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Family Violence in Texas: Crimes Based Upon Domestic Violence – It’s More Than a Fight That Turns Physical


According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 185,817 reports of family violence made to Texas law enforcement in 2014. Most will assume that these numbers reflect fights between men and women, either married couples or romantic relationships, where emotions got high and things turned physical.

After all, that’s what everyone is arguing happened in the O.J.Simpson – Nicole Brown Simpson case, right? (At least, domestic violence is one of the big topics in the current, popular tele-drama based upon that media frenzy.)

And sure, that is true for lots of the family violence arrests made here in Dallas and North Texas (as well as the rest of the state). But not all of them.

Texas Family Code Defines Family Violence

Family violence isn’t just about a couple who end up in combat, with a battered spouse or battered girlfriend or boyfriend (yes, men get battered, too) ending up as the complainant in a Texas criminal case.

There are also ex-spouses and ex-lovers. But Texas legislation has expanded “family violence” crimes to involve lots more than this.

Under the Texas Family Code, Family Violence is an act between any member of a family or household against another member of that family or household involving harm or abuse. People who are dating (defined as a “continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature”) can also be subject to arrest for Dating Violence crimes.

From Texas Family Code 71.004, family violence is defined under the law as:

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;

(2) abuse, as that term is defined by Sections 261.001(1)(C), (E), (G), (H), (I), (J), and (K), by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or

(3) dating violence, as that term is defined by Section 71.0021.




Family Violence Includes Assaults, Injuries, Rapes, Child Abuse, Dating Violence, and Date Rape

Under the Texas Family Code, an act becomes criminal in nature, and subject to arrest by local authorities, when it is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. It is also criminal in nature and subject to arrest if it is a threat that a reasonable person would take as putting them in fear of imminent physical harm.

Arrests can also be made for any physical injury that results from substantial harm or a genuine threat of harm. Abuse of a child is considered family violence. And, compelling a child to engage in sexual conduct, or encouraging them to do so, is also a family violence crime. (Remember, in Texas someone is a child until they reach the age of legal majority.)

(Note: parents are not going to get arrested in Texas for spanking their kids, however. That’s considered reasonable discipline of their child.)

Family Violence: Who’s Family?

Lots of people can be considered family members or members of the household in family violence arrests. Texas Family Code Section 71.006 defines a member of the household as “a person who previously lived in a household,” as well as someone who is still living there.

Here’s a list of the possible targets of arrest for family violence in Texas:

  • Husband
  • Wife
  • Common-Law Husband
  • Common-Law Wife
  • Ex-Husband
  • Ex-Wife
  • Boyfriend
  • Girlfriend
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Stepfather
  • Stepmother
  • Stepson
  • Stepdaughter
  • Foster Parent
  • Foster Child
  • Grandfather
  • Grandmother
  • Grandson
  • Granddaughter
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Stepbrother
  • Stepsister
  • Male Roommate
  • Female Roommate
  • Male College Dorm Mate
  • Female College Dorm Mate
  • Male In-Law
  • Female In-Law
  • Other Male Family Member (cousin, uncle, etc.)
  • Other Female Family Member (cousin, aunt, etc.).

Texas Penal Code and Family Violence Arrests: Facing Felony Charges

The Texas Penal Code will form the basis for these arrests. People accused of family violence may face all sorts of felony charges, including:

Assault – Texas Penal Code §22.01
Aggravated Assault – Texas Penal Code §22.02
Sexual Assault – Texas Penal Code §22.011
Aggravated Sexual Assault – Texas Penal Code §22.021
Terroristic Threat – Texas Penal Code §22.07
Harassment – Texas Penal Code §42.07
Stalking – Texas Penal Code §42.072
Continuous Violence Against the Family – Texas Penal Code §25.11.

The Protective Order or Restraining Order in Family Violence Arrests

In Texas, criminal charges can be made against the person who allegedly committed an act of family violence. Usually, an arrest in these situations comes with a “protective order” or “restraining order,” which is issued by the judge.

These orders are designed to keep the accused at some distance from the alleged victim of family violence. In reality, these kinds of court orders can cause all sorts of confusion and disorder for the person who has been accused of the family violence act.

  • Can he or she go to class or enter their college dorm with this order in place?
  • What about seeing the kids or being able to work?

Family violence arrests can blow up someone’s life long before they’ve been convicted or cleared of any crime. These are emotional situations involving people who are in relationships with each other, and suddenly the police are involved. And the courts. And the prosecutors.

If someone does not abide by that court order, however, they can face another charge: Violation of a Protective Order can be an additional crime they must defend against under Texas Penal Code §25.07.

Family Violence Cases and Domestic Violence Defense: Difficult Situations

Accusations of family violence and domestic violence arrests are some of the most upsetting and emotional cases for criminal defendants. Consider the accused: it’s a parent, or a spouse, or a boyfriend or girlfriend or close family member, who is having to deal not only with the criminal system but with their family and home life being in crisis, too.

These are difficult situations.

Especially if you are not able to get bonded out of jail after arrest under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure art. 17.291. What? Yes.

Prosecutorial Power in Family Violence Cases

Immediately upon arrest, a prosecutor can get a restraining order against the accused, have them put behind bars without a change of bail if the District Attorney can meet the criteria under TCCP 17.291, and continue with their case against the accused even if the alleged victim refuses to press charges.

Arrests for Family Violence in Dallas and North Texas

As media stories, movies and TV, and public outcry continue to focus upon domestic violence situations, prosecutors are going to be more and more interested in pursuing criminal charges based upon family violence.

This will mean more arrests of college students, family members, husbands, boyfriends, wives, girlfriends (remember when Julia Roberts’ niece, actress Emma Roberts, was arrested for domestic violence involving her boyfriend?).

It will be especially hard for all the family members and friends of the accused to remember that someone is innocent until proven guilty in our system of justice. The arrest will likely change how loved ones view the accused, and relationships will be altered. Jobs may be lost. Scholarships threatened. Child custody may become an issue.

And with the special tools available to the District Attorney’s Office, the accused will immediately have to face life-altering circumstances no matter if he or she is guilty or not. Like having to abide by that protective order, and maybe having to remain behind bars.

Having an aggressive and experienced criminal defense lawyer is very important in these cases. Obviously.

For more information, check out our web resources page as well as Michael Lowe’s Case Results and read his article:


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