasonable conditions of bond related to the safety of a victim of the alleged crime or the safety of the community” to ensure the assistance of the alleged offender in the trial. While a case is pending, these conditions will generally include a ban on possession of firearms or ammunition, no contact with alleged victims, required assistance to an assault intervention or other counseling program, and/or possibly wearing an electronic bracelet for location monitoring. In certain cases, a judge may set a very high bail amount. If a suspected criminal violates one of these bail conditions, she/he can be immediately returned to custody, and bail may be denied.

How to defend yourself from domestic violence charges in Texas?

Some possible defenses that the person and their legal representation might consider include:

  • Innocence: The alleged offender simply did not commit the crime with which he/she is accused. This is often proven by attacking the credibility of the accuser.
  • Self-defense: Under Texas Penal Code §9.31, a person is justified in using force against another party when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that force is immediately necessary to protect against illegal use of force by part of the other person. Self-defense is not a defense when the other person only provoked you verbally.
  • Defense of a third person: The alleged offender reasonably believed that her/his intervention was necessary to protect a third person, according to Texas Penal Code §9.33.

What effect does being charged with a crime involving family violence have?

Crimes involving family violence are serious because arrests and convictions can have a profound impact on the rights of those involved.

Possible penalties for people accused of domestic violence?

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines
  • Probation: Also called community supervision, probation means that the accused person will continue to live in the community, with certain stipulations. For example, the accused person may be required to pay certain fees, perform community service, or undergo drug testing. If the accused person does not meet these requirements, the probation is revoked and they can be imprisoned for the remainder of their sentence.
  • Counseling: An alleged offender may be required to receive anger management or other counseling services, and/or provide counseling to the alleged victim/s.

How are domestic violence crimes punished in the state of Texas?

  • Class A Misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $4,000, or both;
  • Third degree felony: 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000;
  • Second degree felony: 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000;
  • First degree felony: 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Additionally, anyone convicted of assault in Texas may be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any costs or expenses resulting from the crime of assault, such as the cost of medical treatment, counseling, and repair or replacement of any property damage.

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