When does family violence become a felony? In this video, Fort Worth criminal defense attorney Benson Varghese explains two ways the punishment for assaulting a family member can be enhanced or increased.
In the family violence or domestic violence context, there are two ways of what would otherwise be misdemeanor conduct, becomes felony conduct based on what the alleged victim is saying.
The first and perhaps the most obvious way a prosecutor would enhance your misdemeanor charge to a felony is by alleging it occurred in the past and it was actually a conviction in the past. The offense of assault bodily injury against a family member or household member with the previous conviction is a third-degree felony – it’s punishable by 2-10 years in prison. It does not matter whether or not the previous charge was deferred, which is typically not considered a conviction, or if it was what we would typically consider a conviction, that is, straight probation, jail time, or prison time. Either one of those possibilities will give the prosecutor a basis to enhance you to a felony offense.
The second way that an offense becomes a felony in the family violence context is an allegation that two or more acts of family violence occurred within a 12-month period. Here, there’s no requirement for a previous conviction, a previous arrest, or a previous charge – just an allegation that this has happened on more than one occasion in a 12-month period. For example, a person might call the police and say, “my husband just hit me, he’s a violent person, and a month ago, he hit his mom.” Those facts could establish a felony charge because the allegation is the person assaulted a member of his family, in this case, two different members of his family, over a 12-month period. This is a third-degree felony and is punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
One of the problems that comes up in assault family violence with prior cases or assault family violence of a continuous nature, is that a judge or jury is gonna hear about other acts that came up in the past, other allegations that were made against you. Typically, in any other type of case, your past criminal history is generally not relevant to whether or not you committed the act in question. But here, the law says that prosecutors can get into certain types of other bad conduct involving that family violence relationship.
The other problem that comes up in these continuous family violence charges is that a person is talking about events that are alleged to have occurred sometime in the past generally. In other words, it’s possible they never called the police when they’re saying this happened the first time or the second time. Ultimately, when they call the police, they may have no evidence to back up their statements and the prosecutors can have an easy way out to address that lack of evidence and that is simply the passage of time.
We hope you found this information about felony family violence useful. For more information about felony family violence charges, please visit out page on Defending Assault Bodily Injury.
Have you or a friend or family member been arrested for a felony family violence charge? Contact us today at (817) 203-2220 or reach out online for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will: