What are some of the punishments for family violence offenses in Texas?
A conviction on domestic assault charges can change your life forever, far beyond the fines you could pay and the years you could spend in jail or in prison.
Texas takes family violence seriously. If you are accused of family violence, you need to take it seriously, too. The first thing you should do is consult an experienced attorney who specializes in this practice area. Why? Because a knowledgeable lawyer can best defend you and the sooner you make contact, the more the lawyer can help. Three triggers that indicate it is time to contact an attorney are:
You become aware of an accusation or investigation.
A detective reaches out to you with questions or seeking information.
You learn there is a warrant for your arrest.
In Dallas County, all family violence offenses are pursued by the District Attorney’s Office following the filing of a police report. Here is how prosecutorial events unfold in the aftermath of an arrest, according to the Dallas County Family Violence Division.
“An officer may generate an offense report after responding to a 911 call for assistance or an encounter with a citizen who needs help. The citizen may be transported to a local hospital for a medical or sexual assault exam. If the person who is alleged to have committed the crime is still at the scene when the officers arrive, he / she may be arrested. If the accused person is not at the scene, the officer may issue a warrant for their arrest. Further, the police department may assign an investigator to gather additional necessary information before a decision is made to charge someone with an offense.”
The Dallas County Family Violence Division then describes the next steps.
“If the police determine there is probable cause to believe that the accused committed a crime, and they have him / her in custody, a case will be filed with the District Attorney’s Office. If the offense is a felony (a crime for which the accused might be sentenced to prison), it must go before a Grand Jury prior to formal charges being made against the accused. A Grand Jury hearing will be scheduled at which time a decision will be made by the Grand Jury to indict (true bill) or not indict (no bill) the accused. If a true bill of indictment is returned, a representative of the District Attorney’s Office will contact the victim. If the case is a misdemeanor, (a crime for which the accused might be sentenced to jail) the District Attorney will decide to accept or decline prosecution. If prosecution is accepted, the victim will be contacted by the District Attorney’s Office.”
As indicated above, family violence can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Lesser misdemeanor charges known as Class C misdemeanors come with a fine of up to $500. For greater offenses known as Class A misdemeanors, the punishment is a $4,000 fine and as much as one year in jail.
Regarding felony cases, the punishment is a $10,000 fine and between two and 10 years in prison. But felonies considered aggravated, that result in serious bodily injury, or that have a sexual component carry harsher penalties. These crimes include aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. In some instances where there are very young victims – children younger than six – or multiple offenses over a period of time, the minimum prison term is 25 years.
How does Texas define family violence?
The Dallas Police Department explains that domestic violence not only is physical (when force is used to inflict pain) but also emotional and verbal.
“Many people associate abuse with physical violence only. Abuse does not have to be just physical in character. It can be verbal or emotional as well and can be just as devastating as a physical assault. Abuse, in any form, is an act of control.”
What happens if I have been falsely accused of family violence in Dallas?
Contact a Dallas criminal defense attorney. It is imperative that you have representation as soon as you are aware of an investigation and well before you talk to police or go to a court hearing for a protective order filed against you. A good attorney can help you put together evidence of your innocence.
Verywell Mind, a Web site dedicated to mental health topics, advises, “If you’re served with an order of protection, it’s essential that you get a lawyer immediately. The impact of an order of protection, if it’s based on false allegations, can be broad-reaching in separation, divorce, or child custody proceedings. In some instances, supervised visitation may be allowed in spite of an order of protection. But in most cases, the person facing the abuse allegations and the children are kept apart entirely, at least initially. This is where a false allegation could potentially be bootstrapped into a disastrous result in a custody case.”
If those facing false accusations lose custody of children due to protective orders, family bonds will be broken, Verywell Mind warns.
“If you have been accused of domestic violence in conjunction with any family court matter, you need the skill and experience of attorneys who have fought these battles many times before and have the ability and confidence to win no matter the odds. It’s important to swiftly and effectively move to have an order of protection dismissed, vacated, or at least modified to allow extensive visitation in order to re-level the playing field in a contested custody proceeding. Clearing your name and putting your best arguments and evidence before the court is crucial in getting the outcome that is best for your family. Keep in mind that to be accused of domestic violence, you don’t have to have committed an actual violent act. In many cases, claiming to be feeling threatened or unsafe is enough to start the process. If you find yourself facing such a crisis, don’t give up hope. An experienced lawyer can help you.”
How can a family violence lawyer in Dallas help me?
A family violence lawyer in Dallas can fight on your behalf against an accusation of family violence by:
a family member
a dating relationship
a spouse in the same household
a romantic relationship
An experienced attorney also can fight on your behalf against an accusation of family violence with an aggravating element such as:
violating a protective order
serious bodily injury
use of a deadly weapon
Here are a couple of links to family violence resources in Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant Counties:
Texas Penal Code – Assaultive Offenses – Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code defines many of the state’s domestic assault and aggravated domestic assault offenses. The chapter defines the elements to many family violence-related crimes and the punishments if an individual commits an offense.
Texas Penal Code – Offenses Against the Family – Chapter 25 of the Texas Penal Code defines many family violence offenses, including protective order violations and continued violence against the family as well as the penalties an individual could face if convicted of the offense.