November 16, 2023
Many Texans are surprised to know that assault charges don’t necessarily imply actual physical harm. You can still face criminal charges for making verbal threats against a relative or family member.
If you, or someone you know, is ever in a similar situation, make sure you contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the details of the case.
In the meantime, this post looks at how domestic violence charges typically unfold in Texas. We’ll also take a look at what you can do if law enforcement places you under arrest for domestic violence charges.
Let’s get started.
Domestic Violence Laws in Texas
Romantic and familial relationships can be complicated. Emotions run deep and tensions can get high, creating volatile situations that can result in heated arguments, overt threats, and even physical aggression.
Many times what starts out as a simple misunderstanding can result in a momentary lapse in judgment. In Texas, this can lead to being charged with one or more of the following crimes:
Domestic assault involves any type of violence against someone you have a relationship with. Even if the act is only a verbal threat and doesn’t involve any type of physical contact, it’s still considered to be domestic assault as outlined in the Texas penal code.
This relationship could be either familial or romantic. Either way, the nature and length of the relationship must be proven in court.
The law classifies these relationships as:
- A current or ex-spouse
- A current or previous girlfriend/boyfriend
- The parent of your child
- The child of a current or ex-spouse
- A foster child or parent of a foster child
- Other blood or adopted relatives
- A roommate
Aggravated Domestic Assault
You can be charged with this type of assault if you have committed serious bodily injury to a household member or partner. It also involves being seen using a deadly weapon during the assault.
This occurs when a defendant has been charged with two or more accounts of domestic assault. Even if the previous cases were arrests only without a conviction, a ‘continuous violence against the family’ charge can still be brought to court.
Domestic Assault Charges in Texas
According to Texas law, there are two main types of domestic assault: family violence and dating violence.
Based on Title 4, Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code, a family violence offense is defined as an act by one member of the family or household against another member with the intention of causing bodily injury, physical harm, or any form of assault.
It also refers to any type of threat that places a family member or partner in fear of their safety or life.
Both definitions make it possible for someone to face family violence charges simply for making a verbal threat against a family member. Even if there was no physical injury, a threat that makes the victim feel like they’re in danger is considered a viable criminal offense.
As specified by Title 4, Section 71.0021 of the Texas Family Code, dating violence is a type of criminal charge that refers to an act:
- Committed against someone whom the aggressor is currently dating, has previously dated, or has been in a marriage with.
- Intended to cause—or threaten to cause—bodily injury, physical harm, any form of assault, or places the victim in fear of imminent danger or harm.
Misdemeanor Assault Offense vs. Felony Offense in Texas
Domestic violence, or assault, charges can carry both a misdemeanor and felony penalty. Here’s a quick look at what each one entails.
A Class A misdemeanor charge is given to those who have no previous convictions and is considered the most serious type of misdemeanor offense in The Lone Star State.
Class A misdemeanors are punishable by either one year of jail time or a fine of up to $4,000, depending on the charge. In some cases, the court may decide to charge the assailant with both jail time as well as a fine.
Moreover, it can quickly be elevated to an aggravated assault second-degree felony if there are more aggravating factors involved. For example, assault involving serious bodily injury or assault with a deadly weapon carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison. It also comes with a maximum fine of $10,000.
Another thing worth mentioning is that convictions like this can’t be sealed. In other words, you’ll have a criminal record, which can prevent you from various things like:
- Owning a firearm
- Obtaining a loan
- Renting an apartment
- Landing a steady job
- Gaining custody of your children
The majority of third-degree felony assault charges involve no actual physical harm. However, the way the Texas Constitution and Statutes code book is phrased allows prosecutors to bring charges against anyone who makes verbal threats as well, especially when these threats bring imminent harm to a family member or romantic partner.
The prosecutor, then, has to prove that the likely victim had a viable reason for fearing for their safety. If they can show that, then they can move forward with pursuing felony charges.
Moreover, this type of criminal charge can escalate to a felony offense if the assailant has a prior domestic violence conviction. They can also face felony charges if the assault involves any type of suffocation or strangulation.
Penalties for this type of felony charge are typically 2–10 years of jail time and up to $10,000 in fines. There may also be other limitations placed upon your housing and employment options.
Domestic violence is seen as a quarrel that simply got a little out of hand. However, the truth is that domestic violence can involve a slew of situations, many of which aren’t even physical.
That’s why many often ask, “Can I be charged with domestic violence in Texas even if I never hit someone?”
As you’ve seen, the answer is yes! The good news is that you now know what the law says and what penalties these charges carry with a domestic violence conviction.If you or someone you know is accused of domestic violence, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. We can review your case, lay out your options, and help you come up with a plan.