The Texas statutes concerning domestic violence have dramatically changed over the last few decades. Many of these laws now provide harsher penalties for abusers, but the state has also developed programs to help change the offender's behavior. Although Texas does not have a mandatory arrest policy for domestic violence calls, there are some things you should know.
In Texas, three different crimes of domestic violence are recognized:
- Domestic assault - causing or threatening bodily injury against a family or household member, typically a spouse or child, but can include others
- Aggravated domestic violence - causing "serious" bodily injury or using a weapon
- Continuous violence against the family - two or more domestic violence assaults in a 12-month period
Domestic violence is when an act of violence occurs against someone in your family, a household member or someone you are dating. Generally, there must be some kind of relationship. It might even be a past relationship.
Until 1981, police officers would not make an arrest in a domestic violence case without a court order unless the officer actually witnessed the violence. The law changed in '81, allowing warrantless arrests in cases of domestic violence provided the officer has probable cause.
Phone call interruption
Interfering with an emergency phone call is a misdemeanor. If someone calls 911 to report a domestic violence incident and the call is dropped or interrupted, most departments will send personnel to the address. This is to make sure the abuser did not prevent the victim from making the call. Repeat offenders can be charged with a felony and sent to a state jail.
It was once common for only family members to be granted protective orders. In Texas, the law has since been expanded to include dating relationships, stalking victims, pets and third parties. Do not violate protective orders or temporary orders to talk to the other person about dropping the charges. You might face even more serious charges.
A domestic violence charge is a serious problem
Any crime you have been charged with is serious. When you are convicted of a domestic violence crime, it might hinder your right to own firearms and make you ineligible for financial aid. It is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to protect your rights and give you options for your situation. Do not talk to law enforcement without an attorney present to prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations. No matter the reason for your charge or arrest, speaking with an attorney is one of the best ways to protect your rights and understand your legal options.