What is the potential punishment for domestic violence?
There are varying degrees of punishment for violence against a family member in Texas.
- Class A Misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail and up to $4,000 fine or a combination of the two.
- State Jail Felony: It is a state jail felony if it is shown that a person acted with criminal negligence in causing injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual. In these cases, the punishment ranges from 180 days to 2 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine or a combination of the two.
- Third Degree Felony: It is a third degree felony if it is shown that a Defendant who has a previous conviction for family violence or the Defendant strangles his or her Victim. In these cases, the punishment ranges from 2 to 10 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine or a combination of the two. It is also a third degree felony if a person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission, causes bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual.
- Second Degree Felony: If it is shown that the Defendant has previously been convicted of family violence AND the Defendant strangles his or her Victim, then it is a second degree felony. In these cases, the punishment ranges from 2 to 20 years and up to $10,000 fine or a combination of the two. If the Defendant recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, it is a second degree felony. The punishment is the same as mentioned above.
- First Degree Felony: If it is shown that the Defendant used a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault and caused serious bodily injury to his or her Victim, then it is a first degree felony. In these cases, the punishment ranges from 5 to 99 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine or a combination of the two.
Is prison the only option for punishment in a domestic violence case?
Every situation is different and the punishment assessed varies depending on the factors and circumstances specific to each case. However, statistics show that most offenders do not serve a prison sentence. Probation is most often used as punishment and is an option in some cases. Probation is discussed in detail below.
What are alternative punishment options to prison?
- Pre-Trial Diversion: Many counties in Texas have various types of pre-trial diversion programs. This usually includes the defendant signing a judicial confession admitting to guilt. Once admitted into the program, the defendant is required to report as if on probation, pay a fee, attend classes, complete community service, and satisfy other requirements. Once the defendant completes the program, the case will be dismissed and no conviction will be listed on the defendant’s criminal record.
- Deferred Adjudication: Deferred adjudication is basically probation, but if the defendant successfully completes the deferred adjudication period, the case is dismissed and will not result in a conviction. If the defendant violates the terms of his or her deferred adjudication, participation in the program can be revoked, and the defendant can be sent to prison. This would result in a final conviction on the defendant’s criminal record. If a defendant’s participation in deferred adjudication is revoked, a judge may sentence the defendant to any amount of time up to the maximum time in prison for the underlying offense, which is 99 years for aggravated assault with injury.
- Straight Probation: Probation allows an individual to live and function outside of prison, but will still result in a permanent criminal conviction. Probation may include a fine, community service, reporting, classes, drug testing, no contact with the victim, and restitution payments. The maximum time allowed on straight probation is 10 years. If the defendant violates the terms of his or her probation, he or she can go to prison.