When a person is charged with any crime, the situation is serious. But when these allegations are made by a person’s spouse, their entire life may be thrown into chaos. Not only does the defendant need to defend themselves in court against criminal charges, but an approved protective order may entirely change a person’s living situation and relationships.
Allegations of spousal abuse are investigated by the police and tried in Texas’s criminal courts. The same courts hold hearings concerning protective orders that may be in effect in as little as 20 days after filing. Midland spousal abuse lawyers work to defend people against both criminal charges and protective orders to maintain both their freedom and their home lives. Contact a skilled attorney today to learn more about what you can do.
How is Spousal Abuse Defined in Texas
Unlike many states, Texas does not define spousal abuse as a crime in and of itself. Instead, the status of an affected party as a family member enhances the potential penalties for otherwise illegal behavior. Texas Penal Code 22.01 states that an assault is when a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person. Additionally, a person may also violate this section by attempting to cause bodily injury. When the target of these actions is a family member, a household member, or a dating partner, the act is considered domestic violence.
Household Member Definition
The concept of who is a household member is discussed in Texas Family Code 71.005. This states that a household member is anyone who lives together in the same dwelling. Whether these people are related has no bearing on this determination. Therefore, an assault committed against anyone who is a family member, who dated now or in the past, or who lives together, is a domestic violence case. It is also important to note that a person does not need to make contact with the affected party for these charges to apply. For example, if a person threatens to stab their spouse while yelling and swinging a knife, this could be reasonably construed by the target as a threat. Many domestic violence cases are prosecuted merely upon threats and anger. For more information, contact a Midland spousal abuse attorney.
Potential Spousal Abuse Penalties
A basic assault involving threats under Texas Penal Code 22.01 is a Class C misdemeanor. If the assault involves actual bodily injury, the crime is enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor. However, when the target of the violence is a family member or household member, and the defendant has a previous conviction, and the crime involved strangulation, the crime will be prosecuted and punished under the category of a second-degree felony. Third-degree felonies can result from second convictions of domestic violence or instances of strangulation but not both. More penalties are listed as follows:
- Class C misdemeanors are punished by fines of up to $500
- Class A misdemeanors are punished by a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000
- Third-degree felonies carry a maximum prison term of 10 years and fines to a maximum of $10,000
- Second-degree felonies have a minimum jail sentence of 2 years to a maximum of 20 and a fine of up to $10,000
Any assault that results in direct violent contact carries a potential for a jail sentence. This is in addition to any provisions made by a protective order. These orders can eliminate any contact between spouses, as well as negatively impact child custody and the right of a defendant to remain in their homes.
Speak with a Midland Spousal Abuse Attorney Today
The stakes are therefore extremely high in these cases. Any conviction for an assault, no matter how minor, will remain on a person’s criminal record. Defending against these charges involves a combination of evidentiary motions and effective trial advocacy.
Additionally, defendants may argue that the contact was made in self-defense, or that the lacked the intent to harm the affected party. Choosing the proper defense strategy can make all the difference in defending against criminal charges. Contact a Midland spousal abuse lawyers today to protect your freedom in court and defend against prohibitive protective orders.