Not every domestic violence allegation is exactly as it appears. Often, an innocent mistake can result in injuries that the police will believe resulted from an act of domestic abuse. When there are no independent witnesses and the injured party alleges abuse, the police will typically make an arrest despite the lack of evidence.
If you find yourself in this situation, the fact that the injury occurred as the result of an accident could result in a successful defense in your case. Claiming your use of force was accidental or unintentional will not guarantee your success, especially given that some domestic violence charges do not require an intentional act.
That said, if your attorney can establish that you were acting reasonably and did not intend to harm anyone, they might secure a dismissal of the charges against you. If you face domestic violence allegations in Houston stemming from an accident, let attorney Doug Murphy evaluate your case during a free consultation.
Mistake as a Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
All domestic violence charges in the State of Texas include an element of intent. This means it is never enough for the prosecution to show that you injured a spouse or member of your household. In addition, the state must also establish that you acted with a certain degree of intent or understanding when you caused these injuries.
It is important to note that the intent requirement for each of these charges can differ. In fact, the intent required for a conviction of domestic assault itself varies based on the state's theory of the case.
Unintentional Injury in a Domestic Assault Allegation
There are three primary ways the prosecution can establish the crime of domestic assault. They include any of the following acts against a family member, spouse, household member, or previous partner:
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
- intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury; or
- intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive (Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.01.)
In other words, you can be convicted of domestic assault for a reckless act only if it causes bodily injury to another. This is important, as your defense of mistake will hinge on whether the jury believes you were acting recklessly when you unintentionally injured another person. If the jury determines you acted recklessly, your defense would not be viable even though you did not intend to hurt anyone.
Claims of an unintentional act are stronger in domestic assault cases that involve provocative or offensive contact with another person. Under this prong, a showing that you did not intend to provoke or offend can result in an acquittal.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
The elements for aggravated domestic assault are similar to the standard version of the offense. In cases where the prosecution is alleging intentional, knowing, or reckless serious bodily injury to another person, the defense of mistake works the same way.
Continuous Violence Against Family
The same issues arise with allegations involving continuous violence against family. This offense involves two individual allegations of domestic assault over the course of a 12-month span. The defense of mistake could be viable in these cases, especially when it applies to most or all of the allegations of violence
Examples of Mistake or Unintentional Force in Domestic Violence Accusations
While the defense of mistake is common in domestic violence cases, understanding when it is applicable is best through the use of examples. Below, we consider several examples of when this defense is or is not available.
Ron is digging in his back yard with a pickaxe. Given that he is listening to headphones, he does not hear his wife Sue come home early and enter the backyard. As she approaches him, he reaches back with the pickaxe and accidentally strikes her in the head. The defense of mistake could be strong in Ron's case, as he has a compelling claim that he was not acting recklessly. If the jury agrees he was not reckless in striking her, he would not be convicted of domestic assault.
Consider the previous example. This time, Ron is aware Sue is home as they have just had an argument. Although he knows she is working in the yard near him, he begins to swing the pickaxe wildly out of anger. Although he does not intend to hit her, Ron is aware of the risk that he could strike her. If Ron injures Sue with the pickaxe, a jury might find him to have acted recklessly.
Tim is facing allegations of continuous violence against family. The case against him centers around two incidents of violence within the past month. The first involved an argument that got out of hand with his wife Rita. Enraged, Tim struck Rita causing bruising to her face.
The second incident occurred when Tim was exiting a bedroom after another argument. Unbeknownst to him, Rita was silently following him out of the room. When Tim slams the door in anger, he unintentionally strikes Rita with the door. If Time can show the jury that this second incident occurred due to a mistake and that he was not acting recklessly, he might avoid a charge of continuous violence against the family. That said, he would still likely face a domestic assault charge for the first incident.
Discuss your Defense with a Houston Domestic Assault Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges for an honest mistake, your best chances of avoiding a conviction rely on a strong defense from experienced legal counsel. Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Doug Murphy has a long history of success at the trial level, and he is experienced in obtaining positive outcomes in domestic assault cases. Doug Murphy will carefully review the allegations against you to identify the best defense for your situation. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. as soon as possible.