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Collateral Consequences in Family Violence Cases

Criminal cases involving allegations of family violence are some of the most sensitive, and serious, offenses in the justice system and for good reason. There have been many studies focused on the cycle of abuse that often exists in cases involving family violence, be it between a parent and child, a brother and sister, or domestic partners.

With this in mind, the legislature has made even misdemeanor family assault cases result in serious consequences. And it doesn’t have to involve a conviction. These consequences apply in cases where the judge defers adjudication of a person’s guilt and places them on supervision. In most cases, if the defendant successfully completes the supervision requirements, the case is dismissed. But in family violence cases, that dismissal is incomplete, because many of the collateral consequences of a conviction still apply. Regardless of whether the affirmative finding of family violence is placed on the record.

So what are those collateral consequences? Some are minor annoyances, but some are significant obstacles that cause major issues for a person later in life. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect if a person is placed on deferred adjudication or convicted for a case involving family violence:

The person cannot own or possess firearms for the rest of their life. This means that they cannot have a firearm in their ownership for protection of their family or themselves and cannot go hunting with firearms (and a hunting and fishing license can be denied). This also means a person is prohibited from having a job that requires them to carry a firearm, even though they do not have any disqualifying convictions.

The person becomes ineligible to apply for a non-disclosure. Ever, at all, for any case they may pick up in the future, even cases unrelated to family violence. That person will be prevented from ever receiving relief from this case or any other being on their record, ever.

For example, if a person accepts a deferred adjudication on their record for a assault family misdemeanor when they are seventeen years old, and ten years later, that person gets into some trouble with a bottle of prescription pills that is not their own prescription, which could be a felony, and accepts a deferred adjudication on that felony, they would be ineligible to ask for a non-disclosure on that felony deferred, even though without the family violence case, they could apply for that non-disclosure and get some relief from that drug offense being on their record.

The person may be disqualified from applying for certain professions or licenses that require a record clean of cases involving family violence. If that person already has a license or job in one of these areas, they may lose it.

The person could be severely impacted in all future child custody disputes or divorces. They could lose custody or have to pay spousal maintenance as a result of the criminal case. When a person has this on their record, judges will rarely grant child custody to them. A judge may automatically place the child with the parent that does not have this case on their record instead.

The person is at risk for future cases to be more severe. Even with a deferred adjudication, if a person picks up a second family violence case ever, no matter if it’s been six months or sixty years since the first offense, the second case will be a felony.

There may be other consequences in addition to these, including difficulty trying to find housing or affecting immigration status. It’s important for those facing family violence cases to understand all of the collateral consequences before deciding on a course of action, because taking a plea on a family violence case affects more than just the punishment for the offense. Some consequences are lifelong.


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