According to Texas Penal Code § 22.01, assault is intentionally or recklessly injuring or threatening to injure another person. That can include a spouse. Assault in Texas usually constitutes a misdemeanor if committed against anyone designated as a “family member” or if the assault constitutes “family violence.” However, if this is a second offense or choking is alleged, it is a third-degree felony.
If you receive a charge of assault against a family member in Texas, consider consulting a criminal defense attorney before speaking with police or admitting guilt because the penalties can be severe. They can communicate with all involved parties on your behalf and represent you throughout all legal proceedings.
What Is the Penalty for Assault Against a Family Member?
Third-degree felonies in Texas are punishable by a minimum prison term of two years and a maximum of 10 years. You may also receive a fine of up to $10,000, which is imposed at the sentencing judge’s discretion in your case.
Texas takes family violence very seriously, and prosecutors will usually push for the maximum punishment. Sentencing judges also have a strong incentive to “send a message” to anyone convicted of family violence by giving harsh penalties.
When it comes to the potential of early release on parole, one of the primary concerns of parole boards is the potential danger you may pose to society if it is granted. That concern is even more acute when the potential danger may be to a member of your family. In many cases of assault against family members, parole boards will err on the side of caution and vote against early release or community supervision.
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What Does Texas Law Consider a Family Member?
Texas defines family members as anyone related by “consanguinity,” which refers to blood relations or affinity. Affinity refers to people who are related not by blood but by affection, such as spouses. The family relationship by “affinity” definition can extend to:
- Former spouses
- People who are parents of the same child
- Foster children and foster parents
It is also important to note that the victim of the assault does not have to live in the same residence as the aggressor for the assault to be regarded as having been against a family member.
Family Violence and Assault
Texas Family Code § 71.004 goes further and expands the definition of assault to what is known as “family violence,” which is “an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm…”
Family violence is a misdemeanor the first time and a third-degree felony for any subsequent offense in Texas. This means in addition to blood relations, spouses, former spouses, and foster families, you can face felony assault charges for an alleged assault committed against any member of your household. A pattern of abuse against a member of your family or household can also be charged under the family violence clause as continuous family violence.
Dating Violence Can Also Be Grounds for a Felony Charge in Texas
A “dating relationship” is “a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” The criteria the state uses to determine the status of a relationship include how long the relationship is, the nature of it, and the type and frequency of interactions between the couple.
If police or prosecutors believe you assaulted a person with whom you have (or had) a dating relationship, they may charge you with a misdemeanor or felony.
Acting in Self-Defense Does Not Constitute Assault
Although Texas strongly opposes family violence, the law does make exceptions for taking certain measures meant to protect oneself. That means you can take reasonable steps to defend yourself against assault. However, the force you bring to bear must be proportionate to the assault you are trying to defend yourself from.
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Other Potential Consequences of Felony Assault Convictions
Losing your freedom and paying heavy fines are far from the only potential consequences of a felony assault conviction against a family member. The alleged victim may apply for a restraining order, which means you will be prevented from contacting them or coming within a certain distance of their residence or workplace. You may also lose custodial rights to any children you share with them.
Assault convictions also go on your criminal record, and they may disqualify you from potential employment or housing opportunities. Additionally, federal law usually prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from owning or possessing firearms for the remainder of their life after being released from prison. A felony assault conviction in Texas means you’ll have to give up any firearms you own prior to the conviction, and you may be banned from purchasing them.
What to Do If You Are Charged With Felony Assault in Texas
Receiving charges for a felony for assaulting a family member in Texas is an extremely serious situation. The consequences of a conviction are losing your freedom, reputation, and perhaps even your second amendment right to own firearms. If you’ve been charged with this offense, you may want to look into hiring a Texas criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights, help keep you out of jail, and reach a favorable outcome.
Blass Law has been fighting for the rights of defendants in Texas since 2010. Being charged with felony assault doesn’t have to lead to a felony conviction, and our Texas criminal defense lawyer can make a huge impact on the outcome of your case. If you face felony assault charges against a family member, reach out to our office for a confidential case evaluation. We will give you the representation you deserve when you need it the most.