Can Domestic Violence Be Charged as Either? If So, What’s the Difference?
Domestic violence or abuse can often seem to arise out of nowhere. You’re having a discussion on a difficult subject and tempers and voices both get out of control. Often, there’s no intention to physically assault a spouse—you just happen to be in proximity to each other and contact is made. Typically, when police officers are called to respond to allegations of domestic violence, someone will be taken into custody and charged. What type of crime is domestic violence in Texas? Can it be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony? If it can be either, what’s the difference?
What Is Considered to Be “Domestic Violence” in Texas?
According to statute in Texas, “family violence” is any act perpetrated by one member of a household or family against another person in the same household or family, if it can be proven that the intent was to bring about bodily injury, physical harm/assault or sexual assault. It can also be considered family violence to threaten someone in the same household or family with imminent serious harm, bodily injury or sexual violence. Self-defense can be raised as a valid justification for family/domestic violence.
The Criminal Classification of Domestic Violence in Texas
Under Texas law, an act of family or domestic violence may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether or not you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depends primarily on two factors:
- The nature of the domestic violence
- Whether or not you have any prior convictions for domestic violence
The state of Texas identifies three different types of domestic violence:
- Domestic violence or assault
- Aggravated domestic violence or assault
- Continuous domestic violence
It’s important to understand that, technically, a person who engages in family or domestic violence in Texas will face charges under the state’s assault statutes—there is no specific statute governing domestic violence.
If you are charged with domestic violence or assault, and it is your first charge/conviction, you’ll customarily be charged with a misdemeanor. It may, however, be a Class A misdemeanor, with potential penalties of up to one year of incarceration and $4,000 in fines. For subsequent convictions on an assault charge, you may be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000.
Under certain circumstances, a simple assault may be classified as aggravated assault:
- Where the assault leads to serious bodily harm, including broken bones or scarring/disfigurement
- Where the assault involved the use or threat to use a deadly weapon, including a firearm, a knife, or a club or similar implement
In Texas, aggravated assault is a 2nd-degree felony, with a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Continuous Violence against the Family in Texas
The State of Texas does have a specific statute the provides sanctions for continuous acts of violence against family members. The statute applies in situations where there have been at least two assault charges against a member of your household or family over a 12-month period. Continuous violence against the family is typically charged as a 3rd-degree felony in Texas.
Contact the Proven Criminal Defense Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has been arrested or is under investigation for domestic or family violence. To speak with a knowledgeable lawyer, Contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.