What Are The Consequences Of An Assault On A Family Member Charge?
The typical assault on a family member case is charged as a misdemeanor. But that does not mean it is any less serious than a felony charge when it comes to the consequences it can have on your life.
1) Protective Orders and No Contact Orders
An assault on a family member charge almost always comes with a “magistrate’s order for emergency protection,” more commonly known as a “protective order.” A protective order is an order from a judge that prevents you from going within 200 feet of your own home from 61 days after the order is signed (or 91 days if the crime you are charged with involved a deadly weapon) or from going within 200 feet of where the alleged victim works or within 200 feet of your children’s school. A protective order also forbids you from owning any firearms while the order is in effect. Some alleged victims also file for “two-year” protective orders in civil court, which can, among other things, can extend these restrictions from 61 or 91 days to two years.
In addition to a protective order, the judge in an assault on a family member case can issue a more restrictive “no contact” order. Just like it sounds, a “no contact” order prevents you from having any contact with the alleged victim for the entire length of the case.
Needless to say, protective orders and no contact orders are incredibly disruptive to your life. They make simple activities like paying bills, getting your mail, or visiting your children very difficult.
2) Affirmative Findings of Family Violence
A conviction for assault on a family member results in something called an “affirmative finding of family violence.” This finding isn’t just some legal mumbo-jumbo. It’s actually more important than any jail time you might be sentenced to because this affirmative finding will follow you around for the rest of your life.
First, an affirmative finding of family violence makes it impossible for your case to be sealed from public view. Unlike some charges, where your case can be sealed (the legal term is “nondisclosed”) after you successfully complete a special type of probation (called “deferred adjudication”), any case with an affirmative finding of family violence can never be sealed. This means anyone who runs a background check on you will always be able to see your assault on a family member charge. Simply put, if you receive an affirmative finding of family violence on your case, that case will remain on your record forever.
But it gets even worse. If you get an affirmative finding of family violence and are ever charged with another crime again—even if it has nothing do with family violence—you are permanently ineligible from having those future charges sealed. That one affirmative finding will haunt you for the rest of your life.
Second, an affirmative finding of family violence can be used by a state licensing agency to deny or refuse to issue you a state occupational license. If you’re in any of these jobs that require a license to work in Texas (and this is not a complete list), that affirmative finding could lead to you losing your license:
- Real Estate Agent
- Law Enforcement Officer
- HVAC Contractor
- Massage Therapist
- Security Alarm Installer
Third, an affirmative finding of family violence prevents you, under federal law, from possessing a firearm or ammunition for the rest of your life—even in your own home. This restriction isn’t just limited to handguns. If you’re a hunter, you can forget about ever hunting with guns again.
Finally, an affirmative finding of family violence can be used to increase your punishment if you are ever charged with assault on a family member in the future. Any second assault on a family member charge is a third degree felony punishably by between 2-10 years in prison and a $10,00 fine, even if the injury is so minor that it would have been charged as a misdemeanor as a first offense.
3) Reputational Harm
The stigma of having an assault on a family member conviction on your record cannot be overstated. Unlike drug convictions, assault cases are not victimless crimes. They cannot easily be explained away as the result of past addiction. Once you’re convicted of this crime, you are branded as a domestic abuser for the rest of your life.
If you are charged with assault on a family member, even if it is “just” a misdemeanor charge, you need a criminal defense attorney with expertise in family violence cases to help protect you from the terrible consequences this type of conviction can have on your freedom, your job, and your reputation.
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