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What is Domestic Violence in Austin, Texas?

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence in Austin encompasses several acts and threats made by a person against a family or household member with the intent to cause the person physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. Though it is considered separate from the typical violent and street crimes such as rape and assault, domestic violence is not fundamentally different. A violent crime becomes a domestic violence charge if the perpetrator and victim are members of the same family or household. The various acts that can amount to domestic violence in Austin are mentioned and criminalized in the Texas Family Code and the Texas Penal Code. By definition, family or household for the purpose of a domestic violence charge in Austin includes persons related by blood or affinity, current or ex-spouses, foster parent and child, parents of a child in common, and dating partners. 

Violent crimes against a family or household member are usually prosecuted aggressively in Austin. Depending on the severity of the charge in question, the penalties for domestic violence range from extensive prison sentences to hefty fines. In addition, persons convicted of domestic violence may not be allowed to own or possess firearms for at least five years from the time of conviction. The offense may not also be expunged from the offender's permanent record for life.

The Austin Police Department recorded 6,856 incidents of family violence in 2016. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the numbers reduced to 5,814 in 2018. By the end of 2020, cases of family violence in the city had increased to 7,664.

How to Report Domestic Violence in Austin

Victims and other persons can report a domestic violence incident in Austin by calling the  National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or utilizing the hotline’s webpage. Similar reports can be made to the Austin Police Department by calling (512) 974-5037 or 911 if the person is in imminent danger or emergency. Concerned persons can also report in person at the police station located at:


Austin Police Department

715 East 8th Street

Austin, TX 78701


Additionally, other organizations also provide several forms of support, including housing, counseling, and access to legal help to victims of domestic violence in Austin. Below are some of these organizations and their contact details.


Asian Family Support Services of Austin

Hotline: (512) 651-3743

Phone: (512) 358-6318

Email: info@afssaustin.org


Texas Advocacy Project

Hotline: (800) 374-4673

Phone: (512) 476-5377

Email: info@texasadvocacyproject.org 


The SAFE Alliance

Phone: (512) 267-7233

Email: info@safeplace.org 


YWCA Greater Austin

Phone: (512) 326-1222

How Long do You Have to Report Domestic Violence in Austin?

Cases of domestic violence in Austin can be reported between two to three years, depending on the severity of the offense. The stipulated deadline is called the limitation period, which starts to run from the date of discovery of the offense. Within this period, the prosecution is required to formally file charges against the offender. Otherwise, the court may refuse to exercise jurisdiction over the case. The limitation period for a charge of domestic assault is set as two years since the offense is classified as a misdemeanor under the Texas Penal Code. On the other hand, the limitation period for the third-degree felony offense of continuous violence against the family is three years.

Apart from ensuring that the case does not fall outside of the limitation period, it is essential that residents make reports of domestic violence incidents in Austin early in order to afford the prosecution ample time to gather enough evidence to litigate the case.

How to get Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed in Austin

The defendant in a domestic violence case in Austin has the opportunity to defend or dismiss the charge. Making the best out of this opportunity requires representation by a qualified attorney. Such an attorney would examine the facts of the case and tender evidence to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s arguments. The attorney would also look to argue defenses to the charge, which may include: 

  • Self Defense: this is an affirmative defense under Texas law. The defense is not denying the occurrence of the incident but instead asserting that the actions are justifiable in the circumstances, as such, where a defendant’s actions were done to defend themselves from violence or threat of it from the victim. Such a response must be made with a force proportional to the attack.
  • Defense of others and property: As in the case of self-defense, the law allows individuals to use reasonable and proportionate force to defend themselves from an imminent threat of bodily injury or physical harm. Such a level of force can also be used to prevent trespass and unlawful interference with one's property. However, in all instances of defense, the accused must not have been the one that instigated the initial violence.
  • Absence of requisite intention: The law requires that an accused can only be convicted of domestic violence where acts or threats to violence are done intentionally, recklessly, or committed knowingly against the victim. Therefore, a domestic violence charge may therefore be diminished or dismissed if the defense can show that the conduct constituting the charge was done accidentally, or due to involuntary intoxication, mistake of fact, or duress.
  • Ulterior motivations of the victim: The defense may rely on this defense in a domestic violence case by proving the accusations were made falsely by the victim to gain the upper hand in a divorce or child custody case.

Domestic violence charges in Austin, Texas may include:

  • Domestic Assault: this offense is committed when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly threatens or causes bodily injury or physical harm to a member of a family or household. The offense is treated as a class C misdemeanor when the act involves provocative or offensive contact. The penalty for this class of misdemeanor is a $500 fine. However, where the victim suffers from physical harm or bodily injury, the offense is considered a class A misdemeanor that is punishable with imprisonment for a period of one year and a $4,000 fine.
  • Aggravated Domestic Assault: this arises when a family or household member uses or exhibits a deadly weapon to cause serious bodily injury against another. The offense is regarded as a first-degree felony punishable with a prison sentence of up to five to 99 years and a $10,000 fine. In the event that the aggravated assault is done without the use of a deadly weapon, the offense is classified as a felony in the second degree, which is punishable with imprisonment for a period between two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Strangulation or Suffocation: The offense occurs when the accused intentionally interferes with the victim's circulation of blood or airflow by applying substantial pressure on the victim's neck or throat. The offense is classified as a felony in the third degree, punishable with a prison sentence of two to ten years and a $10,000 fine.
  • Continuous Violence against the family: this offense is committed where a person perpetuates two or more domestic assaults against a family or household member within a year. For a person to be charged under this offense, violence or threats of violence need not be committed against the same victim. In Austin, repeated violence against the family is classified as a felony in the third-degree punishable with jail time for a period between two and ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Violation of a Family Protective Order: a protective order is an order of court preventing the offender from contacting the victim. The offense is regarded as a class A misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and a $4,000 fine. However, the offense is bumped to a third-degree felony if the accused has been previously convicted of the crime or where the offense involved stalking or assault. In this regard, the offense is punishable by imprisonment between two and ten years, including a $10,000 fine.

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

The unavailability of an alleged victim of domestic violence will usually entitle the prosecution to request a continuance to reschedule the trial date. The prosecution may then decide to compel the victim to appear in court on a later date through a court order known as a subpoena. Refusing to obey a subpoena can result in the arrest of the victim. Such a person may also face charges of contempt of court upon refusal to testify. This also applies to spouses of the accused since, under Texas Rules of Evidence, the defense of spousal privilege is unavailable in domestic violence. 

Where the prosecution cannot get testimony from the victim, the prosecution may decide to pursue the case if other evidence exists. Such evidence may include police testimony, audio or video recordings, statements of eyewitnesses, photographs of bodily injury, or medical reports. The prosecution may also consider the criminal record of the suspect when determining whether or not to proceed with a domestic violence case.