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What is Domestic Violence?

The Texas Family Code assigns two different definitions to types of violence in domestic settings :


Texas Family Code § 71.0021 defines dating violence as an act—other than a defensive measure to protect oneself—by an alleged offender that is committed against an alleged victim:

  • with whom the alleged offender has or has had a dating relationship; or

  • because of the alleged victim's marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the alleged offender is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage.


The alleged act must also be intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. A dating relationship is defined as a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature, and the existence of such a relationship is based on consideration of:

  • the length of the relationship;

  • the nature of the relationship; and

  • the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.

Texas Family Code § 71.004 defines family violence as meaning any of the following:

  • an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself;

  • abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or

  • dating violence.

A household means a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, regardless of their relation, and any person who previously lived in a household can be considered a member of a household. Common members of a family or household include:

  • Current or former spouses

  • Children of a current or former spouse

  • Domestic partners

  • Individuals in a dating relationship

  • Siblings

  • Grandparents and grandchildren

  • Foster children or foster parents

Domestic/Family Violence Assault

Domestic or family violence charges most often involve assaultive offenses under Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code.  A domestic/family violence assault occurs when the assailant:


  • intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person

  • intentionally or knowingly threatens another person with imminent bodily injury; or

  • intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the complainant will find provocative or offensive.

Additionally, as defined above, both the complainant and the assailant must be a member of the same family or household. Current dating partners are considered “family members,” even if you do not live together. 


First offense domestic assault is a Class A Misdemeanor.  However, any domestic violence conviction, including a Class C Misdemeanor conviction, means any future domestic violence charge can be elevated to a third-degree felony. 

Aggravated Domestic Assault

An aggravated domestic assault occurs when a domestic assault either causes serious bodily injury or is committed using a deadly weapon. As with domestic assault, both the assailant and the complainant must be members of the same family or household or be romantic partners. An aggravated domestic assault is a second-degree felony unless it both causes serious bodily injury and is committed with a deadly weapon. In that case, it is a first-degree felony.

Continuous Violence Against the Family

Once you have committed two domestic violence crimes, the third one can be charged as continuous violence against family. You can be charged with this crime even if you have not been arrested or convicted of the other two crimes and even if the complaining witnesses are different people. This is a third-degree felony.

Pending Divorce or Child Custody Case?

Domestic violence charges are often coupled with restraining orders, protective orders, or orders to move out of you home.  Prone to false accusations, it is not uncommon for a partner or spouse to accuse someone of a violent act for personal gain during a pending divorce or child custody case.  If you or someone close to you has been arrested or charged with family violence, contact an attorney immediately and do not speak to the police, complaining witness, or anyone other than your attorney.  Any statement you make may be used against you.  


Contact a Houston or Sugar Land Criminal Law Attorney for your Domestic Violence Charge

A conviction for one of these types of crimes can impact every facet of your life, including your employment opportunities, professional licensing, and access to your children. If you or someone close to you is accused of domestic or family violence in the Houston Metro area, you need an experienced Houston or Sugar Land attorney on your side to zealously advocate and fight to protect your rights.  As a Katy, Texas native, daughter of life long public servants, and practicing criminal defense attorney in Houston and Sugar Land, Rebecca Grothaus’s experience is invaluable in defending clients. 

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