Family Violence Assault & Domestic Abuse

Family Violence is broadly defined in Chapter 71 of the Texas Family Code as an assault by a person upon a spouse, former spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or member of the same family or household. It includes a wide array of offenses, ranging from assault by threat, a class C misdemeanor punishable by fine only, up to Aggravated Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury, which, if committed against a member of a person’s family, is a first-degree felony. Every family violence case is unique. People who are charged with domestic violence come from all walks of life. Some people find themselves charged with a family violence charge because an argument got out of hand. Some people have significant anger management problems that need to be addressed through counseling or drug and alcohol support groups. Many people are falsely accused and are flat out not guilty. It is very common for a spouse to make up these charges to “get back at” their spouse during a divorce proceeding, or to gain an advantage in bitter child custody disputes. There are also significant self-defense issues that routinely arise in assault cases which, without an experienced attorney, cannot be raised on your behalf.

In Texas, police officers are very quick to arrest a person for domestic assault or family violence. Police agencies require their officers to arrest persons for domestic assault if they have probable cause to believe that an offense has occurred, even against the desires of the family, simply to avoid the possibility that future violence may occur as well as protect their own interests. They often make the arrest with little, if any, substantive investigation. A simple 9-1-1 complaint almost guarantees that someone is going to jail. Unfortunately, this effort by law enforcement to “CYA” falls hardest on the shoulders of those who can least afford it – YOU. In essence, your liberty is stripped of you simply to protect the reputation of the officer responding to the scene.

What If My Spouse Does Not Want To Prosecute?

It is very common for spouses to want to move on. Oftentimes, their differences are best resolved in the family without recourse to criminal charges. Unfortunately, the decision as to whether family violence charges will be dropped lies solely with the prosecutor. Today, the state will prosecute family violence or domestic assault cases with or without the cooperation of the alleged victim. Many jurisdictions, including Harris County, have a special section of aggressive prosecutors who prosecute people charged with domestic assault or family violence. These prosecutors often try to force a reluctant spouse to testify for the prosecution at the expense of further dividing the family. The resulting issues can become very complicated. Government intrusion into your personal affairs is not the answer to help you and your spouse resolve your differences. Let me help you keep the government out of the privacy of your own home.

Family Violence Consequences

Persons convicted of family violence face harsh penalties and collateral consequences. Under the Texas Penal Code, a person can be arrested and ultimately convicted of Assault by Threat, a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $500 fine, if it is proven upon the trial of their offense that they intentionally or knowingly threatened another with imminent bodily injury. In other words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” doesn’t apply as far as the state is concerned. These cases are typically filed in a municipal or justice of the peace court. Many people simply pay a fine to the court under the erroneous assumption that it is not worth the “hassle” of hiring a lawyer. Unfortunately, because family violence is involved, if you are arrested a second time of this offense after pleading guilty, it can be filed as a 3rd degree felony!

For cases involving bodily injury, they are filed as Class A misdemeanors in a County Court which can sentence you to jail for up to 1 year and order you to pay up to a $4000 fine. Bodily injury for purposes of assault is very broadly defined as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Because of this expansive definition, it is often up to the prosecuting attorney to decide who is charged with a Class C versus a Class A misdemeanor. Again, for a second offense, you will be charged with a 3rd degree felony, punishable by two to ten years in Texas state prison.

A person commits the felony of Aggravated Assault if they either cause serious bodily injury to another person, or use or exhibit a deadly weapon during the commission of an assault. Aggravated Assault is a 2nd degree felony, but is treated as a 1st degree felony if it occurs between spouses and serious bodily injury results. Serious bodily injury means bodily injury that creates a risk of death, causes death, disfigurement, or loss of a function of the body. If you find yourself charged with this type of offense, it is imperative that you contact an experienced attorney the second you get arrested. Prosecutors thrive off of sending persons to prison for this type of offense, even if you have never been in trouble before. There are complicated, high-stakes issues involved in these cases, and without an attorney who knows the latest changes in the law and who has successfully argued these cases in a courtroom, you may find yourself on a bus headed to prison.

If you are convicted of any level of assault, you will have a lifelong criminal record that will make it more difficult for you to get a job. If you ever get divorced, you may lose your right to have custody of your children. Additionally, by pleading guilty, you may forfeit your constitutional right to own or purchase a firearm. Given the consequences of a domestic assault or family violence arrest, you should think long and hard before you give up without a fight. Please don’t give up. Call me, criminal defense lawyer Robert Miller, for a free consultation about your case.

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