Domestic violence, which in Texas is called assault with family violence, can include any offensive physical contact with or without bodily injury. The violence can be against a family member or household resident or a former or current dating partner. It can also involve threats of violence or physical intimidation, with or without a weapon or the threat of one. The offense charged may be a misdemeanor or a felony, and penalties can be up to 10 years in prison.
Not Just Criminal Consequences
Conviction of domestic assault, even when only charged as a misdemeanor, can have other lasting effects in Texas:
Cannot own or possess firearms
Cannot obtain a hunting or fishing license
May affect employment, especially for pilots, military, teachers, health care workers, government employees
May cause loss of security clearance
Possible loss with professional licenses
No expungement is available for domestic violence convictions
All in all, the penal and other consequences of having a domestic violence conviction in Texas can be very severe.
Avoiding the Worst
First-time offenders may, under certain conditions, be eligible for alternatives to jail or prison time following a domestic violence conviction. One of these alternatives is “deferred adjudication,” where the defendant pleads guilty, but sentencing is postponed while the offender undergoes what is, in effect, a probation period. If the defendant meets all the conditions, an order of nondisclosure is issued, and no criminal record appears.
Impact on Child Custody
It should not be a surprise that one of the factors that can come into a court decision regarding the custody of minor children is a prior conviction of domestic violence. Even a lesser conviction can lead to limited visitation, while extreme cases can lose all parental rights. Texas law requires that a court deciding custody must consider any evidence of intentional use of physical or sexual abuse during the two years prior to the custody case. It is critical to note here that the proof of the abuse requires a more likely than not standard, not the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used in criminal court.
Why You Need Experienced & Knowledgeable Legal Counsel
Unlike many criminal charges, domestic violence charges often have complicated roots that have nothing to do with an actual assault. Indeed, statistics indicate that one of every ten persons accused of domestic violence and related offenses have been falsely accused. Because the long- and short-term consequences of a conviction can be so severe and because the cases are so often he-said-she-said, your criminal defense attorney should have significant experience and knowledge in domestic violence cases in Texas.