March 12, 2014
by David Nachtigall
Defending a person accused of domestic violence in Texas is serious business. The Texas legislature has broadly defined family violence and imposes severe consequences for those convicted of family violence offenses. A conviction for a family violence has effects that continue long beyond the termination of the case. In simple terms, “family violence” under Texas law is a physical assault or threat of violence against a family member, person you are dating, or member of your household. The full legal definition under Texas Family Code Section 71.004(1) is:
- (1) 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;
- (2) abuse, as that term is defined by Sections 261.001(1)(C), (E), and (G), by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or
- (3) dating violence, as that term is defined by Section 71.0021.
One of the consequences of a conviction for a crime involving family violence is that the court will enter what’s called an “affirmative finding” of family violence in the record of the case (see Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Sec. 42.013). There are several serious consequences of having an affirmative finding of family violence on your record that include:
- A person convicted of domestic violence offense cannot possess a firearm and ammunition under state and federal law. This means that professions involving a gun and recreational hunting are forbidden after a domestic violent conviction.
- The conviction may lead to issues in family civil suits (e.g., Texas Family Code § 153.131), and may be used against you in a future child custody, support, or divorce case.
- Domestic violence is “crime of moral turpitude” (like theft, perjury, or prostitution) when committed by a man against a woman. This means that the conviction may be used against you if you testify under oath in a future proceeding.
- A domestic violence conviction may result in the loss or prevention of employment and professional licensing both because it is a crime of moral turpitude and crime of violence.
- If the person convicted is not citizen of the United States, there are immigration consequences under federal law.
In addition to the consequences an affirmative finding of family violence, a “conviction” (which includes deferred adjudication) can be used to enhance any future allegation of domestic violence. A first-time family violence offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. If a person is again charged with a family violence offense, the offense is now a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Unlike many misdemeanors, domestic violence convictions have far-reaching consequences that may have a significant damaging impact on a person’s life. Contacting a criminal defense attorney who understands how to properly investigate and defend a domestic violence case is essential.