Help Fighting False Accusations of Family Violence
Have family violence charges been filed against you? Know that you are not alone, and an allegation does not constitute a conviction. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, during 2014, there were more than 185,000 incidents of family violence and domestic violence reported to authorities. Family violence issues can happen in any family; stress at work or caused by losing a job, health problems, drug addiction or dependency, and divorce proceedings can cause people to act out in ways they would never do under normal circumstances. In some cases, however, people are wrongly accused of family violence.
There are many things that can motivate someone to falsely allege family violence or abuse, the most common being to gain a strategic advantage during a divorce trial or custody battle. If you have been falsely accused of violence toward your partner, spouse, or other household member, call the Hampton Law Firm at 817-435-2909 to schedule a free consultation. Hampton is an aggressive family violence defense attorney with experience, with experience defending hundreds of clients in cases that he took to trial.
Texas Statutes on Assault Family Violence
Under Texas’s Penal Code, Chapter 22, family violence is defined as “an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.”
Generally, an arrest is made when a law enforcement officer is called to the home in response to a complaint from a household member or neighbor. In some cases, however, the accuser reports the alleged incident days later or claims that the incident happened in the past. There are many strategic reasons for someone to falsely allege family violence, the most common being to gain a strategic advantage during a divorce trial or custody battle.
Family Violence Arrest Scenario & Process
Most family violence charges are filed at private homes after the accuser or a witness calls the police. Law enforcement officers will make a decision at the time of the visit to the home to determine if one person in the home is a victim of assault and if so, they are likely to make an immediate arrest.
In these cases, the victim may also be granted a temporary restraining order preventing you from going back into your home until such time as a court hearing can be held. If you have children with the victim, you might also be forced to stay away from them until the court hearing.
Temporary Protective Orders Following Family Violence Charges
The alleged victim might pursue a temporary protective order restricting you from coming in contact with them. This includes physical contact, a defined perimeter distance, email, phone, text, and social media communication. If children are involved, you might also be restricted from visiting them and if visitation is granted, there is a high likelihood that it will be supervised. Texas Family Code § 71.004. Family Violence defines family violence as:
What if the Victim Fails to Cooperate with Prosecutors?
In many cases, victims will attempt to stop any prosecution by filing an affidavit of non-prosecution indicating they have no desire to press charges. Texas has a “no drop” policy, which has been in place for nearly 20 years. This means the prosecutor will almost always pursue charges, even if the victim does not wish to pursue them. Family violence charges are pursued and have a designated court, County Criminal Court No. 5. Some defendants may be able to get their cases dropped or charges reduced by working closely with their criminal defense attorney.
Punishment for a Family Violence Conviction in Texas
Like all other areas of the penal code, the defendant could be facing either misdemeanor or felony charges. Should a defendant be found guilty of family violence in criminal court, the penalties include:
- Class A misdemeanor family violence– up to one year in jail or a fines up to $4,000, or both
- 3rd degree felony family violence– 2 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- 2nd degree felony family violence– 2 to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000, and
- 1st degree felony family violence– 5 to 99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
Losing the Right to Carry a Firearm
It’s important to remember a few things that occur specifically as a result of a family violence conviction in Texas. First, any conviction for family violence, even a misdemeanor, will result in the loss of your rights to carry a firearm. This could affect your career and cause you to lose your job if you are in law enforcement, security, or the military. Second, your record cannot be sealed, even after you have served your time on probation, county jail or in prison. This means that a temporary lapse of judgment or failure to hire quality legal counsel could result in serious life-long consequences and an indelible mark on your permanent record.
Why Are Some Family Violence Charges Misdemeanors and Others Felony?
The severity of family violence charges filed is determined by several factors: the injury caused, the weapon used, prior convictions, and age of the victims. You can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor simply for threatening violence against a family member or causing bodily injury or pain in the act of an assault. Felony charges can be lodged if there have been incidents of violence against a family member in the past, if a weapon of any type was involved or if the assault was committed against a child, senior or a disabled family member.
Possible Defense Strategies for Family Violence Charges
A criminal defense attorney will ask you numerous questions about the events leading up to your being charged with assault family violence. The reason is to establish a possible defense. While prosecutors may think they have an easy case, there are possible defenses to these charges.
- Defending a family member
- Lack of Evidence
- Witness testimony against accuser
One possible defense for family violence is self-defense; in these cases, you must have felt threatened with harm and didn’t do anything to provoke the victim.
Another possible defense is you are defending another family member; for example, you were in fear your spouse or other housemate would harm your child.
It is almost impossible for a prosecutor or judge to convict someone of a crime without any evidence. If there is no evidence to prove that you are guilty, then there it would be very difficult to convince a jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If a witness testifies that they were present at the time of the alleged violence and that the accuser is lying, it could help strengthen your case.
There may be other defenses that apply to specific cases so it’s important to discuss everything with your family violence defense lawyer.
Diversion Programs Options in Tarrant County
Some defendants in an assault family violence case may be eligible for the diversion program. Tarrant County has a diversion program which is an option for some if a number of conditions are met. First, the alleged must have no previous charges or family violence convictions.
Second, the victim must approve the alleged aggressor’s participation in this program.
Typically, these programs require the defendant to plead guilty and are not the best option for you. In some cases the charges could be dropped but will remain on the defendant’s record.
Usually the diversion program is not an ideal alternative, but in rare cases it can be a good option to explore. Discuss your eligibility for the diversion program, and weigh the pros and cons with your attorney before talking to prosecutors or investigators.
Contact a Family Violence Lawyer in Fort Worth TX
If you have been charged with misdemeanor or felony family violence charges in Tarrant County, we strongly urge you to hire a defense attorney immediately. You need to contact a family violence lawyer immediately upon your arrest so that they can protect your rights and start building a strong defense. Remember, charges of family violence can stay on your record for your entire life, can impact your ability to own a firearm and could impact your ability to secure employment or have custody of your children. You cannot fight these charges alone. Call 817-435-2909 today to speak with Jeff Hampton, an aggressive family violence attorney who’s taken hundreds of cases to trial.