Domestic violence convictions come with significant penalties in Texas. They also come with a stigma that can damage your reputation. Unfortunately, family disputes are often full of emotions, and angry people are capable of doing great harm, such as exaggerating accusations or falsely accusing family members of domestic violence.
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Texas, it is important that you understand the laws, consequences, and potential defenses. At the Houston Law Firm of Aaron W. Perry, we understand that these charges can be painful and distressing. We provide legal representation for domestic violence defendants, and we fight for the best outcome for each of our clients.
Domestic Violence Defined Under Texas Law
In Texas, domestic violence is known as assault with family violence. Generally, assault means threatening or causing bodily injury, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. Assault is referred to as family violence or domestic violence when the victim is related to the defendant in any of the following ways:
- The victim has or had a dating or marital relationship with the defendant.
- The victim shares a child with the defendant.
- The victim is a biological child, adoptive child, or foster child of the defendant.
- The victim lives with the defendant.
Types of Domestic Violence
Charges and convictions for domestic violence can be felonies or misdemeanors, depending on specific factors, such as the severity of harm or threat and whether or not the defendant has prior convictions.
The lowest domestic violence conviction is a Class C misdemeanor in cases where there was no physical or lasting harm done to the victim. A conviction can be a Class A misdemeanor when the victim was harmed; the victim sustained a visible injury, or a lasting injury, such as broken bones.
Domestic violence can be charged as a 3rd-degree felony for more serious cases. For example, it may be a felony conviction when the violence involved strangulation or choking, or when the defendant had prior domestic violence convictions.
Penalties For Convictions
The penalties for domestic violence convictions vary based on felonies or misdemeanors. A defendant who is convicted of a Class C misdemeanor may see a small fine and no jail time, while a defendant convicted of a 3rd-degree felony may serve up to ten years in prison. Charges and penalties may be more severe in some cases with aggravating factors.
Beyond sentencing, convictions will have other long-term impacts. Defendants can lose their jobs, especially if they work in specific professions, such as teaching or healthcare. Having a conviction on your record could also hinder your job prospects when the conviction turns up in a background check. There are other negative impacts from convictions, such as being prohibited from owning and possessing firearms.
Defenses To Domestic Violence Charges
The penalties for domestic violence convictions can be serious, but just because you are charged with domestic violence does not mean that you have to be convicted of domestic violence. Prosecutors are often willing to negotiate plea agreements, and sometimes they will drop the charges when defense attorneys provide enough exculpatory evidence.
Even if you do not come to a plea agreement and the charges are not dropped, you may be found not guilty at trial when you have a good defense and an experienced defense attorney. See below for commonly raised defenses to domestic violence charges:
- Self-defense is often raised when the alleged victim was actually the perpetrator, and the defendant was defending himself or a child from harm.
- Defendants may argue that the victim’s wounds were actually self-inflicted. This frequently happens when the alleged victim is angry and wants to punish the defendant.
- Defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and sometimes the best defense is that there is no evidence that a crime took place. Sometimes cases with weak evidence never make it past the grand jury indictment because the jury finds that there is not enough evidence to prove guilt.
- Defendants often set forth evidence of the alleged victim’s motive to falsely accuse the defendant of domestic violence. Motives may include wanting to hurt the defendant’s chances of being awarded custody in a child custody dispute or wanting to get back at the defendant for something, such as having an affair.
Domestic Violence Attorney
As mentioned above, if you are facing domestic violence charges, you are not automatically facing conviction, especially when you have a domestic violence attorney advocating for your rights. If you have been charged with domestic violence in Texas, Houston defense attorney Aaron W. Perry can help.