By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Domestic or family violence charges in Texas range from class c misdemeanors (the same level as a minor traffic offense), to felonies in other circumstances. The fact that some are charged as class c’s doesn’t diminish their importance and can act as a trap door.
A class c assault occurs where there is unwelcome offensive or provocative contact. The state does not need to prove the victim suffered any pain or discomfort whatsoever. They appear deceptively insignificant because they can be charged in smaller municipal courts and before justices of the peace where the rules are less formal and far fewer people have lawyers.
In class c domestic violence cases, the prosecution may try and add a small enhancement paragraph to the charge known as “an affirmative finding of family violence” under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.013 and Texas Family Code 71.004. If the court enters this finding, even where the defendant gets deferred adjudication, then that finding can be used to enhance a future misdemeanor assaults all the way to a felony.
Most domestic violence cases in Texas are charged as the class a misdemeanor assault — where the state must prove some bodily injury (defined as any pain or discomfort). These cases can be very difficult for the state to prove. Often times the state will offer a class c deferred on the morning of trial if they feel badly about their case. Even in those instances, a person charged must be very careful because the affirmative finding may still be attached even though the charges reduced and getting deferred.
If you are charged with a class c assault where the alleged victim was a family member or someone in a dating relationship, you should strongly consider getting a lawyer regardless of how minor you think the situation to be.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.