Texas Governor Greg Abbott released his agenda for the special legislative session earlier in July. It had a surprising item on it – family violence prevention.
Governor Abbott wants the lawmakers to back legislation that would require schools across the state to provide education in regards to domestic violence and related issues, such as dating violence and child abuse.
The governor would like for middle and high school students to receive instruction on these issues with the proviso that parents can opt their children out of such instruction if they so choose.
The truth is that issues like domestic violence do have an impact on the lives of many Texans. It is an issue that needs more education and parental support.
In Texas, certain crimes that involve family members are considered crimes of domestic violence and are prosecuted as such.
Here’s what you need to know about the domestic violence laws currently followed in Texas, plus the penalties that can be faced if convicted. Many are meant to deter future acts.
Domestic Violence in Texas
In Texas, domestic violence is also called family violence, and it is defined as the following acts:
- Child abuse involving a household or family member
- Dating violence
- An act by a member of the household or family against another that threatens them or results in assault, physical harm, sexual assault, or bodily injury
The key to these types of crimes is the relationship of the people involved. For a crime to be considered one of family violence, it must occur between:
- Former spouses
- Current spouses
- Those who share a child
- Foster child and their parent
- Relatives by either marriage, adoption, or blood
- Anyone who has formally dated or been romantically involved
- Those who have lived together or currently do
Domestic Assault in Texas
The most common crime of family violence in Texas is domestic assault. That is followed by aggravated domestic assault and violation of protective orders.
Domestic Assault in Texas
In Texas, domestic assault occurs if a person commits assault by:
- Intentionally contacting a person offensively or provocatively
- Carelessly or purposefully cause another person to sustain bodily injury
- Threatening someone else intentionally with bodily injury
As noted, when these actions are taken by household or family members, they fall under the umbrella of family violence crimes, specifically domestic assault.
Another family violence crime that frequently happens in Texas is aggravated domestic assault.
Domestic assault becomes aggravated when serious bodily injury is done to another person through the attack. It also jumps to this level if a deadly weapon is involved.
The law defines serious bodily injury as injuries that involve broken bones, injuries that require hospitalization, or loss of a limb. Deadly weapons aren’t simply limited to firearms, either. They can be any object capable of causing serious bodily injury or death when used a certain way, such as a knife or even a baseball bat.
Penalties for Domestic Assault and Aggravated Domestic Assault
Domestic assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor Domestic Assault
If the charge included offensive or provocative contact or threats of harm, then it’s a Class C misdemeanor. That is punishable by fines of as much as $500.
However, if bodily injury was involved, then it’s charged as a Class A misdemeanor. This can result in a penalty of as much as 12 months in jail and fines of as much as $4,000.
Felony Domestic Assault
Felony domestic assault is charged as third-degree domestic assault if the defendant has a prior history of convictions for similar crimes. It can also be charged if the offense in question involved suffocation or strangulation.
This can result in as many as 10 years in prison and fines of $10,000.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
Aggravated domestic assault that involves serious bodily injury or a deadly weapon is a first-degree felony. It can result in life in prison and fines of $10,000.
However, if the case is aggravated but doesn’t involve bodily injury or deadly weapons, then it’s a second-degree felony. This is punishable by as much as 20 years in prison and fines of as much as $10,000.
Continuous Violence Against the Family
If someone commits two or more acts of domestic assault in a 12-month period, they can be convicted of an additional felony. This is a third-degree felony and can result in up to 10 years imprisonment as well as fines of $10,000.
Acts of family violence are serious and have a far-reaching impact on the family as well as the community. Hopefully, more education can help to prevent family violence from continuing from generation to generation.