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How Are Domestic Violence Cases Handled in Texas?

Domestic violence law on a wooden table.

Texas sees domestic violence across all demographics, irrespective of race, family structure, or income level. Contrary to common belief, domestic violence doesn't just happen in marital relationships. Only about 45% of reported cases involve spouses, with a significant portion occurring in non-marital relationships. That includes parent-child dynamics, roommates, and extended family members.

Types of domestic violence and charges in Texas

In Texas, there are three categories of family and domestic violence. These include:

  • Domestic assault: This charge applies to physical harm, threats, or provocative contact against a current or former partner, spouse, household member, or relative. It also applies to anyone connected by foster relationships or marriage.
  • Aggravated domestic assault: This involves severe bodily harm or the use of deadly weapons during an assault.
  • Continuous violence against the family: This charge is applied when an individual commits two domestic assaults within 12 months, regardless of arrest, conviction, or victim identity.

Penalties for domestic violence vary based on the severity and frequency of the offense. First-time offenders face class A misdemeanor charges, while repeat offenses result in third-degree felonies. Aggravated assault against a family member is considered a second-degree felony. If a weapon is involved, this type of domestic violence results in a first-degree felony.

The role of victims and prosecution in domestic violence cases

The process typically begins when a victim reports an incident of domestic violence to the police. The police may then create a report that documents evidence of violence, testimony about the incident, and any other relevant information.

Victims may be required to testify in court. In cases where a victim decides to retract their accusation, the decision to proceed with charges lies with the county prosecutor. Even if the incident was a misunderstanding, the prosecutor might continue with the case, possibly compelling the alleged victim to testify.

Prosecutors review the evidence and decide whether there is enough to file charges. If they believe there is sufficient evidence, prosecutors will file charges against the accused. Prosecutors must ensure that the legal process is fair and that the rights of both the victim and the accused are protected.

Impacts of a domestic violence conviction

A domestic violence conviction carries harsh legal consequences such as imprisonment and fines. Even a misdemeanor conviction results in a $4,000 fine and up to one year in prison.

It also affects other areas of your life. For example, you could:

  • Lose custody of your children and experience difficulties with visitations.
  • Lose your right to own a firearm.
  • Get fired from your job and have difficulty finding future employment.
  • Have a difficult time finding housing due to a background check.

Defending against domestic violence charges

It's possible to have a defense against a domestic violence charge. The specific defense strategy will depend on the details of the case and the evidence available. To have a viable case, the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there's insufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt, the defense can argue for the dismissal of charges.

Sometimes, domestic violence charges are falsely made, possibly due to misunderstandings, emotional conflicts, or as a tactic in custody disputes. A criminal defense attorney can challenge the accuser's credibility and provide evidence that the accusations are unfounded.

If the defendant acted in self-defense, it can be a valid defense. This would involve showing that the defendant reasonably believed they were in imminent danger and used an appropriate level of force to protect themselves. In cases where the injury was accidental and not a result of intentional violence or reckless behavior, this can be a viable defense. Documentation, such as social media and text messages, can also be critical in these defenses.

How an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges

If you're facing domestic violence charges, the stakes are high. The consequences of such charges can follow you for the rest of your life. That's why you need a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney on your side. Attorney Amanda Webb of The Webb Firm, P.C. can investigate the incident and the arrest that followed. Our goal is to have your charges dropped, or, at the very least, negotiate for a plea bargain to reduce the legal consequences.

To find out how we can help you, contact us online or call us to schedule a free legal consultation. You have no obligation to hire us. We'll take the time to learn about your case and provide honest answers to any questions you have.

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