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What is Domestic Violence in Houston, Texas?

Domestic Violence

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.

How to Report Domestic Violence in Houston, Texas

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

Phone: 713-308-1600

Fax: 713-308-1601


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


FamilyTime Foundation

Family & D/V Counseling/Shelters

Phone: (281) 446-2615

Family Service Center

Family Counseling

Phone: (713) 861-4849

Houston Area Women’s Center

Shelter & Counseling

Phone: (713) 528-2121


JASA House (Just a Sister Away)


Phone: (713) 662-9981


La Rosa

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


How Long do You Have to Report Domestic Violence in Houston, Texas?

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. 

How to get Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed in Houston, Texas

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:

  • Self Defense: This defense is available when the accused acted in response to a threat of imminent physical harm from the victim. The accused must have used force upon the reasonable belief that the force was necessary for protection from the victim's use or attempted use of unlawful force.
  • Defense of Others: A person is allowed to use force to defend others in imminent danger of harm. As in the case of self-defense, the force used by the accused must be reasonable and necessary in the particular situation.
  • Defense of property: The law allows a person in lawful possession of a property to use reasonable force against another to prevent trespass or unlawful interference with the property.
  • False allegations by the victim: Where the victim makes up false accusations against the accused either as a way of revenge or to obtain the custody of the children in a divorce, the charge of domestic violence against the accused can be dismissed.
  • Lack of intent: domestic violence laws in Texas require the act of the accused to be intentional. As such, it is a defense that the accused acted accidentally, based on a mistake of fact, under duress, or due to involuntary intoxication.  Some other defenses, including mistake, accident, duress, or necessity, may also be applicable to the accused.

Some of the common domestic violence-related charges in Houston, Texas, are:

  • Domestic Assault occurs when a family or household member commits assault by intentionally threatening or causing bodily injury to another. In Houston, this offense also includes provocative or offensive conduct. Domestic assault that involves threats of harm or provocative or offensive contact is classified as a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. The offense becomes a class A misdemeanor where the victim suffers bodily injury, and this is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of $4,000.
  • Assault with Strangulation or Suffocation: occurs when there is deliberate interference with the normal breathing or circulation of blood of the victim by the offender who applies substantial pressure on the neck or throat of the victim. This is a third-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Aggravated Domestic Assault: is committed when the assault involves the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon such as a firearm that causes serious bodily injury to another. This offense is classified as a first-degree felony punishable with jail time for a period between five to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Other forms of aggravated domestic assault without the use of a deadly weapon are classified as a second-degree felony, punishable with two to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Continuous Violence Against the Family: occurs when the offender commits two or more domestic assaults in a year. It is not required that the offender was convicted of the previous domestic assaults or that the offenses were committed against the same victim. The crime is classified as a third-degree felony punishable with two to ten years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Violation of a Family Protective Order: This is a court order which prohibits the offender from having contact with the victim. A violation of this order is classified as a class A misdemeanor punishable with imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of $4,000. Repeated violations of a protective order within a period of 12 months is a third-degree felony punishable with two to ten years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.
  • Stalking: is committed when the offender makes threats intended to place the victim in fear of death or physical injury or repeatedly contacting or engaging in alarming actions that would cause emotional distress to a reasonable person. The offense is classified as a third-degree felony in Houston, punishable with imprisonment of up to two to ten years and a $10,000 fine. However, the charge could be a second-degree felony in the event the offender has a previous stalking conviction, and this is punishable by imprisonment for 20 years.
  • Child abuse: is committed when the offender causes mental, emotional, or physical injuries to a child that result in a material impairment in the growth and functioning of the child. Charges of child abuse in Houston range from a Class A or Class B misdemeanor to a 3rd-degree felony with two to ten years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

What Happens if the Victim doesn't Show up at the Trial for the Domestic Violence Charge in Houston, Texas?

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.