It is completely normal for you to have disputes with your spouse, children or other members of your family or household. If you are like many, you might resolve these disputes through arguments or by giving each other space. Unfortunately, some disputes get so heated that threats of violence are made or a physical altercation ensues. If you are ever in that situation in Texas, you could face serious consequences including a lengthy prison sentence. So, what is and what isn’t domestic violence? The criminal defense lawyers at Turnbull Legal Group break it all down for you in this overview of domestic violence in Texas.
Domestic Violence Is Against The Law In Texas
In Texas, domestic violence means committing an assault against a family member, household member or dating partner. Assault is where you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
• Injure someone
• Threaten someone with bodily injury
• Make physical contact with someone in an offensive or provocative manner, making them feel violated (e.g. poking, touching in a sexually suggestive way)
Keep in mind that your physical harm or threats must be accompanied by a particular mental state for you to be criminally convicted. This means that there are many things that you could do that you might one day regret, such as getting into a shouting match with your significant other, but where this does not amount to a criminal offense in the slightest.
For example, it is not against the law to scold your children or your significant other for doing something wrong – even if you have arguably overacted or misjudged the situation. It is not against the law to threaten your spouse with divorce. However, if instead of threatening the marriage, you threaten your spouse’s life as you charge at them with a knife, then you might have committed domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Involves Family And Household Members
The second major thing to keep in mind is that for a criminal offense to constitute domestic violence, you have to commit the act against a family or household member. This includes:
• Your spouse or partner
• Your ex-spouse or ex-partner
• People who are related to you by blood or marriage
• People who live with you or who used to live with you
• The mother or father of your child
For example, suppose that you get into a verbal altercation with your spouse where you both hail insults at each other. Your spouse thinks that you are cheating and starts making loud and abusive comments towards you. If you respond by slapping your spouse, then you have likely committed domestic violence.
Suppose instead that your friend stops by your apartment only to discover that your old girlfriend is back in the picture. If your friend berates you in front of your old girlfriend, and you lose your temper and punch your friend, then you might not have committed domestic violence under Texas law unless your friend used to live with you. However, you could still be arrested and charged with assault or another criminal offense.
Fines, Jail Time For Domestic Violence
Normally, a domestic assault involving an injury is construed as a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum 1-year jail sentence and $4,000 fine. Domestic assault is a third degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine if you have been previously convicted of domestic assault.
Relatedly, continuous violence against the family, which constitutes two domestic assaults within a year regardless of whether those assaults led to arrests or convictions, is a third degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Aggravated domestic assault is where you seriously injure someone or use a deadly weapon to commit an assault. If you use a deadly weapon to cause someone to suffer a serious injury, then this is a first degree felony punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Other forms of aggravated assault are second degree felonies punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Seemingly minor details can separate a misdemeanor domestic violence offense from a felony domestic violence offense. Considering the far reaching implications that a domestic violence conviction might have on your life, it is recommended for you to discuss your situation with a criminal defense attorney. Turnbull Legal Group is dedicated to fighting for people’s rights. Our attorneys have extensive experience protecting the rights of Texas clients who are accused of criminal offenses such as domestic violence. We are here for you. call (832) 479-2104 or by contact us online today for a free consultation.