Domestic Violence: Alternatives to Incarceration in Texas

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Domestic violence is a serious concern that plagues the State of Texas and the nation at large. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, the legal and social consequences you face are significant, and knowing your best options and bringing your strongest defense is always in your best interest.

There are sometimes alternatives to incarceration in the face of domestic violence charges in the State of Texas, and better understanding these alternatives can help you make better choices. If this is the difficult situation you find yourself in, reach out for the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney today.

Domestic Violence Charges in Texas

The State of Texas classifies domestic violence charges as assault, which is the crime of intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly engaging in one of the following offenses:

  • Causing someone else to suffer bodily harm

  • Threatening someone else with imminent bodily harm

  • Engaging in physical contact that the other person considers offensive or provocative

The charge reaches the level of aggravated assault when the victim actually suffers serious bodily harm or the accused brandishes a weapon during the commission of the crime.

The assault charge becomes a matter of domestic violence when the victim fits any of the following classifications:

  • The current or former spouse or romantic partner of the accused

  • A family member of the accused

  • A current or former member of the victim’s household or a family member of the victim

When the domestic violence charge involves bodily harm, it is generally a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and fines of up to $4,000. If it isn’t the defendant’s first domestic violence charge, it’s enhanced to a third-degree felony, which carries 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

If the charge involves aggravated assault, it’s a second-degree felony, and a conviction carries a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

The Need for Alternatives to Incarceration

Domestic violence is a challenging concern that is known to have a network of underlying causes that often turn victims into offenders. In other words, domestic violence is cyclical, and while the State of Texas understands the risks associated with this brand of abuse, it also appreciates that breaking this cycle of violence is critical.

The following issues generally intensify the problem:

  • Substance abuse

  • Mental health concerns

  • Financial stressors, such as unemployment

Alternatives to incarceration are intended to hold violators responsible for their crimes while also providing them with the tools, support, and resources they need to escape the cycle of violence in which they are likely trapped.

Domestic violence is a serious issue, and if you’re facing charges, you shouldn’t hesitate to get help from a compassionate Killeen domestic violence attorney. He or she will help defend your best interests and protect your rights.

The Primary Goals of Intervention

Alternative programs for domestic violence in Texas focus on ensuring the safety of victims and preventing future violence. As such, alternatives to incarceration generally include support services for victims, such as counseling, along with measures that hold the accused accountable. These programs also seek to identify and address the underlying concerns that contribute to domestic violence.

Prime examples of alternatives to incarceration include the following programs:

  • Intervention and treatment for alcohol or drug abuse

  • Intervention and treatment for mental health disorders

  • Group and individual counseling that focuses on coping mechanisms, recognizing motivations, and breaking the cycle of abuse

Potential Alternatives

The State of Texas has several alternatives to incarceration available when the accused is found to be eligible.


Probation is a form of community supervision in which the person convicted of domestic violence serves their sentence outside of jail under a wide range of conditions. Any violation of these conditions can land the person in jail with their entire sentence in front of them.

Some of the common terms of probation in Texas include the following requirements:

  • Meeting with a probation officer on a regular schedule

  • Submitting to random drug and alcohol testing

  • Performing a specific number of community service hours

  • Attending drug and alcohol education classes or attending drug and alcohol treatment

  • Remaining gainfully employed

  • Refraining from breaking any municipal, county, state, or federal laws

  • Requiring permission to move

  • Allowing unscheduled inspections of home and work by probation officers

  • Following an imposed curfew

  • Submitting to GPS tracking

  • Being supervised by the Department of Corrections

Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication is another form of community supervision, but the accused isn’t convicted of the crime prior to the deferred adjudication order. After the terms and conditions of the deferred adjudication are met, the charge can potentially be kept from public record.

This restriction of records isn’t automatic, and it doesn’t apply to cases involving domestic violence. As such, deferred adjudication for domestic violence is basically another form of probation, and you should keep all the following considerations in mind:

  • A domestic violence conviction can’t be sealed, non-disclosed, or expunged.

  • A domestic violence conviction can be used as a criminal enhancement regardless of deferred adjudication.

  • A deferred adjudication for domestic violence can be used against you in terms of employment, overall social standing, and much more.

If you’re facing a domestic violence charge, the stakes are high, and working closely with a dedicated Killeen criminal defense attorney is always in your best interest.

Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs

According to the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV), Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPPs) “focus on victim safety and promote accountability for individuals who use violence in intimate relationships.”

Funding was established for this project by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice more than 30 years ago, and it became the first state-funded civilian program for battering intervention in Texas.

Layers of oversight apply to these programs, which include the following requirements:

  • Coordinating victim-support efforts with community agencies, such as shelters and local providers of family violence services

  • Offering training regarding the dynamics of domestic violence to law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, community supervision officers, and other officials

BIPPs Are Not Anger Management Classes

While anger management is a worthy goal, it’s not the focus of BIPPs. Instead, Battery Intervention and Prevention Programs are designed according to specific and unique parameters.

The Theory behind the Program

BIPPs are based on the theory that domestic violence isn’t a single event but, instead, represents a pattern of behavior that tends to escalate. BIPPs focus on highlighting the participants’ need for control over their partners and the premeditation involved. BIPPs also acknowledge that domestic violence is a societal concern that is shaped and supported by our cultural norms.

Length of the Program

Accredited BIPPs must be a minimum of 18 weeks, and participants must receive a total of at least 36 hours of group educational sessions. Some BIPPs exceed these minimums.

The Program’s Focus

BIPPs are designed to address the participants’ focus on control while helping them better understand the underlying causes. The focus is always on victim safety – while addressing the underlying beliefs that support the participants’ violence and teaching enhanced coping mechanisms.

Contacting the Victim

When participants enter or exit a BIPP, their victims are notified. This notice ensures the victims’ ongoing safety and is designed to inform them of their legal rights and the resources and family violence services available to them.

The successful completion of a BIPP is often a condition of probation for a domestic violence charge in the State of Texas. If you’re working towards meeting your probation conditions, a compassionate Killeen domestic violence attorney can help.

Education and Job Skills Training

Lack of education and job opportunities can play a critical role in the cycle of domestic violence, and education and job skills training opportunities can serve as part of an effective alternative to incarceration. Access to education and job training can set a person up for greater societal success, which can lead to a more solid standing in the community that decreases the risk of reoffending.

It’s important to note here that perpetrators of domestic violence come from all walks of life and that economic security in and of itself doesn’t offer protection. When economic concerns do play a role, education and job skills training may be appropriate.

Community Service and Restitution

When those convicted of domestic violence engage in programs focused on community service, it allows them to make restitution directly to the communities harmed by their actions. Restitution refers to compensating victims for the damages they’ve suffered. In the context of domestic violence, restitution generally means compensating the community at large – not the specific victims.

Restitution programs offer a rewarding means of fostering responsibility, which allows offenders greater insight into the impact of their actions.

FAQ about Domestic Violence Charges

The answers to the following frequently asked questions may help with some of your own questions about domestic violence charges in Texas. If you have questions specific to your case, reach out for the skilled guidance of a Killeen domestic violence attorney.

Is It Possible to Fight a Domestic Violence Charge?

It is not just possible to fight a domestic violence charge; it is generally advisable. Romantic relationships are complicated, and things sometimes become heated. If, in the heat of the moment, your partner decides to escalate things by calling the police, it can put you in a very difficult situation that can directly affect your future.

A seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney can help you understand any charges you may be facing, as well as the best path for fighting to protect your rights.

Is Deferred Adjudication Beneficial?

If you receive deferred adjudication in lieu of a conviction for domestic violence, it means that you won’t have the conviction on your record. However, the deferment itself will remain part of your public record, which means it can lead to negative consequences.

When the underlying charge is domestic violence, the deferred adjudication can’t be sealed, which makes deferred adjudication roughly equivalent to probation when it comes to domestic violence charges.

Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

When the underlying assault is simple assault, domestic violence is generally charged as a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. If the charge isn’t your first, it’s enhanced to a third-degree felony. If the underlying assault charge is aggravated assault, it’s a second-degree felony. In other words, a domestic violence charge can derail your future and lead to life-altering consequences.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Having a focused Killeen criminal defense attorney on your side can help in all the following critical ways:

  • Your attorney will help you gain a better understanding of the case against you, your legal rights in the face of the domestic violence charge, and your best options moving forward.

  • Your attorney will help you make the right, well-informed decisions for you as your case proceeds.

  • Your attorney will talk to the state on your behalf, helping to ensure you don’t play into their hands when answering their questions.

  • Your attorney will gather and skillfully present all the available evidence in your case, including the police report and everything the prosecution has.

  • Your attorney will engage in strategic defense development that takes the unique circumstances of your case into careful analysis.

  • Your attorney will engage in effective negotiations and plea bargaining with the prosecution – assessing the strength of their case in the process.

  • Your attorney will be well prepared to take your case to court if needed and has the experience and legal insight to fiercely advocate for your case’s best possible resolution at trial.

Your attorney’s expansive knowledge of the legal system and the prosecution’s tactics puts you in a far better position to effect a favorable case resolution.

Turn to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Help You Need

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is an accomplished Killeen criminal defense lawyer whose practice is dedicated to zealously advocating for the legal rights of valued clients like you, and he will leave no stone unturned in his efforts to resolve the case against you as advantageously as possible.

Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 and scheduling your FREE consultation today.

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