Is Domestic Assault a Felony in Texas

Domestic violence is a serious problem both here at home in Texas, and across the country. In fact, in the United States it is estimated that one in three women, and one in four men will experience violence perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member at some point in their lives. Today we will take a closer look at each type of domestic violence crime in Texas and discuss what you should do if you have been arrested for domestic violence.

Domestic violence laws in Texas

In Texas, domestic violence is officially recognized under the term family violence. Texas’s Penal Code, Section 71.004, defines family violence as:

“…an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.”

A domestic violence charge in Texas can either be a misdemeanor or felony. Aside from steep prison sentences and hefty fines, those found guilty of a domestic violence crime in Texas will lose their right to carry a firearm regardless of whether they were charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

Additionally, criminal records in domestic violence cases cannot be sealed. This means that even after you have served your sentence – whether that is on probation, in jail, or in prison – your criminal record remains public information.

Types of domestic violence in Texas

In Texas, the term family violence is used to describe crimes that are colloquially referred to as domestic violence. The state recognizes three different types of family violence:

  1. Domestic Assault
  2. Aggravated Domestic Assault
  3. Continuous Violence Against the Family

Typically, when we think of domestic violence, we think of violence between two married people – one person committing violence against their spouse. However, Texas’ family violence statutes cover more than spousal abuse. Anybody who lives in the same household as somebody else can face charges of family violence if they are involved in a physical fight. For example, two roommates who get into a physical altercation may find themselves facing charges of family violence.

Domestic Assault

There are no specific domestic violence statutes in the state of Texas. Instead, domestic violence charges fall under the state’s assault statutes. However, the penalty for violence committed against a family member, current or past romantic partner, or even a roommate can be harsher than those for a simple assault.

According to Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code the elements of a simple assault are:

“1. intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;

2. intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or

3. intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.”

When these actions are perpetrated against a family member, romantic partner, or person with whom one shares a dwelling, the defendant may face domestic assault charges.

A conviction of a first-time Domestic Assault will generally be a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to a year in county jail, and up to a $4000 fine. However, if a person has a prior domestic assault conviction, the crime becomes a third-degree felony, which can carry between two to ten years of prison time, and fines of up to $10,000.

Aggravated Domestic Assault

Much like domestic assault, there is no separate statute for aggravated domestic assault. Instead, Texas state law’s general statute for aggravated assault is applied. Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.02 an assault charge can be upgraded to an aggravated assault charge if the defendant causes serious bodily injury to a victim, such as traumatic head injuries, broken bones, loss of limbs, and disfigurement.

Additionally, if a deadly weapon is used or exhibited during a domestic assault the charges can be upgraded to aggravated domestic assault. Deadly weapons include, but are not limited to, firearms, knives, and in some cases, baseball bats or other household tools like hammers.

Conviction of an aggravated assault will result in a second-degree felony charge. In Texas, a second-degree felony is punishable with prison time between two and 20 years, and up to a $10,000 fine.

Continuous violence against the family

In Texas, a person can be convicted of “continuous violence against the family” if he or she commits two domestic assaults within a 12-month period. Contrary to what many people may believe, a defendant can be convicted of this crime even if their past assault charges did not result in a conviction. Furthermore, the two assaults do not need to have been committed against the same victim.

Conviction on a continuous violence against the family charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4000 fine.

What to do if you are accused of domestic assault in Texas?

Domestic violence accusations should always be taken seriously. If convicted, the penalties for domestic violence crimes are significant, and can have lasting effects on your life even after serving a sentence. If you are being accused of domestic violence, it is imperative that you contact a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

At the Law Office of Andrew Williams, we have more than 20 years of experience defending Texans facing domestic violence charges. We understand that domestic violence cases are complex and can have a life-changing impact on a family. That is why we are prepared to review and investigate the particulars of your case to ensure that you receive a strong defense when accused of domestic assault. Do not let a criminal conviction become part of your daily life. Call or contact us online to speak with an experienced defense lawyer today.

Types of Assault Charges in Texas

If you are arrested for assault in Texas, it is important that you understand the gravity of the charges you are facing, and the legal process that you will go through. Regardless of where you live, assault is a very serious charge and a conviction will have a lasting impact on your life even after you have served your sentence.

In Texas, there are six different ways to commit an assault, which vary in level of severity and result in different punishments depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. As a result, it is important to understand the nuances between Texas’s various assault charges. Below we review the six different assault charges in Texas, and the penalties for each.

Assault Texas penal code

From Class C misdemeanor to first-degree felonies, assault charges in Texas all involve the same three actions which are outlined in Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code. Texas law states that each of the three actions listed below can constitute assault. These are:

“1. intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;

2. intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse; or

3. intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.”

Although the various types of assault charges rely on the same basic definitions, they do vary in severity. Whether an assault is considered to be a Class C misdemeanor, or a first-degree felony is determined by several factors including the context for the assault and whether a deadly weapon was involved.

Types of Assault and Their Penalties

  • 1)Class C Misdemeanor Assault
  • 2)Class B Misdemeanor Assault
  • 3)Class A Misdemeanor Assaults
    In Texas, when a person intentionally or knowingly causes physical harm to a victim they will automatically face a Class A misdemeanor assault charge. These charges can be upgraded if there are other aggravating factors such as the possession of a firearm, or previous assault charges on record.
  • 4)Third-Degree Felony Assault
  • 5)Second-Degree Felony Assault
    In Texas, all aggravated assault charges are classified as second-degree felonies. Aggravated assault occurs when an assault is committed while using or brandishing a deadly weapon such as a firearm, knife, or any other object that can be used as a weapon, such as a bat. Additionally, an assault that causes serious bodily harm such as a brain injury, broken bones, or disfigurement will be classified as a second-degree felony. These crimes are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • 6)First-Degree Felony Assault
    The most serious of assault charges a person can face in Texas is a first-degree felony assault charge. An aggravated assault against public servants including judges and police officers or criminal witnesses can lead to a first-degree felony. Additionally, assault with a deadly weapon against a family member, spouse, or household resident may also be upgraded to a first-degree felony depending on the severity of harm caused to the victim. First-degree felony assault carries the steepest penalties of the assault charges outlined above with fines of up to $10,000 the possibility of life in prison.

The least serious of all the assault charges is a Class C Misdemeanor Assault. If the assault did not result in physical harm or injury to a victim, it will likely be classified as a Class C misdemeanor. An assault is “Class C” if the victim is physically touched in an offensive or provocative manner. Additionally, a person can be convicted of this type of assault if they threaten another person, even if they do not commit a physical act of violence against a victim. Class C Misdemeanor Assault is punishable with a fine of up to $500.

A Class B Misdemeanor Assault is committed when a person watching a sports game of any kind – amateur, collegiate, or professional – threatens or physically provokes an athlete, coach, staff member, or referee or other sporting official. This statute specifically addresses assaults that occur while a “sports participant” is doing their job, as well as assaults that are committed in retaliation for an athlete or other participant’s performance in the game. Class B Misdemeanor Assault is punishable with a fine of up to $2000 and up to six months in prison.

Additionally, Class A misdemeanor assault also covers threats to or physical provocation of elderly persons or disabled individuals. The penalties for a Class A Misdemeanor Assault are a fine of up to $4000, and prison time of up to one year.

Class A misdemeanor assault charges will become third-degree felony assault charges if the assault is directed against certain parties named in Texas’s assault statutes. These parties include public servants, government employees, security officials, and emergency personnel.

Additionally, an assault against a family member, romantic partner, or roommate can also be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony. And, if the defendant has prior convictions for assaulting dating partners, family members, or household members they will likely face third-degree felony assault charges if they intentionally harm a member of these groups again.

Felony charges carry increased punishments. A third-degree felony charge is punishable with between two and ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

What to do if you are charged with assault in Texas?

An assault accusation should be treated very seriously as a conviction can result in large fines, prison time, and severe damage to your reputation and future. Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against charges of assault will be the most important thing you do to help yourself in the event you are charged with misdemeanor or felony assault.

At the Law Office of Andrew Williams, we have defended Texans like you for more than 20 years. We understand that people make mistakes, and that you do not have to be defined by your worst moment. That is why we are prepared to review and investigate your case to provide you with skilled legal advice and ensure that you receive a fair trial. Do not let a criminal conviction become part of your daily life. Call 281-709-2949 or contact us online to speak to an experienced defense lawyer today.

Joe Opsahl
About the Author: Joe Opsahl