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Continuous Violence Against the Family in Texas

Having a record of previous domestic violence cases can and will be used against you when another allegation of domestic violence is made. The police will make a quick judgment, and your history will be a big factor in that judgment, and you will be arrested. The State of Texas will use all of its resources against you. That's important to know because continuous violence against the family is a charge that carries harsher penalties if you are convicted of it. Plus, the collateral consequences are harder to fight.

Carl David Ceder, an aggressive assault and domestic violence attorney representing alleged offenders throughout the greater Dallas and Fort Worth area, describes what this crime means. He believes an informed client makes better decisions for himself. If you have been charged with continuous family violence, contact his office immediately. Getting started as soon as possible on your defense is critical to mitigating the impact of this type of allegation.

What is Continuous Family Violence in Texas?

Continuous violence against the family is a domestic violence criminal offense in Texas. The crime is controlled by Texas Penal Code § 25.11, which states that 

A person commits an offense if, during a period that is 12 months or less in duration, the person two or more times engages in conduct that constitutes an offense under Section 22.01 (a)(1) against another person or persons whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021 (b), 71.003 , or 71.005 , Family Code.

Texas Penal Code § 22.01(a)(1) refers to assault where a person

intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse[.]

Texas Family Code §§ 71.0021(b), 71.003, and 71.005 describe the relationships that are subject to the offense of continuous family violence. So, if a person assaults any of the following two or more times within a 12-month period and the assault caused bodily injury, he or she can be charged with continuous violence against the family:

  • former spouse
  • current spouse
  • parents of a child without regard to marriage
  • a child
  • an adopted child
  • foster child
  • foster parent
  • parents
  • other blood relatives
  • current dating relationship
  • former dating relationship
  • boyfriend or girlfriend.

Further, the alleged victims of the two alleged acts of domestic violence within the 12-month period can be different people. For example, you may get into a fight with someone you are dating in January and into another fight with a child in May. If convicted of domestic violence these two unrelated events count towards a charge of continuous family violence.

Given the nature of this offense, the State has the burden to prove that two separate assaults occurred against the same or a different family member or any other applicable subject. If the prosecutor alleges that more than two domestic assaults occurred, the jury only needs to agree that two of them occurred.

What is Rachel's Law?

Rachel's Law is a bill passed in May 2019 by the House and Senate, signed by Governor on June 15, 2019, and became effective on September 1, 2019. This law allows a district attorney to pursue a charge of continuous violence against the family when the alleged domestic violence incidents occurred in different counties.

This law now means if you faced domestic violence charges in Tarrant County for assaulting a girlfriend or boyfriend and then face a domestic violence charge in Dallas County within the same year, a continuous family violence charge could be laid against you in Dallas County.

What are the Penalties if Convicted of Continuous Family Violence in Texas?

Continuous violence against the family is a third-degree felony. This offense carries a prison sentence of between 2 and 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000. 

To understand how much more serious this offense is as opposed to being charged with domestic violence alone, consider this: domestic violence is a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction carries a jail sentence of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $4,000. Therefore, for the same alleged act, you face a sentence that is significantly harsher if charged with continuous family violence as opposed to domestic violence.

How Do You Defend Against a Charge of Continuous Family Violence?

There are ways to defend against a charge of continuous family violence. Like all criminal cases, your specific defense is dependent on the actual facts and circumstances of your case. Possible defenses to assault and domestic violence could include any of the following but are not limited to them.

Failure to Prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. In any criminal case, the State has the burden to prove its case against the alleged domestic violence offender. In continuous violence against the family cases, it must prove the domestic violence allegations, it must prove that bodily injury occurred in each of these allegations, and it must prove that the domestic violence events occurred within 12 months of each other.

Identification of False Allegations. Families and former intimate partners can carry a lot of emotional baggage. Someone may want to get back at someone else – maybe it was a bad breakup, maybe someone is fighting for child custody, or someone cheated – and the easiest way to get back at that person is to lie and play the victim. False allegations are serious and not uncommon in domestic violence cases.

Proof of an Accidental Injury. Domestic violence requires intent. If a person was injured by accident, then the harm was not intentional. 

Proof of Self-Defense or Defense of Others. In many domestic violence cases, it comes down to he said/she said/they said. Though you were arrested, it doesn't mean you are actually guilty. You have a side to the story, too. You may have been acting in your own self-defense or defending another family member. 

Constitutional Violations. Like all cases, the police must follow specific protocols when it investigates crimes and arrests alleged suspects. In domestic violence cases, that means you and your property cannot be improperly searched and seized. Miranda warnings must still be read to you. You cannot be arrested without probable cause. If any of these or other constitutional rights are violated by the police, your attorney may be able to file a motion to suppress any evidence flowing from the violation.

Contact an Aggressive, Smart Continuous Family Violence Attorney in Dallas-Fort Worth TX Today

Continuous violence against the family is a serious charge with considerable repercussions, including incarceration, fines, and the collateral consequences that follow. To prevent harm to yourself, you need to fight the charges. You have a story, too. Talk to Carl Ceder, an experienced and skilled domestic violence defense attorney in Plano, Texas, and learn how he can put his knowledge and insight to work for you.