Under Texas law, charges of violence or threats of violence against a family or household member are taken more seriously than charges of violence against a stranger. There are different, more severe penalties. There are different procedures in place, including policies that prevent the alleged victim from dropping the case.
This is despite the fact that domestic violence charges can arise out of misunderstandings, and even false or exaggerated claims.
Austin Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you are facing charges of domestic assault or any similar charge in Travis County, you can have an experienced lawyer on your side. Kevin Bennett represents those accused of family violence and dating violence. He can represent you in both the criminal charges and in any emergency protective order hearings that may stem from the accusations.
As part of a commitment to providing every client with an unmatched level of personal attention, our Austin domestic violence attorney does not accept every case that comes across his desk. Kevin Bennett maintains open communication with all of his clients about the matters facing them, and he aims to help them understand what is happening during dark and frightening times.
Kevin Bennett represents people throughout Travis County, including in Austin, Pflugerville, Lago Vista and Lakeway. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to set up a free consultation.
Travis County Family and Dating Violence Information
- Definition of Domestic Violence Under Texas Law
- Frequent Charges in Domestic Assault Cases
- Protective Orders in Austin Domestic Violence Cases
- Travis County No-Drop Policy and Domestic Assault
- Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions Under Texas Law
- What is a Family Violence Finding?
Domestic violence is defined in Chapter 71 of the Texas Family Code. It is broken down into family violence and dating violence.
Family violence is act intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault, or a threat of such an act when it is committed against a member of the accused's family or household.
A family or household member could include a:
- Husband or wife
- Ex-husband or ex-wife
- Brother or sister
- Mother or father
- Foster child
- Foster parent
- Mother or father of a person's child
Dating violence means the same type of act against a person with whom the accused has a dating relationship. Dating relationship is defined somewhat vaguely in the law, but the court will consider the length and nature of the relationship, and how the accused and the victim interacted.
Domestic assault involves a broad range of offenses, including:
Domestic Assault (Texas Penal Code §22.01(b)(2)): An assault means the defendant is accused of intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person. It can also include a threat of imminent bodily harm or causing contact when the accused should have reason to believe the contact will be offensive.
When an assault is allegedly committed against a family or household member, or a person with whom the accused is in a dating relationship, then it falls under family violence or domestic assault. A first offense will be a Class A misdemeanor, like any other assault. However, the second offense of family violence is a third-degree felony.
More serious allegations of assault, like those causing serious bodily injury or use a dangerous weapon, may be charged as aggravated assault, a second-degree felony.
Assault by Strangulation (Texas Penal Code §22.01(b)(2)(B)): An assault during which the accused is alleged to have applied pressure on the family or household member's throat or neck or blocked his or her nose or mouth could result in stiffer penalties. These charges might be listed on the docket as assault "impede breath/circulation."
A first charge is a third-degree felony. If you have any prior convictions for domestic assault, then the charges are a second-degree felony.
Injury to a Child (Texas Penal Code §22.04): Causing injury, including serious mental injury or impairment, against a child younger than 14 is a particularly serious offense under the Texas Penal Code. If serious bodily or mental injury was caused intentionally or knowingly, it is a first-degree felony. If caused recklessly, it is a second-degree felony.
For allegations that bodily injury (not serious) was caused intentionally or knowingly, it is a third-degree felony. Any type of injury caused by criminal negligence is a state jail felony.
Child Endangerment or Abandonment (Texas Penal Code §22.041): Leaving a child under the accused's care younger than 15 without care in a place that would expose that child to an unreasonable risk harm is a crime. It is also a crime to place a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment.
Charges for child abandonment and endangerment can range from state jail felonies to second-degree felonies, depending on what prosecutors are able to prove the allegations and the accused's mental state.
Terroristic Threats (Texas Penal Code §22.07): For purposes of domestic violence, making a terroristic threat means to intentionally place another person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm. A terroristic threat against a family member, household member or person with whom the accused is in a dating relationship is a Class A misdemeanor.
Stalking (Texas Penal Code § 42.072): Stalking charges frequently arise in the context of domestic violence. Stalking, under the law, mean to act in a way, more than once, that the accused knows or should know will cause the victim to feel threatened. The threat could be to the victim's life, safety or property.
Stalking is a third-degree felony unless there is a prior conviction, in which case it is a second-degree felony.
Interference With Emergency Telephone Call (Texas Penal Code § 42.062): This is another charge that frequently comes up in the context of family violence or dating violence. It is a Class A misdemeanor to knowingly prevent another person from making a 911 call to law enforcement or for medical help, or to in any way interfere with that person making the call. If it is a second offense, it can be a state jail felony.
After accusations of domestic assault, the victim or the police may file for an emergency protective order (EPO). An EPO hearing happens ex parte, meaning you may not participate or even be at the hearing. An EPO can last up to 90 days and are often times issued by a magistrate following the arrest of the accused.
Following an arrest for family violence or any alleged incident of domestic violence, an alleged victim may also request a protective order from the court that would last longer than up to 90 days. This type of final protective order requires that a hearing is scheduled and that the accused be given notice of the hearing and the opportunity to contest the protective order. You can be represented by an Austin criminal defense lawyer at this hearing. At the protective order hearing, the petitioner, or person filing for the order, must prove that, more likely than not, a domestic assault occurred and whether it is likely to occur in the future.
A protective order for domestic violence can severely restrain your liberties. It could mean:
- Your community property is split, or all is awarded to your spouse;
- You are required to move out of your home, and may not enter it;
- You are not allowed to communicate, in any way, with the victim;
- You are not allowed to go near the victim, including at her or his workplace or school;
- Custody of your children is awarded to another person;
- You are not allowed to sell property; and
- You are prohibited from owning a firearm.
Violation of a protection order is a Class A misdemeanor. If you are convicted of assault or stalking in connection to the violation of a protection order, it is a third-degree felony.
During the heat of an argument, a loved one may make a 911 call, regardless of whether any violence or threats of violence occurred. When the police show up, it is extremely likely that they will arrest someone and take them to Travis County Jail.
Even if the loved one regrets the call and does not wish to press charges, prosecutors in Austin will proceed with the case. The Travis County District Attorney has a "no-drop" policy for domestic assault, which means they will not drop a case, even if the victim does not wish to pursue charges. The policy is in place to protect victims, but it can wind up victimizing the accused, instead.
There are options to convince Austin prosecutors to not pursue the case, especially if you and your loved one have reconciled. An Affidavit of Non-Prosecution can be a convincing document when combined with a strong defense that is developed to each individual case. Kevin Bennett is an Austin domestic assault lawyer that works with his clients to develop a defense that is unique to their case.
In addition to protective orders and other collateral penalties, like no long being able to carry a firearm, you could face jail time and fines. The punishment will depend on the classification of the offense:
- First Degree Felony: Five to 99 years in prison or life, and a fine up to $10,000
- Second Degree Felony: Two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Third Degree Felony: Two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- State Jail Felony: 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000
- Class A Misdemeanor: Jail for up to a year and a fine up to $4,000
- Class B Misdemeanor: Jail for up to 180 days and a fine up to $2,000
- Class C Misdemeanor: Fine up to $500
Additionally, for convictions of domestic assault in Texas, you will not be able to expunge your record.
A plea of either guilty or no contest will result in a family violence finding meaning that the criminal charge can never be expunged or sealed from your criminal record. This is true even if you received deferred adjudication in your family violence case.
A finding of family violence can also have drastic consequences for a parent facing a child custody case, as a Judge is unlikely to place a child with a parent who has been found to have committed family violence. To address these concerns, custody and visitation will often be restricted by the court.
Additionally, if you are convicted or you received deferred adjudication with a family violence finding, you can no longer possess a firearm, weapon or ammunition or be in the vicinity of a weapon or ammunition. This right is never restored and is true under both federal and state law.
Representing Travis County Residents Against Domestic assault Charges
With such serious consequences, you'll want serious legal representation. Kevin Bennett is a skilled Austin domestic violence lawyer you can represent you if you are charged with any charge of family violence or dating violence in Travis County, including in Manor, Oak Hill, and Bee Cave. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to set up a consultation.