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The Consequences of Violating Texas Domestic Violence Laws

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski
Domestic violence law

Statistics show that every year, one in three women and one in four men are involved in some form of violence with someone they know or trust.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is far more common than people realize. Domestic violence can occur between spouses, dating partners, or parents and children. It’s important to keep a level head when dealing with an emotionally charged situation. Regardless of the circumstances, in Texas, domestic violence (or family violence) is a crime.

Domestic violence and family violence in Texas are a real concern. In 2014, 114 women in Texas died at the hands of intimate partners. These Texas casualties made up 10% of all deaths caused by domestic violence in the entire country.

It’s important to do everything in our power to prevent domestic violence and stop these tragedies. However, there can be tragic consequences even when a crime hasn’t been committed. The consequences from false accusations can be devastating for the accused.

False accusations of domestic violence and abuse can devastate the lives and families of the wrongly accused. The law, intended to protect victims, is often weaponized in contentious divorce cases and family law. We often see spiteful spouses or family members falsely accuse another of abuse in order to gain custody, property, or have the other party on the defensive. Such false reporting makes the lives of the accused and the accuser incredibly difficult.

Falsely accusing someone of abuse makes it even harder for law enforcement and the courts to help those who truly need it. Parents and family members need to be warned against such actions. False reports and lying to the police are serious crimes with serious legal consequences.

How do Texas domestic violence laws work, and what kind of punishments are involved? Keep reading to learn more about the legal consequences of violating Texas’s family violence codes.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence in Texas falls under the Texas Penal Code Title 5 Chapter 22 Section 22:01 (Assaultive Offenses). In the cases of family violence, the law specifically covers:

  • Family members
  • Household members (including foster children)
  • Current or past partners (dating violence)

To commit domestic violence, one must:

  • Knowingly or intentionally cause injury to a protected person
  • Knowingly or intentionally threaten to injure a person
  • Knowingly or intentionally engaging in physical contact the person finds offensive, provocative, or threatening

The key here is “knowingly” or “intentionally.” For it to count as domestic violence, the person has to know that they are causing physical harm. This is the difference between an accident and domestic violence.

However, the law also deems “reckless” behavior to be domestic violence. Reckless behavior is conduct that doesn’t consider the potential outcome of the actions (i.e., the potential that the other person could get hurt). That means domestic violence occurs even you don’t knowingly or intentionally hurt someone.

For example, accidentally slamming a partner’s fingers in the door while struggling with the grocery bags isn’t domestic violence. Doing it on purpose is different – even if it’s a one-time event in the heat of the moment and you didn’t think about what would happen.

Some of these circumstances can be difficult for a third party to understand and get to the truth of what happened. Either way, domestic violence is a crime in the state of Texas. A one-time event can give you a criminal record – even if it’s a misdemeanor.

The Penalties for Domestic Violence

The penalties for domestic violence range from a class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. They include assault and battery and range as far as kidnapping, sexual assault, and unlawful confinement. These charges make domestic violence one of the most severe crimes covered by Texas law.

What charge you receive depends on three (or more) factors:

  • The relationship in question
  • Past behavior or convictions
  • Type of abuse involved (higher penalties for strangulation and suffocation)

For example, the state can indict a person who commits domestic assault twice in a single year on a separate charge: continuous violence against the family. The first two assaults do not require conviction – or even arrest. It can also include two different victims.

The penalties depend on the charge. Texas provides punishments as follows:

  • Class A misdemeanor: Maximum of 12 months in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine
  • Third-degree felony: 2-10 years in prison and a maximum of $10,00 fine
  • Second-degree felony: 2-20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000
  • First-degree felony: 5-99 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000

Additionally, the conviction becomes part of a criminal record. Domestic violence charges impact your ability to vote and look for jobs. If it includes a sexual offense, and you get convicted, then you may also need to register as a sex offender.

Can You Defend Yourself When Faced With Abuse?

The short answer is yes. But, the law isn’t exactly clear on the details. Remember that the state sees domestic abuse and family violence as a crime. That means that it’s not a he-said, she-said case. It is up to the police and the state to decide whether there is a case and whether it is winnable.

As a result, if you are arrested for or charged with an assaultive offense under the act, then it’s important to understand your rights and begin your legal defense.

Some common defenses for those charged with domestic abuse include:

  • False allegations
  • Self-defense
  • Lack of proof
  • Consent
  • Investigative errors
  • Arrest errors

These defenses can help protect people accused of assault when no assault (as defined by the law) occurs.

It also provides a defense if you find yourself in a situation where your abuser is using the law and courts to victimize you further. This reversing of the protections under the law is also common in abuse cases.

For example, if your partner was beating you and you defend yourself in a way that causes them injury, they can bring charges against you. However, you can argue that the act occurred as a matter of self-defense.

What Happens After the Arrest is Crucial

Your court hearing may depend heavily on what happens if the police arrive and there is an arrest.

You should not admit fault in any circumstances – to the victim, witnesses, or the police. Doing so damages your case.

It’s also essential to avoid contact with the family member (or partner) if charges are filed. You should only speak to them through your attorney to prevent anything you say being used against you.

Even though this can be difficult if it involves not seeing your children, it is also vital to your case.

What To Do When Falsely Accused?

This is sadly more common than people realize. Contested divorces and custody battles can bring out the worst in people. Making up an abuse allegation against a spouse or family member isn’t unusual when people are desperate or embroiled in an emotional situation. Even so, lying about another persons actions will land you in legal trouble.

The police will still treat any allegation of domestic violence seriously. There will be an investigation and all parties involved will be questioned. Charges will be filed accordingly. In Texas, if investigators conclude a false report was made, the accuser can be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000. Depending on the circumstances, the wrongly accused may pursue civil damages against the accuser as well.

Texas Domestic Violence Laws And Your Situation

Texas domestic violence laws leave little wiggle room for those accused of abuse. Many acts also constitute domestic violence, and the punishments for these range from a night in jail to years in prison.

As a result, these cases are challenging to defend, and the family-oriented nature of the case makes it emotional for everyone involved. If arrested for domestic violence, you need a lawyer immediately to help you navigate the process.

If you’re facing criminal domestic violence charges, get in touch today to learn about your options and how to protect yourself and your rights.

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