Woman in a relationship with domestic violence.

When Does Domestic Violence Become a Felony?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Domestic violence – known under Texas law as Assault Family Violence –  is one of the most common types of offenses. Domestic violence can either be considered a misdemeanor or a felony, which can impact your consequences. But how do we determine the classification of each incident?

Domestic violence includes either physical or sexual violence of someone in a dating relationship (or former relationship) with the accused. This can include:

  • Boyfriends
  • Girlfriends
  • Fiances
  • Spouses
  • Dates
  • Person who resides under the same roof as the victim
  • Person with whom the victim has a child

Sometimes this can also include violence between those previously engaged in a relationship (e.g. ex-spouses) or between those who previously lived together (ex-roommates). 

What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?

There are many different acts of domestic violence. They can include:

  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Hitting someone with an object
  • Throwing an object at someone
  • Punching
  • Choking
  • Slapping

In other words, domestic violence crimes are those ordinarily considered assault, when not involving anyone in the special class of defendants. But while domestic violence is completely wrong, sometimes those accused of such acts are up against a tough system that sometimes finds them guilty before proven innocent. 

False Allegations

As serious as domestic violence is, sometimes those involved in contentious divorce or custody cases present false allegations as a means to get what they want out of the situation by painting the other party in a really bad light. 

Arrests without Evidence

Since domestic violence is so prevalent and widely understood, many law enforcement agencies may arrest a defendant with minimal – or no – evidence such as clear injuries or witnesses. Often law enforcement may rely merely on the victim’s statement. 

Lack of Due Process

Since law enforcement often moves quickly when arresting those accused of domestic violence, many times the defendants are immediately placed in jail for a period of time, have orders of protection granted against them, and are subsequently forced out of their homes and normal routines. 

The prosecutor may decide to press on with charges on behalf of the State of Texas even if the alleged victim refuses to cooperate. In such a case he or she will have to demonstrate credible evidence that can be obtained on his or her own.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor

Depending on the allegations, the case will either be filed a misdemeanor. Most first-time domestic violence cases are misdemeanors. However, a case can be a felony where a defendant has a prior conviction for assault family violence, there is an allegation of choking or an allegation that a deadly weapon was used. 

While misdemeanors usually have a maximum sentence of up to twelve months in jail as well as a fine, felony convictions generally have more severe penalties, such as longer incarceration and higher fines. 

In addition to possible jail or prison time, alleged abusers are often required to participate in a domestic violence intervention program or to take anger management classes. In other cases, a defendant may be ordered to complete a community service requirement, pay a fine, and follow an order of protection. 

The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those in Houston Facing Felony Charges of Domestic Violence

If you or a loved one is facing allegations of domestic violence, no matter the classification, it is extremely important that you consult with a qualified Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney can help you to fight these charges, negotiate a plea deal, minimize jail time, and build a solid defense. Additionally, if your rights have been violated, an attorney may be able to help you to get the charges dismissed. 

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the seriousness of such a criminal charge and the impact that it can have on the rest of your life. That’s why we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.