How Are Family Violence Cases in Texas Different?

In Texas, when you’re charged with a crime involving family violence, the judge will make a finding that you committed an act of family violence in certain situations. That finding adds several consequences that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Family violence cases can also be enhanced to a felony under certain situations.

Who counts as family?

Family violence cases include cases where there’s a dating relationship, family relationship or even members of the same household. This includes roommates. A dating relationship is one where there was an ongoing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature, including ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. Family can be by blood or marriage and includes foster and adopted relatives. It also includes couples who are now divorced or who are parents who have a child together (even if they’re not or never were married).

When is it a felony?

Assault cases are usually misdemeanors. They can be upgraded to a felony depending on different situations. Examples are if the victim was seriously injured or if a deadly weapon was used. Assaults involving family violence can also be enhanced to a felony. If you’ve ever had a conviction or been on deferred adjudication for a family violence case in the past, new family violence cases will be enhanced to a felony. If the state is accusing you of choking the victim, the case can be enhanced to a felony. If the state is saying you’ve committed two acts of family violence within 12 months, they can enhance it to a felony, even if you’ve never had a family violence case before.

What are the additional consequences?

If you have a family violence case and you take a plea or are found guilty at trial, the judge is going to make a finding that you committed an act of family violence. Even if no finding is made at the time, a judge in a future case can go back and make that finding. This finding has several consequences.

  1. You’ll never be able to have this taken off your record, even if you end up on deferred adjudication. In most other types of cases, when you successfully complete deferred adjudication, you can have your record sealed to prevent the case from showing up on most background checks. On family violence cases, you cannot have your record sealed.
  2. You can never own or possess a firearm for the rest of your life.
  3. If you’re ever charged with a family violence case in the future, that case can be enhanced to a felony.
  4. If you ever have a custody issue with one of your children, the judge in that case can look at the family violence finding when determining custody or visitation with your children.

These consequences are in addition to any jail or fines that are possible in a criminal case.


What difference does it make if your case is enhanced to a felony?

The obvious difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the range of punishment. The maximum punishment on a misdemeanor is limited to one year in jail. Felonies start at 2 years of prison time. The other big difference is how the case is treated. They are handled in different courts. The felony courts have prosecutors who are more experienced and who generally have more resources put into prosecuting cases. This means that it may be harder to get a felony dismissed than a misdemeanor even if there are the same facts.

If you are being charged with a family violence charge in San Antonio or have any questions about the finding of family violence, please feel free to contact us.

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Sean Henricksen

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