Texas has a wide definition of domestic violence crimes. Although we often think of domestic violence offenses occurring between husbands and wives or people who are dating, there are many more classifications.
The Lone Star State recognizes three distinct crimes of domestic violence, namely domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault and continuous violence against the family.
A domestic violence charge can be brought if the alleged assault occurs against any of the following:
- A family member;
- A member of the accused’s household;
- Anyone with who the alleged offender has a child or children;
- A current or former spouse;
- A foster child or a foster parent of the alleged offender;
- Any family member by marriage, blood or adoption;
- Someone the offender lives with;
- A child or the child of a former spouse or partner;
- A person the alleged offender has had an ongoing dating or romantic relationship with.
There are three main domestic violence misdemeanors in Texas. They are:
- A person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to another individual;
- The offender intentionally or knowingly threatened another person with bodily injury; or
- A person intentionally or knowingly caused physical contact with another that the offender knew or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive under the Texas Penal Code Ann. §22.01.
Texas also classifies some domestic assaults as felonies. They include offenses in which the accused has previous domestic violence assault convictions. If the defendant has one prior assault conviction, the alleged offense is charged as a third-degree felony.
Offenses including strangulation or choking are also classified as third-degree felonies.
When the accused is charged with choking and has a prior family violence, the charge is elevated to a second-degree felony.
Aggravated assault against a family member is charged as a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in a state prison. If the defendant uses a weapon and causes serious injury, the charge becomes a first-degree felony. It can result in life in prison.
Probation, or community supervision, is an option in some domestic violence cases. The judge can require the defendant pays up to $100 in addition to other court costs, probation costs and fines, to a domestic violence shelter. A judge may order the defendant seeks counseling and pays for counseling the victim receives.
When an offender commits at least two acts of domestic assault in the space of a year, he or she can be charged with continuous violence against the family.
It is also an offense to violate a protective order in Texas. First offenses are usually charged as Class A misdemeanors.
What Are the Sentences for Domestic Violence in Texas?
People charged with domestic violence face a wide range of potential sentences from a fine of $500 to 99 years in jail, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The possible sentences are:
- Class C misdemeanor – The offender faces a fine of up to $500;
- Class B misdemeanor – six months incarceration or a fine up to $2,000, or both;
- Class A misdemeanor – up to a year in jail or a fine not over $4,000, or both
- 3rd-degree felony – a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- 2nd-degree felony – from 2 to 20 years in jail and as well as a fine up to $10,000, and
- 1st-degree felony – At least 5 years and up to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
People convicted of domestic violence offenses lose other rights such as the ability to carry a firearm.