In Texas, if you intentionally cause a bodily injury to another person, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. However, if you commit the offense by impeding the breathing or circulation of a family member, this misdemeanor could turn into a third-degree felony.
When it comes to domestic violence, avoiding a third-degree felony conviction can be complicated. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, you have an opportunity to prove your innocence or reduce the charge.
Laws You Need to Know
According to Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 22, Class A misdemeanor turns into a third-degree felony if the assault is committed against a person whose relationship is described by specific sections (71.0021(b), 71.003, 71.005) of the Family Code AND there is strangulation involved.
Section 22.01 states that strangulation is an offense committed when you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impede the normal breathing or blood circulation of another person by applying pressure on their throat or neck or by blocking their nose or mouth.
While the wording seems clear, the circumstances of an assault rarely are. You need to work with a criminal defense attorney to navigate the legal nuances and ensure your rights are fully protected.
Who Is a Family Member?
The third-degree felony charge for impeding breath or blood circulation only stands if the assault is domestic. The prosecution would have to demonstrate that the victim is:
- Spouse (current or former)
- Parent of your child
- Adopted or foster child
- Foster parent
- Aunt or uncle,
Besides immediate family, the law also protects dating partners.
Penalties for Assault by Strangulation
According to the Texas Penal Code, if you are convicted of attempting to strangle a family member for the first time, you could get a prison sentence of not less than 2 and not more than 10 years. In addition, you may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
If you’ve been charged with the same type of assault for the second time, the charge gets bumped up to second-degree felony. The punishment includes a prison term between 2 and 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Besides the immediate punishment, felony convictions may lead to such unpleasant consequences as:
- Voting restrictions
- Limitations of the right to carry firearms
- Child custody limitations
- Employment issues (inability to hold a public office position)
- Problems with home loan approval
Meanwhile, the punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is a fine that doesn’t exceed $4,000, a prison term of up to one year, or both.
To reduce or drop the charge, the defense attorney would have to prove that the prosecution’s case doesn’t hold up. When it comes to assault with strangulation, common defense strategies include:
Lack of Intent
Your criminal defense attorney may argue that you did not have the intention to impede the breathing of your family member. They may also present evidence to suggest that it was accidental.
If you believed you were in imminent danger of harm from the alleged victim, your attorney could argue that you take your actions in self-defense.
This defense may require demonstrating that you reasonably believed that using force to impede the breathing of the family member was necessary to protect yourself.
Lack of Evidence
Your defense attorney can challenge the prosecution’s evidence. They can question the reliability or credibility of witnesses, or point out inconsistencies in the accounts provided.
They may also argue that the evidence does not sufficiently support the charge of impeding breathing.
For example, if there aren’t any visible signs of bruising or abrasions, it usually means that the pressure wasn’t serious enough to strangle a person. This creates an opportunity to lessen the charges or prove your innocence.
If there is evidence to suggest that the family member consented to your actions, your attorney may argue that you had the right to engage in the behavior in question.
For example, if the strangulation was part of the consented sexual activities.
There is always a possibility to argue that the accusation itself is false, motivated by ulterior motives such as revenge, anger, or manipulation. Your attorney may present evidence or arguments to undermine the accuser’s credibility.
Since each case is different, a criminal defense attorney always designs a unique defense plan with your special circumstances in mind. The goal is to protect your rights and ensure a fair outcome.
What to Do If You Are Charged With a Third-Degree Assault on a Family Member
If you’ve been charged with a third-degree assault on a family member, it’s imperative to stay calm. The first thing to do is to obtain legal representation. Contact a qualified criminal defense attorney with experience in handling assault cases. Once you start working with a lawyer, they can explain exactly how to proceed further.
These legal professionals will be in charge of:
- Conducting an independent investigation
- Obtaining discovery materials (police reports, witness statements)
- Collecting and preserving evidence
- Building a strong defense strategy
- Filing all relevant documents on time
- Exploring possibilities for plea negotiations (if applicable)
- Representing you at trial
By being honest with your attorney and assisting them whenever possible, you can improve your chances of reducing or dropping the charges.
Things NOT to do after being charged with a third-degree assault on a family member are:
- Communicate the details of your case to third parties, especially in a digital format (social media, messengers, email)
- Confronting the alleged victim
Your criminal defense attorney will guide you through the do’s and don’ts of your behavior to prevent any actions that may hurt your case.
Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with a third-degree felony, you need professional legal representation.
At Starr Law, we have a team of experienced criminal defense lawyers who have successfully defended the rights of hundreds of clients in Plano and Frisco.
Don’t wait. Call us at (214) 982-1408 for a free consultation today!