If a former partner has accused you of domestic violence, you are likely angry, concerned about your reputation and unsure of how to proceed. How will you defend yourself in court? 

Understanding the domestic violence laws in Texas may help you understand why you must be legally protected when facing these charges. 

What does the state consider domestic violence? 

In Texas, domestic violence constitutes bodily harm, threat of bodily harm and other unwanted physical contact. For a successful conviction, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant’s violent actions were intentional, knowing or reckless. Domestic violence victims include anyone who lives in the defendant’s home and/or is in a romantic relationship with that person. 

What are possible defenses in a domestic violence case? 

The defendant’s attorney can argue that he or she was acting in self-defense and/or that no violent actions actually occurred. In addition, defenses include that the contact was unintentional and/or that he or she did not know that the person would find the contact in question offensive. 

What court dates will I face? 

If your former spouse has filed for a temporary restraining order, you may not contact him or her for 10 days, after which time the court will schedule a hearing for the domestic violence charges. At this hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence in your defense. An attorney can speak on your behalf at all legal proceedings.  

What are the penalties for a domestic violence conviction? 

In determining an appropriate sentence, the court considers the severity of the crime, whether the crime involved suffocation or strangulation, the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant and whether the offender has past domestic violence conditions. The court considers minor incidents Class C misdemeanors, which carry a penalty of up to one year in jail. The most serious domestic violence convictions carry first-degree felony charges, with a sentence of five to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. 

Often, individuals facing domestic violence charges seek advice from a criminal defense attorney to help them defend their interests in court.