What's Wrong with Fighting with a Family member, Roommate or present or past girlfriend/boyfriend?

Texas law condemns any assault by a person upon a spouse, former spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend or member of the same family or household. Family violence and domestic violence are the same. People charged with domestic or family violence assault come from all walks of life-most have never been in trouble before. Most momentarily lost their cool in a stressful situation. Others have significant anger management problems. Some people are not guilty-a result of charges to "get back at" someone or to use a false charge of domestic violence to gain the upper hand in a divorce case or child custody case.

  • Family violence is a serious criminal offense, with a fine up to a $10,000 fine and ten years in prison.
  • You may be subject to a no-contact or restraining order that bars you from going home or even speaking to your spouse. 
  • For a first offense, class A misdemeanor, the punishment range goes up to one year in county jail. 
  • For a second offense, you will be charged with a felony, punishable by up to a term of years in Texas state prison. 
  • If you are convicted, you will have a lifelong criminal record that will make it more difficult for you to get a job. Additionally, it will be more difficult to own a firearm.
  • Very bad employment consequences, including suspensions and job loss
  • Denial of professional or occupational licenses
  • Deportation or exclusion of non-citizens and related immigration concerns
  • Disciplinary proceedings, including suspension and expulsion hearings
  • Loss of civil rights, including the rights to vote and to serve on a jury
  •  Loss of educational opportunities
  • Difficulty in renting an apartment
  • Serious implications in divorce and child custody cases

What is Family Violence in Texas? 

In Texas, police officers are very quick to arrest a person for domestic assault or family violence. They often make the arrest with little, if any, substantive investigation. It takes little more than a mere accusation of spousal abuse to cause a domestic violence or family violence criminal case to be filed. Once the police are called to the scene of a possible family violence situation it is almost a guaranteed lock that somebody is going to jail. It is a rare occasion that the police do not arrest somebody when it appears to them that the spouses have been fighting. It is typical "CYA." The officers do not want to leave the scene of a suspected domestic violence assault with both spouses still at the scene for fear that one of the spouses will end up dead later on after they leave. I understand their motivation but not their actions. This is still America. What happened to the Presumption of Innocence and Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

What is domestic violence in Texas?

The Texas Family Code defines family violence in section 71.004 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.

This law is enforced as criminal charges of several kinds.

  • Assault and battery
  • Restraining order violations
  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic abuse allegations in divorce proceedings
  • Criminal trespass
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Kidnapping and false imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Stalking and terroristic threats

 Is Family Violence Assault / Domestic Violence Assault a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Generally speaking, an allegation of family violence will not impact the criminal classification of the underlying assault or aggravated assault charge. That is, if the charge alleges bodily injury, the charge will be a misdemeanor. If the charge alleges serious bodily injury or alleges the use of a deadly weapon, the charge will be a felony (see Assault / Aggravated Assault page). However, if the defendant has a prior conviction for a family violence charge, an assault which would normally be a misdemeanor will be enhanced to a felony charge.

In addition, an allegation of assault by causing bodily injury to a family member where the manner and means of the bodily injury is by "choking" the complainant, the assault charge will be a felony assault charge.

Can my spouse "Drop the Charges?"

No. 

There was a time when spouses could drop assault charges. They could refuse to testify in court. The prosecutor was forced to dismiss the case. Texas law now that a prosecutor can compel a reluctant spouse to testify in court in these cases. There are some limited circumstances where the spouse can not be forced to testify. A solid criminal lawyer will have a good understanding of this complicated area of the law. 

Today, the state will prosecute family violence or domestic assault cases with or without the cooperation of the alleged victim. Many jurisdictions, have a special section of aggressive prosecutors to handle domestic assault or family violence. These prosecutors will force a reluctant spouse to testify for the prosecution and threaten them with prosecution if they change their statements. Dealing with these prosecutors is very difficult and little mistakes can have terrible consequences. 

Violation of Protective Order

It is common for courts to put protective orders in place when family or domestic violence assault charges are filed. If a person violates a protective order, it is serious business. Protective orders require the defendant to not commit an act of family violence, not threaten the protected person or go near the home of the protected person (even though that is often your home as well), not go near the protected person's place of work and not possess a firearm. Only a court can modify or remove a protective order. 

Free Attorney Consultation

Given the consequences of a domestic or family violence arrest, you should think long and hard before you decide what to do. 

Family Violence Education and Counseling in Dallas & Collin County
 
Collin County:
 
            Hope's Door
 
Dallas County:
 
            Children First
            Family Place
            New Beginning Center
 
North Texas:
 
            Educational Links