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Understanding Domestic Abuse Laws in Texas in 2023

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Domestic abuse is a serious issue in almost every community. According to recent data in the US, 20 people per minute suffer abuse at the hand of intimate partner or family member. This means more than 10 million men and women feel the impact of some form of domestic abuse per year.

These are sobering statistics. However, when it comes to domestic abuse, there are a wide array of definitions and circumstances that come into play before drawing any conclusions.

Unfortunately, false accusations of abuse are a growing problem throughout the US. False accusations hurt the wrongly accused, their families, their future, and can have a negative impact on law enforcement. With limited resources, law enforcement redirects efforts from helping actual victims to pursue falsely accused people who are often found innocent. False accusations are a lose-lose for everyone involved.

Everyone agrees that domestic abuse must be stopped and victims should be able to get help. But the consequences for those wrongly accused of abuse can be equally as devastating and there are very few resources for the innocent to defend themselves. When facing false accusations of abuse, it’s important to know what to do and how to stand up for your rights.

It’s important to understand the implications of Texas domestic assault laws and the impact they can have on your life if you’ve been accused of abuse.

Read on to learn more about domestic abuse laws in Texas and the consequences that come with a domestic abuse charge.

Texas Assault Statutes

Texas laws don’t have specific domestic abuse laws. Instead, the domestic abuse laws fall under Texas assault statutes.

That doesn’t mean that Texas doesn’t recognize the unique nature of domestic abuse. They classify these types of cases as family violence cases. This would be a case where there were:

  • Assault against a family member
  • Assault in a dating relationship
  • Assault between those in the same household

If a person has already been charged with assault, additional punishments are included for a domestic abuse charge.

Family Violence Crimes

The Texas statute of Tex. Family Code § 71.004 says that family violence gets defined as an act against a family member that had the intention of causing:

  • Physical harm
  • Bodily injury
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault

The statute goes on to define family as:

  • Spouse
  • Former spouse
  • Adopted children
  • Foster children
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Parents of the same child
  • Foster parents
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Siblings
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Cousins

Texas defines punishments for different types of domestic abuse. The most common abuse includes domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, continuous violence against the family, and violation of protective orders.

Domestic Assault

One Texas domestic abuse classification in the law is domestic assault. This includes things like:

  • Causing bodily injury to another, purposely or carelessly
  • Threatening another with imminent bodily injury
  • Engaging in provocative or offensive contact

If one or more of these acts gets done by a family member or household member, then the crime’s defined as domestic assault.

Domestic assault, such as provocative or offensive contact, gets charged as a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. Punishments include a fine of up to $500.

If, during the abuse, the victim suffers bodily harm, the charge will be a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment for this includes up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

There are circumstances where it could also get charged as a felony. If the accused has any prior domestic abuse convictions, new charges would be felony charges. If the assault involved suffocation or strangulation, it will get charged as a felony.

Felony charges carry punishments of 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. These laws fall under Texas Penal Code §§ 12.21, 12.23, 12.34, 22.01 (2021).

Aggravated Domestic Assault

If domestic abuse includes serious bodily injury to another person or involves the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon, the charge will become an aggravated domestic assault.

The law defines serious bodily injury as any injury that includes:

  • A broken bone
  • Loss of limb
  • Injury requiring surgery
  • Injury requiring hospitalization

Deadly weapons are also defined in the statute. This would include any weapon capable of causing serious bodily injury or death. This might include, for example, a firearm, a rope, a large hunting knife, or even a baseball bat.

Aggravated assault cases where there was a deadly weapon involved and there was serious bodily injury are charged as first-degree felonies. The punishment includes 5 to 99 years or life in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Other aggravated domestic assault charges get charged as second-degree felonies, which come with punishments of 2 to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Continuous Violence Against the Family

Texas also defines continuous violence against the family. If the accused has shown abuse towards the family by committing two or more domestic assaults in 12 months, they are charged with continuous violence against the family charge.

It’s worth noting that the previous domestic abuse charges didn’t have to result in an arrest to count towards this type of charge.

As a third-degree felony, these charges come with a punishment of 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Violation of a Family Protective Order

Almost always, a family protective order is issued in domestic abuse cases. This prevents the accused from getting near the family victims in a case.

If a defendant disregards the family protective order, they can be charged with another charge, a violation of a family protective order.

This gets charged as a Class A misdemeanor with charges including one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Two or more instances where a family protective order gets violated can result in a third-degree felony charge.

Repeated offenses can result in punishments, including 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Types of Abuse in Texas

Most people understand domestic abuse and assume there is some physical altercation. Yet, abuse can come in more forms than physical abuse. This includes:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Technological abuse
  • Financial abuse

As a victim of domestic abuse, it’s important to understand the many types of abuse so you can defend yourself and bring charges against your abuser.

When a person accuses another of domestic abuse or domestic violence, law enforcement is obligated to step in and put a stop to it as quickly as possible. Oftentimes these are personal or family disputes and officers may struggle to understand all of the dynamics at work. Therefore, law enforcement officers will err on the side of caution to protect the victim and allow the court to work out the details later.

If the accusations are false and the accused is innocent, it can be an uphill battle to prove it. Even if the accused are able to clear their name, it’s often a painfully slow and stressful process. It’s not uncommon for cases to take years to move through the court system. For a parent in a contentious custody battle, these are years of parental time that cannot be recovered.

When someone is wrongly accused of domestic abuse, it’s critical to get an experienced domestic abuse lawyer on their side right away. Time is of the essence with domestic abuse cases. For parents or families with minor children, it’s crucial to protect their parental rights and access to the children immediately. Without strong legal help, an accused parent risks losing parental rights or even access to their children while the case awaits a court hearing.

For the accuser, there are also serious legal consequences. Domestic abuse is a crime and in Texas, falsely accusing someone of a crime is, in itself, a crime. If found guilty, the accuser can face serious fines and jail time. An experienced domestic abuse attorney can turn the tables on the accuser and put them on the defensive for their claims.

Defending against false abuse accusations in Texas can be difficult. Getting an accuser to pay for their wrongful claims can be equally tough- but it can be done. With the right domestic abuse lawyer, a wrongfully accused person can get justice and insure their accuser faces the full extent of the law.

A Texas arrest for domestic abuse can have a long-term impact on your life. If you’re being accused of domestic abuse, you need a strong criminal defense attorney to work on your behalf.

You want to hire an experienced attorney who has handled cases similar to your case, so they have what it takes to get you a fair outcome.

Understanding Domestic Abuse Laws in Texas

Domestic abuse laws are intended to protect victims. Unfortunately, false accusations happen and can devastate families and the wrongfully accused. False accusations often happen in contested divorces, child custody battles, or disputes between intimate partners. Regardless of the circumstances, falsely accusing someone of abuse is wrong and there are legal consequences.

If you’re being charged with domestic abuse in Texas, you need a lawyer who knows the law and has experience in handling this type of case. Don’t gamble with your future. Get a domestic abuse attorney who will fight for your rights and protect you and your family. Contact us today so we can get started working for you.

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