Law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, and society take family violence seriously. It is not merely a private matter but a public concern due to the potential for severe physical and emotional harm inflicted on victims.
Understanding the legal implications of family violence is essential for those charged, as it enables them to make informed decisions, access appropriate resources, and seek the necessary legal assistance to protect their rights.
Individuals charged with these crimes can better comprehend the possible impact on their lives by gaining insight into the potential consequences. They can also develop a proactive approach to their legal defense, pursuing a favorable outcome.
Definition and Types of Family Violence
Family violence, also called domestic violence, involves a family or household member committing an offense against another family or household member. Whether actual or potential, this conduct carries the risk of causing physical harm. It encompasses a range of behaviors, including physical contact, sexual assault, or threats that instill reasonable fear for the victim’s safety.
Those who fall within the definition of a household or family member include:
- Relatives connected by blood or marriage
- Biological parents of a child
- Foster parents and children
- Individuals who share the same residence
Several types of family violence offenses can be committed. These include:
- Sex offenses
Legal Processes in Family Violence Matters
When addressing family violence in Texas, the legal system has established specific processes to ensure the safety and protection of the victims. Let’s take a closer look at some of these legal procedures.
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 5.04 governs arrests. It mandates that police officers responding to a family violence report must prioritize the protection of the alleged victims.
Regardless of the familial or household relationship between the parties, officers are duty-bound to arrest the alleged violators lawfully. This underscores the gravity and seriousness with which family violence is treated, leaving no exceptions to law enforcement.
Protective orders play a vital role in preventing further harm and ensuring the safety of the victims. Responding police officers are responsible for informing the parties about available avenues for protection, which may include obtaining a protective order.
Such an order can mandate that the alleged actor refrains from contacting, threatening, or causing harm to the individuals named in the order. Additionally, the order may prohibit the alleged violator from possessing firearms to further safeguard the well-being of the victims.
Three types of protective orders may be issued:
- Magistrate’s order for emergency protection: Following an arrest for an alleged family violence offense, a magistrate’s order for emergency protection can be issued. The magistrate, the victim, a peace officer, or a prosecutor can seek this order.
- Temporary ex parte: A temporary ex parte order offers immediate protection to the alleged victim. The unique aspect of this order is that the alleged violator does not need to be present at a court hearing for the victim to obtain it. The victim must convince the court that they are in clear and present danger of harm, prompting the court to grant the order swiftly.
- Final protective order: A final protective order is issued after a hearing where the alleged actor and the alleged victim present their respective cases before a judge. This order can last up to 2 years and is a long-term safeguard against future family violence incidents. The order may be extended beyond the initial duration, depending on the circumstances.
Criminal Charges, Penalties, and Other Consequences
Criminal charges and penalties in family violence cases can significantly impact those involved. The severity of the charges and the corresponding penalties vary based on the nature of the alleged act.
Examples of possible charges and penalties include the following:
- Domestic assault: Classified as a third-degree felony, the offense can result in a prison sentence ranging from 2 to 10 years. Additionally, individuals convicted of domestic assault may face a fine of up to $10,000.
- Aggravated domestic assault: This charge is considered a second-degree felony and carries severe penalties. Individuals may face imprisonment ranging from 2 to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
- Continuous violence against the family: This offense involves repeated violent acts against family or household members. It is a third-degree felony, and those found guilty may face imprisonment for 2 to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Collateral consequences extend beyond the immediate legal penalties associated with family violence offenses. These consequences can have a lasting impact on various aspects of an individual’s life.
Let’s delve into some of the collateral consequences individuals charged with family violence may face:
- Loss of employment and professional licenses: A family violence conviction can lead to severe repercussions in terms of careers. Many employers might not want to hire or retain individuals with criminal records, especially those involving violence. Additionally, certain professional licenses or certifications may be revoked or suspended upon conviction, limiting future career opportunities.
- Immigration consequences: For non-U.S. citizens charged with family violence, immigration consequences can be particularly significant. A conviction for a violent offense may lead to deportation, denial of visa applications, or other immigration-related complications. Non-U.S. citizens must understand the potential impact on their immigration status and seek appropriate legal guidance.
- Impact on housing and rental applications: Family violence charges can adversely affect housing and rental prospects. Landlords often conduct background checks on prospective tenants, and a criminal record involving violence can significantly hinder the ability to secure suitable housing. These challenges can further exacerbate the already difficult circumstances faced by individuals dealing with the aftermath of family violence.
- Firearms possession restrictions: In many cases, individuals convicted of family violence offenses are subject to firearms possession restrictions. The law prohibits them from owning or possessing firearms, which can have far-reaching consequences for personal safety, hunting, or careers that require firearm use.
IMPACT ON FAMILY AND PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
The impact of family violence extends far beyond the legal realm, affecting personal relationships in profound ways.
Some of the effects family violence can have on family and personal dynamics include the following:
- Divorce and child custody issues: Family violence can significantly impact divorce proceedings and child custody determinations. Courts prioritize the safety and well-being of the child. As such, a parent with a history of family violence may face limitations in their custodial rights. In cases with a documented history of family violence, the court may refrain from naming that parent as a joint conservator. Additionally, possession of the child may be restricted for a parent with a recent history of family violence, emphasizing the importance of protecting the child’s welfare.
- Restraining orders and visitation rights: Restraining orders play a crucial role in safeguarding victims of family violence. These orders restrict the alleged offender from contacting or communicating with the individuals named in the order. In the context of family dynamics, this can significantly impact visitation rights. The court may establish specific terms and conditions for visitation, ensuring the safety of all parties. Furthermore, when the alleged offender shares a home with the victim, the court may order them to vacate the shared residence.
- Financial responsibilities as part of a protective order: The alleged violator may be required to fulfill financial obligations related to child custody. This can include child support payments, medical expenses, and other financial responsibilities.
Seeking Legal Representation
When facing family violence charges in Texas, seeking legal representation is paramount. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. By having a dedicated legal advocate by your side, you gain a better understanding of your rights, options, and the potential consequences you may face. Your attorney can provide objective advice, support, and representation throughout the legal process, protecting your interests.
At Deandra Grant Law, we aggressively fight criminal charges in Dallas. Contact us at (214) 225-7117 today.