Frightened girl with fighting parents in background

Texas Family Violence FAQs

The Linder Firm Oct. 19, 2023

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS), one in every three Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Nationwide, one in three women and one in four men will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their life. The most vulnerable are girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24, who experience triple the national average of intimate partner violence. 

Texas does not use the term domestic violence in its legal codes. Instead, it uses the term “family violence,” but it has a three-pronged definition of what constitutes a family. The first definition embraces what everyone would consider a family—father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, grandchildren, grandparents, et al. 

The second definition embraces those whom you are dating or dated previously. This category includes boyfriends, girlfriends, and fiancé(e)s. The third definition involves those with whom you live in the same structure now or previously, and this includes roommates. 

According to these definitions, family violence—which may well be called domestic violence in other states—occurs any time a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes or threatens bodily injury to a family member, as described in the categories listed above. 

If you are being investigated for or charged with family violence in or around Dallas, Texas, contact The Linder Firm immediately. With more than three decades’ experience in criminal defense, Attorney Phillip Linder will help you exercise your rights and tailor a strong defensive strategy aimed at achieving the best outcome possible. As a former Dallas County prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office, he also can anticipate and challenge evidence and tactics being employed against you.  

The Linder Firm not only proudly serves clients in the Dallas Metro Area but also throughout North Texas. Reach out immediately. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Domestic/Family Violence 

Through his decades of criminal defense experience, Attorney Phillip Linder has encountered questions and misconceptions about the charge of domestic/family violence. Here are some of the most common: 

How is domestic violence defined under Texas law?  

Texas Penal Code Section 22.01 “Assault” covers family violence under the state’s statutes. The section lists three ways a person can commit family violence: 

  • By intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; 

  • By intentionally or knowingly threatening another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse; or 

  • By intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative. 

What are the possible consequences of a family violence charge? 

The same section of the code breaks down the penalties between a misdemeanor and a felony. Generally, a charge will be a Class C or Class A misdemeanor, but it can rise to a felony if a previous conviction is present, or if “the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person's throat or neck or by blocking the person's nose or mouth.” 

Class C misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $500, Class A – if the victim suffers bodily injury – by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. A felony conviction can result in prison time from 2 to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000, depending on any previous convictions or strangulation/suffocation efforts. 

What if the victim drops the family violence charge? 

Victims do not have the power in Texas to drop family violence charges. That is completely up to prosecutors. However, if the victim refuses to testify, that can present problems for prosecutors owing to the fact that the defendant—the person accused of the violence—has a right to cross-examine his or her accuser. Prosecutors cannot submit statements made to police prior to the charge as evidence.  

Can I clear the charges from my record? 

If you are convicted of family violence, it will appear on your criminal record for life unless you work with an attorney to have it sealed or expunged. If that happens, only government agencies will have access to it, generally speaking. However, while it is open for public view, you can find your employment options limited, and your public benefits can also be adversely affected. Professional licensing might also prove difficult. 

Are there defenses to domestic violence charges? 

There are defenses to all criminal charges, which must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Your attorney can challenge all evidence and testimony against you and question whether they meet the reasonable doubt standard. Other defenses to a family violence charge include self-defense, lying on the part of the accuser, an accidental incident, and that your rights were violated by police and authorities.  

Do I need an attorney to defend myself?

A charge of domestic/family violence is not something you want to defend by yourself. A criminal case is not a DIY project. Prosecutors can quickly challenge and overwhelm whatever you say in your defense. Even if you bring in witnesses, these witnesses will be challenged and likely have no idea how to respond. If you are assigned and accept a public defender, that person may have several cases to work on simultaneously, and not be able to provide you with the type of personalized defense you need. 
No matter the particular circumstances of your case, it’s important to reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. The consequences are simply too dire for you to wait. 

Seek Trusted Legal Defense

If you are facing a family violence charge in or around the Greater Dallas Metro Area, contact The Linder Firm immediately. Attorney Phillip Linder will consult with you, go over the details of what happened, and advise you of your best options going forward. If matters end up in court, he will vigorously defend your rights and strive toward the best result possible.