What Are The Penalties Associated With Domestic Violence Charges?
Let’s talk about punishment ranges first.
The punishment range you’re exposed to depends on the type of charge. The following table lists the punishment ranges for all the different types of domestic violence charges:
|Charge||Level of Offense||Punishment Range|
|Assault on a Family Member||Class A misdemeanor||Up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine|
|Assault on a Family Member – Second Offense||3rd degree felony||2 – 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine|
|Continuous Family Violence||3rd degree felony||2 – 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine|
|Assault on a Family Member by Impeding Breathing||3rd degree felony||2 – 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine|
|Assault on a Family Member by Impeding Breathing with Prior Conviction for Assault on a Family Member||2nd degree felony||2 -20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine|
|Aggravated Assault on a Family Member||2nd degree felony||2 -20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine|
|Aggravated Assault on a Family Member – Deadly Weapon Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury||1st degree felony||5 years – life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine|
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.
Affirmative Findings of Family Violence
A conviction (or deferred adjudication) for assault on a family member also 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
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 punishable by between 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, even if the injury is so minor that it would have been charged as a misdemeanor as a first offense.
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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