By: Mark Diaz
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What are the Chances of Getting Domestic Violence Charges Dropped in Texas?
Frustration, confusion, uncertainty, and helplessness are just a few of the emotions that could hit you hard when arrested for domestic violence in Texas. You are probably aware that the state treats these cases very seriously, imposing harsh imprisonment terms, fines, and other consequences for a conviction. Still, domestic violence is not a separate crime. The relevant legal concepts stem from two sets of laws:
- The Texas statute on assault, states that assault is always a criminal offense regardless of the relationship between the victim and the assailant.
- Family law principles and statutes define the relationships giving rise to a domestic violence case.
To summarize, these two bodies of law work together to establish enhancements when violent crimes are committed against individuals designated by the statute. The charges increase in severity, as do the penalties if you are convicted.
Fortunately, there are almost always defenses and strategies for obtaining a favorable outcome in a domestic violence case. The critical issue is knowing which ones are available to you considering the surrounding circumstances, your history, and other factors. The chances of getting domestic violence charges dropped in Texas may vary, but you put yourself in the best position to leverage them when you retain skilled legal representation. Some important information should convince you to consult with a Galveston domestic violence lawyer right away.
Understanding Family Violence Cases
Because the concepts draw from both the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Family Code, a few important points should be explained:
- Family violence includes any act by one member of the family or household against another that threatens or results in physical injuries. Assault, sexual assault, child abuse, and violence between individuals in a dating relationship are all forms of domestic violence.
- When any of these acts are committed against a family or household member, the offense is considered family violence and enhanced in terms of severity.
The definition of family and household members is quite expansive to cover current and former relationships between:
- Parents who share a child
- Relatives by blood, adoption, or marriage
- Romantic partners (current or even past)
- Roommates and housemates
In any criminal case, the party bringing the charges is the government; the accuser is a witness, but not a party. As a result, only the prosecutor can drop domestic violence charges. This is true even if the accuser decides not to participate or testify.
Penalties and Collateral Consequences for Domestic Violence
Depending upon the level of offense for the assault class you are charged with, your penalty range differs. If it’s a class C assault, you could face Class C Misdemeanor charges. There is no jail time, but the judge could order a $500 fine. When a person causes bodily injury to a family or household member, domestic violence is a Class A Misdemeanor. A court could order up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both.
Under certain circumstances, domestic violence is a felony. You could face this charge if:
- You had previously been convicted of domestic violence
- The act of assault involved choking, suffocation, or strangulation
- The circumstances constitute aggravated assault, i.e., an assault that causes serious bodily injury or was committed with a weapon
For a third-degree felony conviction, the court could order 2 to 10 years in prison. A second-degree felony is punishable by 2 to 20 years’ incarceration. Note that the figure on the low end represents a mandatory minimum sentence. The judge must issue this imprisonment term but could go up to the maximum range.
Strategies to Get False Domestic Violence Charges Dropped
If you are in the unfortunate position of being arrested on false accusations of family violence, you must employ a specific approach to fight the charges. Keep in mind the context of how some domestic violence cases arise: They are often linked to other family law matters, such as divorce or child custody battles. An accuser may make false or misleading statements to gain an advantage in these other cases, and the ramifications are devastating for you.
However, keep in mind that the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction for domestic violence. When the accuser is dishonest, it is a huge blow to the government’s case – and of course, a break for you. Your legal team’s objective should be to get as much evidence as possible related to the false accusations, if possible. Some resources include:
- Your phone records of calls, texts, voicemails, and other communications with your accuser
- The accuser’s social medial profile, which may include posts, images, videos, and other content that puts the claims in dispute
- Your children, if they are an appropriate age to address the court about the false domestic violence allegations
- Medical records related to treatment the accuser received, keeping in mind that the lack of any documentation could work in your favor
- Other witnesses who observed the incident or know your relationship history with the accuser
- A transcript of the 911 call, if any
- Many others
Other Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegations
When there is some truth to the accuser’s claims, a solid strategy for fighting the allegations is equally critical. The first line of attack is contesting the prosecutor’s evidence, knowing that the government has a heavy burden to prove guilt. State of mind is an essential element, so the prosecutor needs to establish that you acted intentionally or knowingly; for some charges, there must be proof that you were reckless and disregarded the risk that an injury would occur.
In addition, other defenses and strategies to domestic violence charges include:
- Mutual combatants, in which you and your accuser were equally involved in attacking each other
- A violation of your constitutional rights by police officers investigating the crime
- There was no probable cause to make an arrest
Note that you can benefit from other resolutions to domestic violence charges, even if a complete defense and dropping the case is not possible. When the prosecution’s evidence is weak, it may be more willing to discuss plea bargaining. Certain individuals may also take advantage of the Texas domestic violence diversion program, which is similar to probation. If you qualify and meet the terms set by the court, the charges can possibly be dropped at the end if you comply with the program’s terms. Failure to comply with the conditions means your case essentially goes directly to sentencing since you are typically required to plead guilty to participate in diversion programs.
Civil Family Violence Injunctions
You should be aware of how criminal domestic violence cases can extend into civil matters, as Texas law allows an individual to seek an order of protection, or even allows the officer to request it even when the individual who was allegedly assaulted doesn’t want one. When a person is arrested for assault against a family or household member, the criminal court will issue a Magistrate’s Order or an Emergency Protective Order (often referred to as an “EPO”) – what you may know familiarly as a restraining order. This court order includes prohibitions on your actions, such as:
- Forbidding you from contacting or communicating with the accuser
- Banning you from the home you share with your accuser
- Restricting your parental rights related to minor children with the accuser
- Barring you from using alcohol or drugs
- Forbidding you from possession or purchasing firearms
EPOs are usually in effect anywhere from 30 days to 90 days after the incident, though most commonly they are for 90 days.
What to do if You are Facing Domestic Violence Charges
The confusion and chaos of an arrest can be overwhelming, leaving you to wonder how you can protect your rights. At the same time, your actions and words during the encounter with the police are absolutely vital for your case. You protect your interests and support the efforts of your Galveston domestic violence lawyer with a few tips:
- Never attempt to resist arrest, become belligerent, or get into physical altercations with law enforcement.
- Do not make statements to the police, even to profess your innocence, without your attorney present.
- Though emotions may be heated, avoid speaking to your accuser or making comments in the presence of officers. Words can be used and twisted against you later.
- Immediately request to consult with a criminal defense attorney.
Contact Our Galveston Domestic Violence Lawyer
There is really no way to accurately predict the chances of getting domestic violence charges dropped in Texas, but you can see how you increase the odds of a favorable outcome when you work with experienced legal counsel.
For more information on your rights and defenses, please contact criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz. Our firm advocates on behalf of individuals in Greater Houston and throughout Galveston County, so we are ready to fight the charges. To set up your no-cost consultation with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer, you can call 409-515-6170.