Let's face it: every family has disagreements. Sometimes, these disagreements turn into arguments. And sometimes, these arguments become physical. In recent years, the State of Texas has increased the emphasis it places on prosecuting family violence; as a result, more and more people are being arrested for and charged with family violence-related offenses.
While it is important to protect our neighbors from violence, even in our own homes, sometimes law enforcement personnel (i.e., police officers, sheriff's deputies, constables, etc.) are too quick to arrest a person on suspicion of family violence – sometimes an argument is JUST an argument. And, to be sure, prosecutors are too quick in some instances to accept criminal charges against a person who is simply arguing with another.
Under Texas law, the offense of "Assault – Family Member" is designed to protect family members from being physically harmed by someone to whom they are related. However, the title of this offense is quite misleading. This far-reaching law not only applies to "blood" family members, but to spouses, dating relationships, sexual partners, and even roommates! Unfortunately, almost anyone with whom someone has had a relationship (other than a mere acquaintance) can be a defendant in an Assault – Family Member case if he/she is alleged to have committed an "assault" against a "family member" (as defined by Texas law).
Being charged with an Assault- Family Member has terrible consequences for the defendant. He/she has to defend himself/herself against a charge that accuses him/her of assaulting someone to whom he/she is related, living with, or dating. No one wants to be accused of this type of crime. People in the community can (and will) gossip and come to unfounded conclusions. Also, the District Attorney's office will likely ask the judge to sign an emergency protection order against the defendant, making it illegal for the defendant to be physically near the complainant. And the worst part is that, even if the complainant decides NOT to pursue criminal charges against the defendant, the State of Texas will pick up the case and prosecute it anyway – even against the clear wishes of the complainant.
A first-time charge of Assault – Family Member is a Class A Misdemeanor, which means that the defendant could get up to one (1) year in the county jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine if convicted. In addition, the DA's office will seek what is called "an affirmative finding of family violence," which means that if the convicted person is ever charged again with Assault – Family Member, he/she is AUTOMATICALLY charged with a THIRD DEGREE FELONY! This enhancement means that if convicted a second time, the convicted person could face between 2 to 10 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, an Assault – Family Member conviction carries with it other consequences. The convicted person may have to move out of the place in which he/she lives. In addition, the convicted person will not be able to own a handgun for a period of time after conviction.
As anyone can, see, an Assault – Family Member charge is a serious allegation that carries with it a lot of potential negative consequences. If you are charged with this offense, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to defend these cases.
Attorney Drew Prisner has defended dozens of these cases. When you work with him, you will see that he's determined to help you avoid the criminal penalties and the social stigma associated with being convicted of Assault – Family Member. For expert legal defense in your family violence or domestic violence case in Texas, contact Attorney Drew Prisner today for a free consultation.