Fights happen between loved ones. But when the police get involved, consequences can escalate and become out of your control. If you are arrested for domestic violence, it's important to contact a domestic violence or family violence attorney as soon as possible.
Carl David Ceder, an aggressive domestic violence defense attorney serving the Dallas / Fort Worth metro area, understands how emotionally difficult these cases are. He also understands that if action isn't taken immediately to safeguard your rights, then the challenges you face in the criminal system will be difficult to overcome. Here, he provides an overview of what domestic violence is in Texas. If you have been arrested for the same, contact his office immediately to schedule a consultation to learn more about your rights, your options, and your defenses.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Texas?
Domestic violence in Texas is not a specific crime but falls under Texas' assault statutes and can enhance a crime when it's been alleged. Domestic violence offenses apply only to certain groups of people, like:
- Married couples
- Co-habiting couples
- Family members
- Household members
- Dating couples.
If an alleged victim does not fall under one of the above categories, then the offense will be charged as assault only without the added domestic violence element.
The difference between domestic violence offenses and assault offense is simple: the penalties are often greater in domestic violence situations. Plus, regardless of whether the offense is a misdemeanor or not, federal law requires that your right to own and/or use a firearm be taken away.
In sum, domestic violence is assault or aggravated assault but to a person with a specific relationship with the accused. As a reminder, simple assault occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
- causes bodily injury to another person;
- threatens another person with imminent bodily injury; or
- causes physical contact with another person knowing (or reasonably should have known) that person would find it provocative or offensive.
Aggravated assault, on the other hand, occurs when a person commits simple assault and:
- causes serious bodily injury to another person;
- exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault; or
- uses a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.
The special relationships that constitute domestic violence can be grouped into three categories:
- Household members, or
- Intimate partners (former or current).
According to Tex. Family Code § 71.004, family violence occurs when a family member intends to cause to another family member:
- physical harm
- bodily injury
- assault, or
- sexual assault.
Family violence can also materialize as a threat where the alleged victim reasonably fears he or she is in imminent risk of harm, injury, or assault. Family is defined as individuals related by blood or affinity (e.g., marriage), which can include:
- Former spouse
- Parents of a child
- A child
- A grandchild
- Adopted child
- Foster child
- Foster parents
- Aunts and uncles
Household Member Violence
According to Tex. Family Code § 71.005, a household member is someone who lives in the same dwelling without regard to relation or who previously lived in the same dwelling. Household member violence can occur, for example, against a roommate who is not related to you at all and has no other relationship with you other than lives with you.
According to Tex. Family Code § 71.0021, dating violence involves the alleged suspect and his or her current or former intimate partner. In other words, it involves someone you are or were dating regardless of whether you had a sexual relationship or not.
What Penalties are Associated with Domestic Violence in Texas?
When a person commits simple assault to a family member, household member, or someone whom they are dating or did date, then the offense is a third-degree felony (as opposed to a Class A misdemeanor, which is the classification of simple assault).
If it's a person's second offense, then simple domestic assault is charged as a second-degree felony. When a person commits domestic violence and does so by choking or suffocating the alleged victim, the offense is also a second-degree felony. If a person commits domestic violence while using or displaying a weapon and causes serious bodily injury, then the offense is charged as a first-degree felony.
You don't have to actually harm a family or household member to get charged with a domestic violence offense. According to Tex. Criminal Code § 22.07, if you threaten someone and that threat of violence places the other person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, then you can be charged with terrorist threats, which is a Class B misdemeanor. When the alleged victim of the threats is a family member, household member, or someone you date, then it's a domestic violence offense and is charged as a Class A misdemeanor.
If convicted of a domestic violence offense, the fines and jail or prison sentences will correspond with the classification of the offense.
- Class A misdemeanor domestic threat conviction carries up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
- Third-degree felony domestic assault carries a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-degree felony domestic assault carries a prison sentence of between 2 to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- First-degree felony aggravated domestic assault carries a prison sentence of between 5 to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
A judge may also order you to pay victim restitution and/or attend domestic violence or substance abuse counseling. You will also lose your right to possess and own a firearm and risk other collateral consequences of a criminal record.
Can an Attorney Successfully Defend Against a Domestic Violence Allegation in Texas?
In Dallas or Fort Worth, Texas, it is not uncommon to be arrested for domestic violence when you did nothing of the sort. When tempers fly and the police arrive, they often have to arrest someone and they'll make a judgment call without hearing the full story. Once you are arrested, you may think the odds are against you. Much of that thinking is fear -- you can fight a domestic violence allegation.
Remember: you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To return a verdict of guilty, the prosecutor must prove every element of the offense. Carl David Ceder uses his insight, knowledge, and resources to challenge each part of the State's case against you.
Further, you may have an affirmative defense, like self-defense or defense of others, which is often the case in domestic abuse or family violence cases. Always speak to an experienced domestic violence defense attorney first before you make decisions about your case, like accepting a plea deal or pleading guilty.
Contact a Dallas/Fort Worth Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today
If you face allegations of domestic violence in the Dallas - Forth Worth metro area, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Carl David Ceder is committed to helping his clients fight these types of charges and return to their lives as quickly as possible. Contact his office today.