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A Guide to the Texas Criminal Legal System for Family Violence Victims

This article explains, for survivors of domestic abuse, where to learn about the Texas criminal justice system. It is adapted from a brochure created by the Texas Council on Family Violence.

How does Texas law define the crime of family violence?

Family violence is a crime. It can cause psychological, physical, and emotional harm. It may involve a weapon, but more common is physical force using the hands, feet and fists.

As the Texas Council on Family Violence summarizes it, the Texas Family Code defines family violence as:

  1. An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or 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 … by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household
  3. "Dating violence…”1 which is “an act by an individual against another individual with whom that person has or has had a dating relationship and is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or 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.”

See Texas Family Code sections 71.004 and 71.0021.

Note: TexasLawHelp.org provides only limited information on criminal law

 

What to do when a family violence crime occurs

If you experience family violence, call 911 for law enforcement and emergency medical care. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available for crisis intervention, safety planning, and referrals to domestic violence shelters and services 24 hours a day at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). For legal referrals and information contact the Texas Advocacy Project Family Violence Legal Line at (800) 374-4673.

 

Steps in the criminal justice process

A Guide to the Texas Criminal Legal System for Family Violence Victims by the Texas Council on Family Violence briefly lays out what happens after the crime is reported.

Steps in the process include:

  • making a criminal complaint (often a sworn statement from law enforcement),
  • sending charges to the prosecutor for review,
  • arresting the defendant (if a warrant is issued),
  • appearing in court (where the judge tells the defendant what the charge is),
  • setting bail (after the arrest),
  • detaining the defendant after bail is posted, if required by law,
  • going before the grand jury (a private proceeding where jurors decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial),
  • the pretrial hearing,
  • making a plea bargain or going to trial,
  • trial,
  • sentencing, and
  • appealing the case (if the defendant chooses to).

Contact your local family crisis center for guidance on resources available to survivors of family violence as they navigate the criminal justice system.

Click the link below for more information

CLICK HERE For the full PDF guide to the Texas criminal legal system