Domestic Violence Attorney in Houston
As domestic violence attorneys in Houston, the lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm understand how emotional and frightening false accusations of domestic violence can be. These charges are taken incredibly seriously, and a conviction for assault family violence (AFV) charges in Harris County can earn you significant jail time. Additionally, a domestic violence conviction cannot be sealed from your record and will follow you for the rest of your life.
If you are facing false accusations of domestic violence — officially termed “assault family violence” (AFV) in Texas — you still have options for defending your rights and your name. A domestic violence attorney in Houston can help you explore those options and determine the best course of action for your case.
Mark Thiessen, criminal defense lawyer and founder of Thiessen Law Firm, has been Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has experience delivering thorough, compassionate defense to clients in challenging situations.
Quality defense is just a phone call away. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence assault in Houston, contact a domestic violence attorney in Houston at Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000. We offer a free consultation and are available 24/7 to assist you with your family violence assault charges.
I have to start off by saying how thankful I am that my case was dismissed. I never thought I would need a criminal lawyer but life happens. Mark kept me informed during the entire process. My case was rescheduled a few times, which was incredibly frustrating, but Mark kept calm. He had a game plan from start to finish. I couldn’t have gone with a better law firm.Posted by J.W., an Assault Family Violence client
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Understanding assault family violence (AFV) and what is considered domestic violence in Texas
Before getting into the particulars of your case, it’s important that you and your domestic violence attorney in Houston discuss the definition of assault family violence in Texas and determine to what extent the accusations you are facing do or do not qualify as family violence under this definition.
Assault family violence refers to an act of assault carried out against a romantic partner or a member of your household, such as a spouse, children, relatives living with you, etc. In Texas, an act of assault occurs when someone “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes or threatens bodily injury to another person” or if someone “intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another person or persons with the knowledge that the person will consider that contact to be offensive or undesirable.”
The state of Texas does not have a specific statute addressing domestic violence assault as a broader category. Instead, the Texas Family Code has provisions defining family violence and dating violence that are used to prosecute assaults against a family member, dating partner, or a member of your household.
Texas Family Code § 71.004 defines family violence as an act by a member of a family or a household intended to harm, threaten, or endanger another member of that household. Family violence includes such crimes as domestic abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse. It also includes dating violence.
Texas Family Code § 71.0021 defines dating violence as a violent act intended to cause physical harm or threat — that was not staged in self defense — against a victim with whom you have shared a romantic relationship through dating or a previous marriage. Dating violence applies to both exes and current partners.
Types of domestic violence charges
Your domestic violence attorney in Houston should also discuss with you the fact that people arrested for assault family violence offenses in Texas may face more than one charge. Possible charges of the following charges include: domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, and/or continued violence against the family.
Family violence assault charges
Domestic assault is an enhanced form of simple assault. Simple assault occurs when there is unwanted physical contact with another person that did not result in injury, but that the other person found unpleasant, offensive, or threatening. When a “simple” assault is committed against a spouse, dating partner, child (blood or foster), roommates, or relatives (blood or legal), it becomes domestic assault, and can be tried as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the criminal background of the accused.
Aggravated domestic assault charges
Aggravated domestic assault occurs when an act of assault toward a member of your family/household or a current/former romantic partner results in serious bodily injury including severe bruising, broken bones, disfigurement, etc.
Additionally, any act or threat of violence committed against domestic partners or members of your household involving a weapon is charged as aggravated domestic assault. Aggravated domestic assault can be charged as a first degree felony in Texas; those facing a charge of aggravated assault will want to look for an experienced aggravated assault lawyer.
Continued violence against the family
Continued violence against the family refers to two or more acts of domestic assault committed against a family or household member within a single two month period. Continued violence against the family is a third-degree felony and can be added as an additional charge alongside aggravated domestic assault, depending on the nature of the accusations against you.
Penalties for family violence in Texas
Relative to similar offenses that do not involve loved ones such as romantic partners or members of your household, domestic violence offenses come with enhanced penalties, even at their lowest levels. A domestic violence attorney in Houston understands what’s at stake when you are facing these charges and can work with you to build the best possible defense against the accusations and penalties you’re facing.
Misdemeanor domestic violence
Simple domestic assault that does not result in serious bodily injury and is not part of an established pattern of abuse is typically tried as a class A misdemeanor. If convicted of class A misdemeanor simple domestic assault, you may be punished by:
- Jail time of up to one year
- And/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Felony domestic violence
In Texas, all charges of aggravated domestic assault and continued violence against the family are charged as felonies, which can mean significant jail time upon conviction. If you are facing false accusations of felony domestic violence in Harris County, it is critical that you retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Third degree felony domestic assault: A simple domestic assault charge can be upgraded from a class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony if you have a previous conviction for domestic assault. Additionally, any charge of continued violence against the family will be tried as a third degree felony, potentially alongside other charges related to the original accusation. If convicted of third degree felony assault in Texas, you could face:
- A prison sentence of between 2–10 years
- Fines up to $10,000.
First degree felony domestic assault: Aggravated domestic assault can be tried as a first degree felony, which comes with severe consequences upon conviction. If convicted of first degree felony aggravated domestic assault in Texas, you could face:
- A prison sentence of between 5–99 years or life
- Fines up to $10,000 in fines.
Additional and/or alternative penalties for domestic violence
Depending on your criminal history and the nature of the accusation, a conviction on domestic violence charges may result in other penalties in lieu of or in addition to any jail time or fines.
Additional punishments for domestic violence in Texas include:
- Probation: Depending on the specifics of your domestic violence case, you may wish for your domestic violence attorney in Houston to argue for you to be granted probation instead of jail time. If sentenced to probation for domestic violence, you must fulfill requirements established by the court, including but not limited to fines, community service, drug testing, mandatory check-ins, and more. Failure to abide by the rules your probation can result in arrest and reinstatement of harsher penalties, including jail time.
- Counseling and treatment: In addition to — or in place of — probation, fines, and/or jail time, you may be required to attend anger management or other counseling programs and to prove your successful participation to the court.
- Protective orders and loss of child custody: Your spouse or partner may move to have a restraining order issued and/or modify an existing custody order to prevent you from seeing your children following a conviction for domestic assault.
What are the collateral consequences of a family violence conviction?
In addition to the criminal penalties associated with a family violence conviction, there are additional and often equally severe collateral consequences of a finding of domestic violence.
- Firearm prohibitions: An individual convicted of family violence is prohibited from possessing a firearm under both Texas and Federal law. This prohibition limits your ability to serve as an armed guard, law enforcement officer, or in the military, and also bars you from owning a firearm for personal protection or hunting.
- May limit opportunities: A family violence conviction will stay on your criminal record and can limit employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Many employers, landlords, and institutions of higher education will automatically disqualify an application from someone convicted of family violence.
- Immigration complications: A family violence finding or admission of guilt to family violence can have devastating consequences for an individual’s immigration status and can lead to deportation and inadmissibility for non-citizens. Even deferred adjudication in a family violence case is considered an admission of guilt and can carry all of the same collateral consequences as a conviction for family violence.
- Enhanced penalties: A previous family violence conviction or finding can be used to enhance any future criminal charges if you are arrested for family violence in the future.
Depending on your circumstances, there may be additional collateral consequences as well. It is very important that consult with a criminal defense attorney so that you adequately understand all of the possible consequences for a family violence conviction.
Defense for false accusations of family assault violence
While an experienced domestic violence attorney in Houston is keenly aware how victims of domestic violence can be impacted by domestic abuse, we are also some of the few individuals who know that false accusations can and do occur, and that those who are unfairly accused deserve thorough defense.
Depending on the circumstances, a domestic violence attorney in Houston may deploy a variety of defenses against false accusations of abuse, including:
- Proving self defense: While violence in the home (or anywhere) is never OK, people do have a right to react within reason as a means of protecting themselves against violence.
- Disproving key elements of the accusation: Sometimes the crime you’re charged with bears relation to — but does not match — what actually happened. For example, you may have grabbed your spouse during an argument, but the injuries they allege resulted from that action were actually incurred in an completely unrelated accident. When it comes to protecting your freedom, these details matter, and can make the difference between liberty and being convicted of a crime that didn’t really happen.
- Proving the injuries were the result of an accident: Intent matters in assault cases. If you are responsible for the injuries, but they did not occur as the result of a deliberate action meant to threaten or harm the other person, your lawyer can work with you and any necessary experts to analyze the evidence and testify to your innocence in court.
An experienced domestic violence attorney in Houston knows how to work to disprove trumped up, unfair allegations being made against you. In fact, at Thiessen Law Firm, we have compiled a list of what to do if you’re accused of assault that includes the steps you can take and the actions you should avoid if you want to get a headstart on building a strong and credible defense.
Resources for victims of domestic violence
A person accused of domestic violence may have the right to legal defense, but domestic assault is never excusable, and we encourage all victims to seek help as soon as possible.
The following resources are available to Victims of domestic violence in Houston for free.
- Houston Area Women’s Center. 24-hour hotline: 713-528-2121
- The Bridge Over Troubled Waters. 24-hour Pasadena hotline: 713-473-2801
- Brighter Tomorrows. 22-hour hotline: 972-262-8383
For more resources, including those for the greater Houston area, please check the HPD Family Violence Resources page.
Meet with an experienced domestic violence attorney in Houston
If you have been charged with family violence, you need experienced representation from a domestic violence lawyer in Houston, and ASAP. Thiessen Law Firm’s Mark Thiessen is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to defend your name, your rights, and your future.