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Understanding Texas domestic violence laws

Domestic violence is a serious continuing problem in Texas and throughout the nation. As FindLaw explains, Texas defines domestic violence as the use of force that results in unwanted offensive or provocative contact with the victim and/or causes bodily injury. Domestic violence also includes the threat of such conduct and is not limited to violence against a spouse or domestic partner. Victims also can include a family member, household member, past or current dating partner and foster children.

To prove a domestic violence case in Texas, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged perpetrator intentionally or knowing committed the act(s) with which he or she is charged. When the act(s) resulted in bodily injury to the victim, the prosecutor also can present evidence to the court that the alleged perpetrator’s actions were reckless.

Duties of law enforcement officers

Chapter 5 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that the primary duty of a law enforcement officer responding to a domestic violence call is to protect the alleged victim. The officer must advise the victim of ways in which to prevent further violence, including providing a written notice of the victim’s legal rights and where to find a shelter or other community services. The officer also has the authority to stay with victims and protect them while they collect their personal property and that of their children, remove themselves and their children from the premises, and go to a place of safety such as a shelter or the residence of a family member.

Domestic violence penalties

In Texas, domestic violence can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the incident and the past criminal history, if any, of the defendant. Incarceration penalties can range from one year of jail time to 99 years of prison time. Fines can be assessed against the defendant of up to $10,000.

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