Family Assault (or “domestic violence”) [Penal Code Title 5. Chapter 22] is a serious criminal offense in Houston and unfortunately all to common. In this post we will help you understand some of the legal circumstances regarding family assault as well as some options available for people and their loved ones who are involved with domestic violence charges.
What is Family Assault
In most cases a family assault charge begins with either a recipient of abuse or someone close / a neighbor, etc. calling the authorities. “Assault” need not be direct physical aggression – threats are considered assault. In many cases the call to authorities is not intended to arrest the aggressor – a person just wants the authorities to deescalate the situation. However, in almost all cases when authorities are called on domestic violence, someone goes to jail irrespective of anyone’s intentions.
It’s important to know that one need to be married or even dating in order to be charged with family violence. The following relationships can qualify for an assault on family member charge:
- Married – currently or previously
- Living together – currently or previously
- Dating – currently or previously
- Engaged – currently or previously
- Related by blood, marriage, or adoption
- Having a child [or gaurandianship] together
As one can see, it’s possible to be charged with assault on family member without even knowing that was a possibility.
Often it is the case that even after one of the parties is arresting for family assault, the other party will explictly appeal to not press charges. At this time they discover that their decision to press charges or not is irrelevant. There is actually a special section of the District Attorney’s office devoted soley to prosecuting family violence cases and Harris County pursues this type of charge much more harsly than other types of assault cases. These prosecutors are trained to aggressively pursue family violence cases without the complainants cooperation. Even a first time family assault charge (with no priors) is considered a class A misdemeanor that can carry up to a year in jail, large fines, and loss of rights such as to own firearms. If there is a past conviction the charge can be enhanced to a third degree felony carrying up to 10 years in the penetentiary.