By: Mark Diaz
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How a Family Violence Conviction in Texas Can Impact Your Life
Texas criminal laws include special provisions for family violence, viewing assault, threats, and other attacks as being more serious when they involve individuals living in a domestic arrangement. Unlawful acts can lead to misdemeanor charges, but you could be arrested for a felony under certain circumstances. A conviction in any family violence case may lead to jail time, fines, and other consequences.
The nature of the domestic violence proceedings frequently results in accusers abusing the system, however. This puts you in an unfortunate position if you were arrested based upon false allegations. The statistics on false accusations in these types of cases are revealing:
- Around 20.4 million Americans report being falsely accused of domestic violence, including child abuse and sexual assault.
- Of those alleged to have committed acts of family violence, 27% occurred in child custody disputes.
- False statements and perjury are a factor in a whopping 59% of all convictions for domestic violence.
There are certainly many offenders who face charges for legitimate reasons, but all individuals accused of domestic violence are entitled to their day in court. Besides contesting false allegations, there are other strategies for protecting your interests and your rights.
When you understand how a family violence conviction in Texas can impact your life, you realize that retaining a Galveston family violence defense lawyer should be a priority.
Important Family Violence Definitions and Terminology
Texas statutes include numerous terms that have very specific meanings, so it is important to define some of these terms.
Family: Even this basic concept is described in the law, and it includes those related by marriage or blood. Family also covers:
- Parents who share a child, regardless of whether they are or were married
- Former spouses
- Foster parents and children
Household: This term refers to people who live in the same home together, regardless of their relationship to one another. Meaning, if you live with a person and are not related to them, let’s say they are simply a roommate, this would be covered under this definition. It also covers people who were former members of a household.
Family Violence: Acts by a member of the family or household against another may amount to family violence when the act is intended to:
- Cause physical harm or bodily injury;
- Sexually assault the other person;
- Threaten the other person to the point where they are in fear or imminent physical or bodily harm
In addition, assault is a form of family violence when they involve family or household members who are children, elderly adults, or disabled individuals. Dating violence may also be a crime when someone uses violence or threats against someone with whom they have or had a continuing romantic relationship.
Texas Law on Domestic Violence Crimes
Threats, assault, and causing bodily injury are all criminal acts, and there are three basic forms of misconduct to break down here. In the context of family cases, it is against the law to intentionally or knowingly:
- Cause bodily injury to a family or household member
- Threaten a household or family member with bodily injury
- Cause physical contact with a household or family member, when the actor knows or should realize that the touching is offensive or provocative
All three examples above are penalized differently under the law based on the severity of the accusation and the facts of the specific case. These descriptions all presume there are no other aggravating factors that worsen the nature of the offense. Family violence cases can be charged as felonies, too. For instance:
- You could face Third-Degree Felony charges if you have a prior conviction for family violence, or if accused of strangulation (or choking) of the other person.
- It is a Second-Degree Felony when the defendant has a prior conviction for domestic violence and commits another offense that involves choking against a family or household member.
Aggravated assault is also applicable to family violence cases. A person could be arrested on these charges for causing serious bodily injury to someone or using a deadly weapon. When the victim is a family or household member in these circumstances, aggravated assault is a First-Degree Felony.
Penalties for a Family Violence Conviction
At a minimum, the crime of simple assault of a family member will be a Class C Misdemeanor. A conviction could mean a fine of up to $500, and while there is no jail time assessed, this charge is not something you want to ignore. Being convicted once of family violence makes any future case a subsequent offense and subject to being charged with a felony. Based on the classifications described above, criminal punishment works as follows:
- Class A Misdemeanor: If convicted for an offense in this category, you could be sentenced up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
- Third-Degree Felony: For a conviction on these charges, your punishment range is no less than 2 years in prison and no more than 10 years in prison, and a possible fine up to $10,000.
- Second-Degree Felony: For a conviction on these charges, your punishment range is no less than 2 years in prison and no more than 20 years in prison, and a possible fine up to $10,000.
- First-Degree Felony: For a conviction on these charges, your punishment range is no less than 5 years in prison and no more than 99 years in prison (or life), and a possible fine up to $10,000.
Surrounding circumstances in each individual case impacts the result as to where you fall within these punishment ranges.
Civil Domestic Violence Cases
The main focus for many individuals is the criminal case, and understandably, your primary concern involves potential penalties for a conviction. However, you should also keep in mind that Texas family violence cases may also encompass a civil component: an order of protection.
Whenever someone is arrested for domestic violence, a magistrate’s order of emergency protection is almost always entered. The order directs you to cease communications and in-person contact with the accuser, and you most likely will be ordered to relocate from the home you two share together if you are living in the same household. The emergency restraining order is temporary and lapses after a certain amount of days, but the collateral consequences of having to comply with the order can be huge.
A restraining order or order of protection is considered a civil matter. It becomes another criminal matter if you violate the terms of the order, however. Violating a protective order is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable as described above.
Both the criminal side of a domestic violence case and the civil remedy of a restraining order carry significant collateral consequences. These are the ramifications that affect your life after the arrest alone and also after serving your sentence since criminal records are permanent. Your history will show up in a background check, and you may be legally required to disclose it in certain situations.
Therefore, a family violence conviction in Texas can impact your life in ways you did not expect. Here are a few collateral consequences to note:
- You may have difficulties finding or retaining employment.
- You could be prohibited from working in certain positions, including those involving children, the elderly, and vulnerable individuals.
- Any professional or business licenses you hold could be suspended or revoked.
- In divorce or family law cases, your parental rights may be affected. You might not maintain a role in child custody and could be required to engage in supervised visitation. Worse, you may be prevented from seeing your child temporarily or on a permanent basis in extreme situations.
Fighting Allegations of Family Violence
This description of how a domestic violence case can affect your life may seem grim, but there are strategies for fighting domestic violence cases and false allegations. The critical point to remember is that the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Disproving the government’s case is crucial, and you may even have some of the most important evidence in your possession – your cell phone and maybe your online social media accounts. Defenses may also be present based on the facts of the case – such as alleging self-defense. It is also possible to leverage plea bargaining when the prosecution’s evidence is weak.
Working with a Texas family violence lawyer is essential for developing solid defense strategies and obtaining a positive outcome. You will need assistance at all stages of the criminal process, including:
- Pre-arrest investigations and interrogations by police
- Arraignment, your first court appearance where the charges are read and you enter a plea
- Arrangements for bond, so that you can remain free pending a trial date
- Pretrial proceedings, including motions to dismiss
- Court appearances and status conferences
- The trial for a domestic violence case, during which you present evidence and witness testimony to support your defense
- A sentencing hearing after a conviction is an important part of the process in which you convince the judge to assess punishment on the lower end of the punishment range rather than on the higher end
Our Galveston Family Violence Defense Attorney Will Protect Your Rights
It is helpful to realize how a family violence conviction in Texas can impact your life, and this information should persuade you to consult with an experienced lawyer right away. Having legal counsel early on in the criminal process enables you to take advantage of all available defense opportunities.
To learn more about strategies for fighting family violence allegations, please contact criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz. Individuals in Greater Houston and throughout Galveston County can call 409-515-6170 to schedule a no-cost consultation with our skilled Galveston County domestic violence defense lawyer.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.