Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer
Texas Domestic Violence and Family Assault Cases
There are few cases that are more frustrating, emotional and consequential than domestic violence. Based on the word of one person against another, individuals from all walks of life, income, and educational levels can find themselves under arrest, subject to a protective order, and charged with family violence. In Texas domestic violence cases, a little bit of information may go a long way in helping the accused and their families understand what they're up against and why they need the help of a
Houston domestic violence lawyer. Pleading guilty or no contest, even to a "deferred adjudication," or being convicted of domestic violence is a serious matter. It can almost never be cleared from someone's record and will have consequences that may follow them for the rest of your life, interfering with the ability to own a gun, get a job, and child custody.
Types of Family Violence Cases
Texas Penal Code §22.01 defines domestic assault as:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse;
- Intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse; or
- Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
No matter whether referred to as a family assault, domestic violence, or one of many other nicknames, the family term is invoked whether an offense is committed against a family member, current or former spouse or significant other and can fall into several other categories, including:
- Aggravated Assault
- Assault Causing Bodily Injury
- Assault by Threats or Terroristic Threats
- Continuous Family Violence
- Obstructing an Airway
- Offensive Touching
- Repeat Offender Family Violence
- Sexual Assault
- Violating a Protective Order
Texas Domestic Violence Cases Are NOT Simple
Many people think that domestic violence cases are "simple" because the other person will "drop the charges." This is wrong. Domestic violence cases are NOT simple. They are very serious and require serious attention. Anyone,
even a lawyer, who tells you otherwise doesn't know what they're talking about. Being accused of domestic abuse can result in
tough penalties, not to mention the impact on reputation, job and other social relationships. For peace officers, fire fighters, security guards, or those who hold professional licenses, the consequences can end a career. Even if one completes a deferred adjudication and there is no conviction, an "Affirmative Finding of Family Violence" by a court can have the same effect as a conviction and federal law may not a deferred adjudication any differently than a conviction.
In addition to criminal penalties, an individual accused of domestic violence may be subject to a protective order under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and/or the Texas Family Code that may remove them from their home and limit their contact with people in their life, among other serious consequences, including the loss of the ability to own or possess a gun. An Affirmative Finding of Family Violence (AFFV) or a protective order can have a huge impact in a family law suit, creating presumptions and other legal effects against the accused. What would ordinarily be a Class A misdemeanor (Assault Causing Bodily Injury) is a third degree felony if the person has a prior family violence case or if the air way was obstructed during the assault.
A third degree felony is punishable by two to ten years in prison and up to a ten thousand dollar fine. People who have completed Deferred Adjudication for domestic violence cases are not eligible for an Order of Nondisclosure. Non-citizens convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for even misdemeanor domestic violence cases may be subject to deportation, denial of re-admission, and/or denial of naturalization.
These cases go forward, are filed, prosecuted, and tried every day, even where there are no photographs, no bruises, no medical records, and when the witnesses, including the "victim," aren't cooperating.
Domestic Violence May Cause Loss of Gun Rights
Importantly for many Americans, there are serious collateral consequences of protective orders and/or a conviction for domestic or family violence that may affect the ability to own or possess a gun under Texas law and
Federal laws on a temporary basis or for a lifetime. This consequence alone may cause many hunters, recreational shooters, licensed security guards and peace officers to approach the defense of domestic violence accusations differently than they might otherwise.
Can't he or she just "drop the charges"?
No, not really. When you are charged with domestic violence or any other crime in Texas, the charging instrument and all other paperwork will say The State of Texas v. [Your Name Here]. The case belongs to the state of Texas, and despite what you've heard or seen on TV, they are unlikely to "drop the charges" because the "victim" wants them to. It's not the "victim's" choice. They were never hers or his "to drop." Frankly, the state of Texas, unlike in most other cases, doesn't really care what the "victim" wants. Victims have no right to dictate dismissals. In fact, prosecutors
expect "victims" of domestic assault to ask to "drop the charges."
Many prosecutors believe that victims of domestic violence are pressured into seeking a dismissal of charges by the accused, financial circumstances, or a psychological condition, and that doing so will only perpetuate the "cycle of abuse." At trial, the state of Texas will even call expert witnesses who will testify about "battered women syndrome" and that lack of cooperation is indicative of this phenomenon. In fact, complaining witnesses, or the alleged "victims" who try to change their mind or sign an "affidavit of non-prosecution" are often themselves threatened with prosecution for making a false report.
These charges, however, are rarely, if ever, filed. The reality is that most people don't know how the system works. Often the "victim" isn't a victim at all. They're upset, mad, afraid, or intoxicated and call the police because they want to get an upper hand, get away, or get the other person in trouble. People make mistakes. People lie. Sometimes they think they'll just get the person arrested now and "drop the charges" later, not knowing it doesn't work that way. Unfortunately, when they try to come clean and right a wrong - the government accuses them of lying, ignores them, or threatens them. If you want to win a domestic violence case, you have to fight and be prepared to go to trial. That's the real world.
Help Fighting Your Houston Domestic Violence Charges
Local District Attorney's offices may have special divisions that handle domestic violence cases, particularly those where the "victim" wants to "drop the charges." It's long been suggested that they receive grant funding from the federal government that is tied to convictions. In other words, there may be a financial incentive to prosecute. Whether the incentive is financial, psychological, or otherwise, they are reluctant to dismiss cases and, no matter what the "victim" says, they've heard it all before.
If the "victim's" wishes ever make a difference, it probably won't be until right up against the brink of trial, when a prosecutor prepares to actually try the case. Until then, it's just another domestic violence case likely to plea, so there is no incentive for the prosecutors, who are responsible for many cases, to look closely at it. It's a numbers game. They have hundreds of cases, 90% or more of which plead guilty. Part of a defense attorney's job is to re-humanize the defendant to the government and a jury if necessary. It's bad enough to be just another number to the criminal justice system; you shouldn't be that in your lawyer's office as well.
Ultimately, just as an in any other criminal case, an accused may have to exercise their right to trial by jury. Many accused of domestic assault do. In fact, it's probably—year in and year out—the second most commonly tried misdemeanor in area county courts. Title I of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure begins with the following legislative statement, which sums up the government's approach to domestic violence:
"Family violence is a serious danger and threat to society and its members. Victims of family violence are entitled to the maximum protection from harm or abuse or the threat of harm or abuse as is permitted by law. In any law enforcement, prosecutorial, or judicial response to allegations of family violence, the responding law enforcement or judicial officers shall protect the victim, without regard to the relationship between the alleged offender and victim."
As intimidating as the police and prosecution can be, it is important to remember that you do have rights. It is extremely vital that you contact a Houston criminal attorney with experience handling domestic violence cases right away to ensure that your rights are protected and that you are represented properly. My firm will aggressively defend your rights and freedoms. I understand what you are going through and my firm will energetically pursue the results you desire through
criminal defense strategies.
Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer
An accusation of domestic violence can turn your life upside down. In the eyes of many, you are guilty without consideration of the circumstances or truth of the matter. Domestic violence charges can go so far as to affect custody arrangements for your own children, your ability to pursue your chosen profession, or possess a firearm. I am committed to passionately defending the constitutional rights of all of my clients. I understand what you are going through and may be able to counsel you through one of the most trying times of your life. I care about my clients and devote the personal attention you deserve. I will carefully listen to you and methodically investigate your case, contact witnesses, and ensure that your rights were not violated in the course of your arrest. I have been helping my clients for over a decade and an experienced attorney may be your best ally when you are facing domestic violence charges. To learn more, contact a Houston domestic violence attorney to immediately investigate your case and help you determine your legal options.