It's common for families to experience conflict. In most cases, arguments and disagreements can become heated, but they seldom reach the level where a crime has been committed. In the most serious cases, however, domestic disputes can boil over into violence and lead to arrests. Merely being charged with a domestic violence offense can have a negative impact on your life. A conviction, however, can be far more impactful. Not only are your finances and your freedom at risk, but you also can face disruptions in custody issues and other areas of your life. That's why if you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, you should talk to an experienced Texas domestic violence defense attorney immediately.
If you have been charged with a crime in the Houston area, the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. may be able to help. Attorney Doug Murphy is an experienced criminal defense attorney with a strong background in domestic violence defense. If you would like to discuss the circumstances of your case with him, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.
What is Domestic Violence?
You should know what constitutes domestic violence so that you can identify these behaviors and address them. It is important to remember, though, that in many domestic violence cases, it was an argument that went too far on both sides and one party is bitter about it. In many other cases, it is an ex wanting your good name to be tarnished.
Under Texas law, there are a variety of offenses that can lead to charges of domestic violence. But the law is specific; not every relationship qualifies under Texas domestic violence laws.
What does the State of Texas consider a family?
While discussions of domestic violence cases typically conjure images of violence between spouses, the reality is there are a number of familial relationships that can qualify. These relationships include:
- Family, related by blood
- Family, related by marriage
- A member of your household
- Anyone you have had a child with
- A current spouse
- A former spouse
- A foster child
- A Foster Parent
- Anyone you live with
- A child of a partner or former partner
- Anyone you have had an ongoing dating or romantic relationship with.
What acts constitute family violence?
Texas Family Code defines domestic violence 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.
More specifically, there are three different forms of domestic violence crimes you can be charged with under Texas law:
- domestic assault,
- aggravated domestic assault, and
- continuous violence against one's family.
Domestic Assault – The lowest level of domestic violence crime, domestic violence includes causing or threatening bodily harm to a family member. The acts must have been done knowingly or intentionally to qualify as domestic assault.
Aggravated Domestic Assault – Aggravated domestic assault is a more severe version of domestic assault. It can be differentiated from the less serious charge, as it only applies in cases where a family member receives serious bodily injury or if a deadly weapon was used during the assault.
Continuous Violence Against Family – A charge of continuous violence against family is applicable when two separate instances of domestic violence are committed within a 12-month span. This charge can be used even when one of the two instances never resulted in an arrest or conviction.
Can an Alleged Victim Withdraw the Complaint and Refuse to Press Charges?
Once a police report has been filed, the matter is no longer in the hands of the alleged victim. Only a prosecutor can have charges dismissed. And while a Texas prosecutor is required to consider such a request, they are under no obligation to follow it. In fact, prosecutors will commonly proceed with a criminal case in a situation where everyone involved agrees it was a misunderstanding. An alleged victim that doesn't want to participate may even be subpoenaed and compelled to testify at trial against his or her wishes.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can make a major difference in cases where alleged victims recant their complaints. In fact, a thorough investigation by your attorney may show that the police report from the incident took statements out of context, jumped to conclusions, or failed to thoroughly investigate the circumstances.
Who does Domestic Violence Affect?
Allegations of domestic violence permeate across all demographics. According to statistics collected by the State of Texas, it isn't exclusive to a race and occurs in families of all economic levels. The perpetrators and victims of domestic violence are typically younger, but people of all ages are affected to one degree or another.
It's fair to assume that the majority of domestic violence incidents occur between spouses in Texas. However, that assumption would be wrong. While it is true that a plurality of all victims has a marital relationship with the offender, these instances only make up approximately 45% of all alleged domestic violence incidents. That means that non-marital domestic violence makes up the majority of domestic violence incidents. Overall, domestic violence between parents and children make up around 15% of all domestic violence, with the remainder occurring between other family members, in-laws, and roommates.
When it comes to age, both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence skew younger. The largest number of abusers are aged between 20 and 24. A close second is the age group of 25-29. While these two groups make up the majority of offenders, each year there are offenders up to age 70 and above. The age distribution for victims is similar. Like with domestic violence offenders, the largest group of family violence victims is in the age group between 20 and 24 years old.
How a Domestic Violence Conviction can Affect You
An accusation of domestic violence is bad enough, but a conviction in Texas for a family violence crime can carry a number of consequences. These consequences go beyond mere jail time; you could lose a number of rights you rely on. These consequences include:
Jail Time and Fines – The most basic punishment for a conviction for a domestic violence crime are those set out in statute. They include potential jail time and fines. If convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault, you could face up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.
Custody Rights – If convicted of a domestic violence charge, it could affect your rights as a parent. This is especially true if you are currently involved in a custody dispute. Having a conviction for a family violence crime can cost you the custody of your children in some cases.
Firearms Ownership – If you are convicted of a domestic violence crime, you will lose the right to own a firearm. This is the case for any felony conviction; however, even a misdemeanor conviction for a domestic violence charge will lead to the loss of your firearm rights.
Loss of Employment – A conviction for a domestic violence charge is part of the public record. Not only can you lose your current job for a conviction or arrest, but you can also count on it affecting your ability to find future employment. That is due to the prevalence of criminal background checks during the employment process.
Loss of Housing Opportunities – Much like with employment opportunities, potential landlords also rely on background checks to make hiring decisions. A domestic violence conviction can make it difficult to obtain the housing that you want.
Hiring an Experienced Houston Domestic Violence Attorney
If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime in the Houston area, you are facing potentially life-changing consequences. Not only are you at risk of incarceration, but a conviction could also cause you a lifetime of difficulty with obtaining employment or housing. And while a plea deal may end with a reduced jail sentence agreed to by the prosecutor, the State of Texas can't guarantee that if you plead guilty your future employment opportunities won't be affected.
Luckily, it is possible to prevail at a Houston domestic violence trial. And while the prosecutor may sell you on the benefits of pleading guilty, the truth is that the only way to completely protect your future and your reputation is by avoiding a conviction altogether. In many cases, the only way to do that is by prevailing at trial. And to do that, you'll need an experienced trial lawyer that isn't afraid to face a jury of your peers.
Doug Murphy is one of Houston's best defense lawyers. A trial lawyer to the core, Doug Murphy treats every case as if it will go to trial. That's because he understands this approach gives his clients as a lawyer the best chance at a positive outcome. A Board Certified expert in criminal defense law, Doug Murphy has the skill and experience you need. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation today.