Domestic violence in Houston refers to an act perpetrated by a family or household member or by an intimate partner against another that threatens or results in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. Domestic violence charges are contained in the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Family Code. Under these laws, family or household members include persons related by blood or affinity, current or former spouses, parents of a child, foster child, co-residents, or former dating or romantic partners.
Compared to other violent and street crimes, the elements of domestic violence charges are not significantly different. The distinguishing factor is the relationship between the defendant and the victim. The Houston Police Department recorded 24,655 domestic violence incidents in 2016. In 2020, District and Statutory Courts in Harris County recorded 2,457 active cases of Family Violence Assaults in various cities in the county, including Houston.
Persons convicted of domestic violence in Houston can potentially face lengthy incarceration, hefty fines, and restrictions on the right to possess firearms.
Residents of Houston can report domestic violence incidents either by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (800-799-SAFE) or by contacting the Family Violence Unit of the Houston Police Department via phone at (713) 308-1100. Concerned persons can also report to the unit physically at:
Edward A. Thomas Building
1200 Travis 19th Floor
Alternatively, residents may resort to domestic violence shelters and programs provided by organizations at the state and county levels for assistance. Some of these organizations and agencies offering such services within Houston include:
AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse)
Batterer's Intervention Prevention Program
Phone: (713) 224-9911
Bridge Over Troubled Water Shelter
Phone: (713) 473-2801
Bering Support Network
Gay & Lesbian Counseling
Phone: (713) 526-1017
Family & D/V Counseling/Shelters
Phone: (281) 446-2615
Family Service Center
Phone: (713) 861-4849
Shelter & Counseling
Phone: (713) 528-2121
JASA House (Just a Sister Away)
Phone: (713) 662-9981
Spanish Women's Support Group
Phone: (713) 699-3974
Montrose Counseling Center
Gay & Lesbian Counseling
Phone: (713) 529-0037
Northwest Assistance Ministries
Shelter & Counseling
Phone: (713) 885-4673
Salvation Army Shelter
Phone: (713) 650-6530
Wellsprings Transitional Residence Program
Phone: (713) 529-6559
United Way (Information on Community Resources)
Phone: (713) 957-4357
Concerned persons have between two and three years to report a domestic violence incident in Houston. Under Texas law, each offense must be instituted within a particular period after its discovery or occurrence. This is known as the limitation period of the crime. Cases instituted after the required timeline would be considered statute-barred, and the court can decide not to hear them. The limitation period for offenses varies depending on the severity of the charge. The limitation period for domestic assault in Texas is two years since the offense is usually classified as a misdemeanor. Meanwhile, the limitation period for the felony offense of continuous violence against the family is three years.
Besides ensuring that the case does not get statute-barred, it is advisable to report domestic violence cases on time to also enable the prosecution to gather sufficient evidence for a successful trial.
Dismissing a domestic violence charge in Houston requires the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney who would examine the relevant circumstance of the case and argue applicable defense, including:
Some of the common domestic violence-related charges in Houston, Texas, are:
Where a victim fails to show up for a domestic violence trial in Houston, the prosecution can call for a continuance and get the trial rescheduled for a later date. Subsequently, the prosecution can get a court order known as a subpoena to compel the victim to appear in court. If the order is not obeyed, the victim can be held in custody or on bond until the end of the trial. Similarly, a victim may face contempt charges for refusing to testify in court. This also applies to spouses of the accused, as under the Texas Rules of Evidence, spousal privilege cannot be exercised in cases involving crime against the family, spouse, household member, or a minor child.
Note that while the testimony of a victim can be essential to the success of a case, the eventual decision as to whether to prosecute the case without the victim depends on the availability of other evidence. As such, the existence of strong supporting evidence like eye witness statements, video recording, signs of bodily injury, or medical tests can motivate the prosecution to press charges even if the victim is not very cooperative.