In a recent court case, one Texas man was sentenced to 75 years based on family violence charges. If you are facing a family violence charge, should you be expecting something similar – or is his case an extreme one? What can you expect?
Below, we’re going to explain the laws and penalties for Texas family violence, along with how a skilled Fort Worth criminal attorney can help you fight your charges.
Why a Texas Man Was Sentenced to 75 Years for Family Violence
Seventy-five years in prison. That’s something you might expect for a particularly heinous murder or decades of sexual abuse against children like with Larry Nassar – not for family violence.
However, that’s exactly how long a Hubbard man was sentenced after a lengthy history of abusing five women. Four women testified in the case, telling the court that the man had physically abused them and one other woman starting in 1996.
His sentencing was enhanced due to prior felony convictions, including assault, family violence, evading arrest, and drug possession. He must serve at least 15 years before being eligible for parole.
How Family Violence Laws in Texas Work
Texas law defines family violence as an action taken against a family or household member that is intended to cause assault, physical harm, or bodily injury, or is a threat that places the person in imminent fear of physical harm. It involves the following elements:
“intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury; or
intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive.”
Abuse is defined as making genuine threats; causing physical injury that results in significant harm; engaging in unwanted sexual conduct, contact, or intercourse; or coercing or compelling a child to participate in sexual acts.
Family and household members include the following groups of people:
- Individuals related by blood
- Individuals related by marriage
- Current or former married partners
- Current or former dating partners
- Parents of the same child
- Foster parents and foster children
- Current or former roommates
Family violence is committed most often against females – especially wives, common-law wives, roommates, mothers, sisters, and ex-wives.
Penalties for Family Violence in Texas
The Texas court system offers harsh penalties for family violence convictions. It’s important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney if you are facing charges of family violence.
Penalties start at a Class C misdemeanor level. If convicted, you will be required to serve up to one year in jail plus pay a fine. The highest level of penalty is a first degree felony, which will involve a prison sentence of five to 99 years plus a fine of up to $10,000.
Different factors can enhance the penalties. These factors include what kind of relationship the defendant had with the victim, any past convictions for the defendant, and if strangulation or suffocation was involved in the act of violence.
Bodily injury to the victim is normally charged as a Class A misdemeanor, but the law allows for certain exceptions. Check with a Texas criminal defense attorney to know what penalties may apply in your case.
Defenses to Family Violence Charges
A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to look into your case to decide which defense strategy is most likely to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Some possibilities include:
Lack of intent
Since the charges hinge on intent, your case may be dismissed if your attorney can show you made a mistake and did not demonstrate intent.
Lack of knowledge
You may not have been aware, due to various reasons, that your actions constituted family violence. Your lawyer will assess your situation to see if this defense applies.
No offense occurred
You may have been falsely accused of committing violence. Unless the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that an offense actually occurred, your case can be thrown out.
You may have been acting to protect yourself, which is a viable defense under certain circumstances.
Texas law assigns heavy penalties to those convicted on family violence charges, but remember that the prosecuting attorney bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with knowledge or intent. The prosecutor must also show enough evidence to prove that your actions caused bodily injury to the victim. If these elements cannot be proven, your case could be dismissed with the help of a skilled attorney.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.