As a criminal defense attorney in Austin, Texas, I am frequently approached by clients who have been charged with domestic violence (also known as “family violence”) related crimes. For obvious reasons, law enforcement officers and prosecutors take domestic violence charges extremely seriously. In some cases, however, the accused has been the victim of false accusations, was wrongfully accused after acting in self-defense, or was the subject of overzealous police practices. Family violence convictions may result in incarceration, fines, the loss of one’s right to bear arms, and creation of a permanent criminal record. Convictions may impact ongoing divorce or child custody cases, or result in loss of employment or housing opportunities. It is imperative, therefore, to vigorously defend against any domestic violence charge. Engaging an attorney with experience in domestic violence defense as soon as possible after an arrest can make an important difference in your case. If you need assistance, contact my office to schedule a consultation.
This guide is intended to provide basic information about defending against domestic violence charges in Austin and elsewhere in Texas. You can navigate the guide by using the “jump to section” links below. Topics addressed include:
- Understanding domestic violence charges in Texas (jump to section)
- Understanding the criminal penalties and legal consequences for Texas residents convicted of domestic violence charges (jump to section)
- Texas residents charged with family violence may face misdemeanor or felony charges
- Additional consequences of a conviction
- Defending against domestic violence charges in Texas (jump to section)
- The importance of beginning preparation of one’s defense as soon as possible
- Defending against such charges at trial
- Possible constitutional defenses against domestic violence charges
- Miranda issues which arise in domestic violence cases
- Possible search and seizure issues in such matters
- Excluding eyewitness testimony based on overly suggestive police tactics
- Other common defenses presented at trial
- Defending against false domestic violence accusations
- Self-defense in Texas family violence cases
- The importance of selecting an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you
Understanding domestic violence charges in Texas
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When a Texas resident commits an act of violence or threatens violence against their current or former spouse, a family member,a household member, or a romantic partner then that person has committed an act of domestic violence under Texas law.[i] Such offenses fall within three categories: domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, or continuous violence against the family. The type of charge levied will depend upon the type of conduct, the severity of the injuries suffered by the victim, and the history of the aggressor. Domestic violence convictions carry serious criminal penalties. Even first-time offenders face possible incarceration and hefty fines. Penalties for aggravated felony family violence charges can result in up to ninety-nine years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Those convicted face additional consequences, such as deportation for non-US citizens, a permanent criminal record, and prohibition against owning or possessing a firearm in the future.
In light of the potentially extreme consequences, it is imperative for those who are accused of domestic violence to take the charges seriously and defend themselves to the maximum extent possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges against you, the potential penalties, and will develop defense strategies to protect your legal rights. The first step in mounting an effective defense is to understand Texas law and the elements of the offenses. This section of the Guide will provide an overview of the Texas statutes related to domestic violence.
Texas does not have a stand-alone domestic violence law. Instead, the Texas Penal Code’s assault and aggravated assault statutes provide for elevated penalties when the victim of such actions is a family member, a household member, or has a dating relationship with the accused. To understand what constitutes domestic assault in Texas, one must first review the definition of assault, as defined in Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code. Assault occurs when one:
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person, including the person’s spouse;
- intentionally or knowingly threatens another person with imminent bodily injury, including a person’s spouse; or
- intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another which the offender knows, or should know, will be provocative or offensive to the victim.[ii]
When the assault results in serious bodily injury to the victim or the aggressor uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the assault, the offense will be considered aggravated assault.[iii]
The definitions of assault and aggravated assault specifically reference violence against a spouse. As mentioned above, domestic violence can occur in situations which go beyond altercations between spouses. The Texas Family Code broadly defines “family violence” to include assault crimes inflicted upon additional categories of people. The Code clarifies that an act of family violence is:
- 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;
- abuse, as that term is defined by Sections 261.001(1)(C), (E), (G), (H), (I), (J), (K), and (M), by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or
- dating violence, as that term is defined by Section 71.0021.
The statute clarifies that a member of a household means anyone currently or previously residing the same dwelling, whether or not related. It also defines a member of a family to include not only individuals who are related, but also former spouses, co-parents whether or not married in the past, and those with foster parent-child relationships. Section 71.0021 of the Texas Family Code has also been expanded to include “dating violence,” which applies to those who are currently in or previously involved in a romantic or intimate relationship.[iv]
A person may be charged with domestic assault, therefore, when the alleged assault has been committed against a spouse, family member, household member, or romantic partner. If the domestic assault results in the victim’s serious injury or a weapon was used or brandished during the event, the defendant may be charged with aggravated domestic assault. Texas law establishes a third category of domestic violence, called “Continuous Violence Against The Family.” A defendant may be charged with this offense if they engage in domestic assault or aggravated domestic assault two or more times within a twelve month period.[v] Convictions for each of these crimes carry significant penalties. The next Section of the Guide will review the potential criminal penalties and other legal consequences of domestic violence charges.
Understanding the criminal penalties and legal consequences for Texas residents convicted of domestic violence charges
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Texas, like other states across the country, takes a stringent approach to penalties for domestic violence convictions. Depending upon the severity of the action, the impact on the victim and the criminal history of the actor, charges can be categorized anywhere between Class C misdemeanors through first degree felonies. Punishments range from $500-$10,000 fines and up to 99 years’ imprisonment. In addition to incarceration and financial penalties, those convicted of domestic violence face other consequences. Regardless of whether a misdemeanor or felony, offenders are prohibited under both Texas and federal law from owning or possessing a firearm. Non-US citizens may face deportation under federal law. Criminal convictions appearing on background checks may preclude opportunities for employment, result in revocation of professional licenses, or prevent the person from obtaining housing. Domestic violence convictions cannot be expunged from the actor’s criminal record. Only arrests and charges not resulting in a conviction can be erased from one’s record. It is imperative, therefore, to retain a criminal defense attorney to defend against these serious consequences.
Texas residents charged with domestic violence may face misdemeanor or felony charges
The Texas Penal Code imposes a sliding scale of punishments for family violence convictions. The seriousness of the charge is directly related to the seriousness of the offense. A person who threatens bodily injury against a family member – or touches them in a way they find offensive, even if not painful – will face Class C misdemeanor charges. Those convicted of domestic assault resulting in bodily injury, however, will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if it is their first offense.[vi] Bodily injury just means pain; it does not require an injury requiring medical attention or even a visible injury. If the offender has previously been convicted of domestic assault or the offense involved choking or suffocating the victim, the charge will be elevated to a third degree felony.[vii] If the actor has a prior domestic violence conviction and the assault in question involved choking or suffocating the victim, then the accused will face second degree felony charges.[viii] Texas law considers findings of guilt as well as guilty or no contest pleas that result in deferred adjudication, or probation or similar charges from other states, as prior domestic violence convictions.[ix]
The presence or use of a weapon or serious injury of the victim will further elevate the domestic assault charge to aggravated domestic assault. An injury is “serious” if it is life-threatening or causes permanent disfigurement. Any object that can be used to cause serious harm may be considered a weapon, such as a gun, knife, baseball bat or vehicle. Aggravated domestic assault is a second degree felony unless the victim is seriously injured and a weapon was present or used during the attack, in which case first degree felony charges will apply.[x] If more than one family violence event occurs within twelve months, whether against the same victim or otherwise, the accused may face third degree felony charges.[xi]
Penalties for these charges are as follows:
- Class C misdemeanor: up to a $500 fine
- Class A misdemeanor: up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine
- Third degree felony: at least 2 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000
- Second degree felony: 2-20 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000
- First degree felony: 5-99 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000
It is important to note that the very presence of a weapon, whether or not used in the assault, will elevate what may have been a Class A misdemeanor to a much more serious charge. For example, a husband and wife are engaged in a heated discussion, during which the husband loses his temper and shoves his wife. The police respond to their home and, while they are interviewing the husband, they find that he has a firearm on his person which was present at the time of the assault. The wife, who knows that her husband always carries his firearm during the day, felt threatened by its presence. If no firearm was present at the time, the husband may have faced Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail or both. Because the gun was present at the time, even though it was never used or brandished during the fight, he may face a felony of the second degree, which could result in mandatory jail time and a fine of up to $10,000.
Texas residents convicted of domestic violence may face additional consequences
As discussed above, family violence convictions may result in potential incarceration and significant fines. For obvious reasons, these consequences may be devastating to the offender and their family. Additional ramifications may not be quite as well-known, but may outlast the term of incarceration of the financial impact of a fine. Given the long-term impact on one’s ability to work, find housing, bear arms and more are additional reasons to vigorously defend against domestic violence charges.
First, one’s right to bear arms may be permanently impacted by a domestic violence conviction. Both Texas and federal law prohibit those convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence from owning or possessing firearms in the future. These statutes, known as “Felon In Possession” laws, make it illegal for someone with a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence charge to own, use, possess or transport firearms. Texas Penal Code Section 46.04 applies for a period of five years after the end of the person’s criminal penalty. The federal ban, set forth in 18 U.S.C. 922(g) however, imposes a lifelong restriction against gun ownership or possession. One found in violation of either statute may be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, which could lead to additional felony penalties.[xii] A Texas resident who has been convicted of domestic violence in another state will still be prohibited from possessing a firearm under Texas law. Not only does this statute prohibit recreational use of firearms, but those required to carry guns in the course of their employment will also be prohibited from doing so. Those with jobs in law enforcement, security or others requiring firearm handling may be forced to find alternative work.
Second, anytime a Texas resident is arrested, charged or convicted with a crime, that information becomes a part of the resident’s criminal record. One’s criminal history is generally discoverable as part of routine background checks. Background checks are commonly required in connection with employment applications, credit checks and housing applications. For those with domestic violence convictions on their record, finding a job, getting a loan or renting an apartment may become much more difficult. Only records of arrests and charges that do not result in a conviction can be expunged from criminal records under Texas law. Convictions will, therefore, remain on one’s record the rest of their life. For these reasons, I cannot overstate the importance of retaining an attorney with the experience necessary to protect against the long-term negative implications of a conviction.
Defending against domestic violence charges in the state of Texas
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As outlined above, the consequences of domestic violence convictions in Austin and elsewhere in Texas can be severe. Jail time, fines, and prohibition against firearm ownership, are among the various adverse outcomes of a conviction. In many cases, it is possible to defend oneself against family violence charges. For instance, it is not uncommon for a person to be falsely accused of domestic violence or for the accused to have been acting in self-defense. Police misconduct in violation of the accused’s constitutional rights may be grounds for excluding evidence, which may lead to the dismissal of charges. Some defense issues can be presented to the court before a trial ever begins. Others must be presented at trial. The next section of this Guide will review the process of defending oneself after one has been charged with domestic violence.
It is important to retain counsel with criminal law experience to investigate the defensibility of your case as soon as possible after an arrest. The attorney will advise whether a plea deal may or may not be beneficial to your case. Your lawyer will prepare the necessary pretrial Motions seeking to exclude evidence obtained in violation of your constitutional rights. Should the case proceed to trial, counsel familiar with the Texas criminal court system will effectively present your case to the jury and Judge. If you need assistance, contact my office to speak to an Austin criminal defense attorney.
The importance of preparing one’s domestic violence defense as soon as possible
An experienced criminal defense attorney begins each domestic violence case assuming that it will end in a jury trial. Preparation for the trial should begin as soon as possible after the arrest. Defense counsel will take multiple steps in anticipation of the trial date. First, counsel will begin a thorough investigation of the matter. This investigation will include, if possible, visiting the scene of the incident, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing all discovery (evidence) provided by the prosecution. This crucial step will help the attorney understand what defenses may be available to accused.
Counsel will examine whether the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated in any way by the police during the arrest process. Defense counsel will look for any available physical evidence possibly exonerating his client, such as video surveillance, phone recordings, or other documentary evidence. For example, an accuser claims that the accused pushed her through a bedroom doorway into a bathroom and caused her to hit her head on the bathroom sink. The defendant claims the layout of the apartment makes the accusation impossible and that the allegation is false. A temporary protection order prevents the defendant from taking his lawyer to the apartment. Counsel requests a blueprint of the apartment’s layout from the owner and plans to present it as evidence at trial in support of the defense. This piece of evidence may prove the accuser was lying and establish his client’s innocence.
Using the information gathered in the investigation, the second step is for counsel to prepare and file any necessary motions with the court. Such motions may include requests to exclude statements or evidence and requests to forbid in-court eyewitness identifications. Defendants should remain in contact with defense counsel during this process. It is important to retain an attorney who will take the time to explain every step to you and make sure you understand your options and the evidence against you.
Defending against family violence charges at trial in Texas
Many states do not permit jury trials in domestic violence cases unless a defendant has been charged with felony domestic assault. This is not the case in Texas, however, which grants residents the right to a jury trial in cases involving misdemeanor domestic violence as well. Those charged with a misdemeanor offense may have their case decided by a jury composed of six jurors. This differs from felony offenses, which are typically decided by a twelve-member jury. In both settings the jury must reach a unanimous verdict of the defendant’s guilt. Alternatively, the jury may unanimously determine that the defendant is not guilty. In that case, the defendant can immediately begin the process of expunging the records of their arrest and charges from their record. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, then the case will result in a mistrial and the defendant may later be retried on the same charge.
The first step in the trial process is jury selection. Potential jurors, or members of a “jury pool,” are members of the community who are summoned for duty. The court will question and remove jurors whom the judge finds incapable of being impartial. Additionally, the attorneys will each have a number of challenges which they may use to remove jurors from the pool. A juror may not be removed for any discriminatory reason. Once the selection is finalized and the jury has been empaneled, the prosecutor and defense counsel for each side will present their opening statements. The prosecution will present their witnesses and evidence first. The defense may then present its case, or choose to rest with no evidence if the defense attorney believes the prosecution has failed to prove its case. If the defense presents evidence, the prosecution may respond with “rebuttal” evidence. Rebuttal is not a time to present new theories. Instead, the prosecution may only directly refute any evidence presented by the defendant. Once all evidence has been presented then each side will make a closing argument. The jurors will deliberate and issue a verdict.
It is crucial that your attorney be experienced in dealing with juries. Domestic violence cases can involve complicated factual disputes and legal theories. The jurors will have different educational backgrounds and often do not have legal knowledge. It is important, therefore, that your matter be presented in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Experienced defense counsel will understand how to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and what evidence, if any, might be needed to counter it.
This is best illustrated by an example. Consider a situation in which a separated husband and wife are involved in a divorce and custody case. During the pendency of the divorce, the husband accuses the wife of punching him when he dropped their son off at her apartment. His evidence consists of statements from two neighbors’ who saw her punch him in their shared hallway. She admits to punching him but claims she did so in self-defense after he started the altercation by shoving her. The defense attorney, after conducting a thorough investigation, could not locate any other witness to the event. After searching the premises, however, he locates and submits video doorbell surveillance from another neighbor’s apartment that captured the entire encounter, including the husband shoving her repeatedly before the punch. By locating the footage, clearly explaining the pieces of information to the jury, and challenging the prosecution’s eyewitness evidence, the defense counsel may successfully demonstrate that his client’s actions were in self-defense. If the jury unanimously exonerates her, the attorney will not only have prevented criminal penalties for the domestic violence charges but may also have prevented the wife from a restriction or loss in her child custody case.
Constitutional defenses against domestic violence charges in Texas
As noted in the previous section, following the defendant’s domestic violence arrest, defense counsel will conduct a thorough investigation of the details surrounding the accused’s arrest, interrogation by the police, and the prosecution’s evidence. The attorney may discover that the methods used by the police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. If so, counsel will prepare the necessary pretrial motions, asking the judge to exclude evidence gathered as a result of the violation. This may include physical evidence gathered during an arrest, statements made by the defendant, or eyewitness testimony at trial. In some cases, if the prosecution is relying solely or heavily on the excluded evidence, the charges may be dismissed entirely. Whether constitutional defenses are available will be based on the specific facts of each case.
It is important to note that requests to exclude evidence are typically made prior to the trial in the form of pretrial Motions. After defense counsel files a motion to suppress evidence, a hearing date will be set and the Judge will hold an “evidentiary hearing” to determine whether the evidence or statements should be admissible at a trial. This hearing will involve the arresting officers testifying about how the evidence was collected and how the statements were obtained. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the officers and to call witnesses on your behalf. At the end of the hearing the Judge will issue a ruling on whether or not evidence should be admissible at trial. These Motions are often based on complicated legal arguments and constitutional theory. Therefore, it is important to retain counsel with experience preparing pretrial Motions and presenting information clearly and effectively in Court. If you need assistance with a domestic violence issue, contact my office to speak to an Austin attorney.
Common Miranda issues arising in Texas domestic violence cases
Pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, anyone in police custody must be notified of their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present while being questioned. Commonly known as Miranda rights, these warnings must be given to a person when they are “in custody”. One is considered to be in custody at the moment in time an average reasonable person in the same situation would not feel free to leave. This often occurs before one is actually arrested. For instance, if a suspect is being held in the back of the police car with the doors closed, that person would likely be considered to be in police custody. Once in police custody, self-incriminating statements made prior to being given Miranda warnings, may be excluded from evidence.
Domestic violence defenses are commonly based upon a violation of the Miranda requirements. Police very often separate the parties when responding to reports of family violence and interview them about the alleged events. During the interviews, the police will question those present in an attempt to corroborate the various stories. It is easy to imagine a circumstance in which a suspect willingly speaks to the police, and makes an incriminating statement that leads to his arrest. For example, after responding to a call reporting a fight in the neighboring apartment, the police move a husband and wife into separate police cars to be interviewed about the event. The officers do not provide Miranda warnings to either. During her report to the police, she accuses him of hitting her. When he is asked if he hit her, he says yes and is arrested. He did not inform them that she had punched and kicked him repeatedly during their fight before he responded to defend himself. His defense counsel will likely file a motion to exclude the statements made by the defendant while in the police car because they were given in violation of his Miranda rights. Depending on the strength of the other evidence against him, the domestic violence charges may be dismissed by the prosecution if the prosecutors believe they then lack enough evidence to proceed.
Search and seizure issues in Texas domestic violence cases
There are many instances in which a domestic violence arrest may involve law enforcement’s violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. If the police have probable cause to believe a suspect has committed a family violence offense, they may arrest the person without a warrant. There are limitations, however, to the officer’s ability to conduct a warrantless search for evidence in connection with an arrest. Generally, an officer is permitted to conduct a limited search of the person and any area in the officer’s “plain sight.” Evidence found during this limited search, such as a gun found during a frisk, will likely be admitted against the suspect. Law enforcement is required to obtain a warrant for searches outside of this limited scope. Evidence seized during a warrantless search may be excluded from the case if obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Depending upon the facts of the case and whether the prosecution has additional evidence, a successful Motion may result in reduced charges or a dismissal of the case.
Consider the following example, a boyfriend and girlfriend who live apart, get into a fight at her home. After he leaves, she notifies the police that he slapped her and threatened her with a baseball bat. The officers go to his apartment to question him and talk to him outside. He admits that they had a physical fight and they arrest him for domestic assault. After he is taken into custody, the officer goes into his apartment, conducts a search without the suspect’s consent and locates a baseball bat in the man’s bedroom. He seizes the bat as evidence in support of an aggravated domestic assault charge. This search without a warrant would likely be considered a violation of the suspect’s rights. Successfully excluding this evidence could make the difference between misdemeanor domestic assault and felony aggravated domestic assault charges.
Excluding eyewitness testimony based on overly suggestive police tactics in Texas family violence cases
In domestic violence matters, a prosecutor’s case may be heavily based upon an eyewitness’ identification of the accused. One can imagine, for example, a situation where a third party witnesses and reports a public altercation to the police and the alleged attacker must be identified after the fact. Given the impact of this type of evidence, it is important to establish whether the witness’ identification of the suspect is reliable. When the police solicit and obtain an identification by the witness, they may not use overly suggestive practices, such as presenting a line-up where the suspect obviously stands out from the others. If so, the identification may be excluded, meaning that it would not be used as evidence against the accused. If the prosecution’s case is based on the eyewitness identification, then precluding the witness from testifying at trial may result in a defendant successfully defending against the charges.
The United States Supreme Court has established a two-part test outlining the guidelines by which police behavior and the reliability of witness identifications can be evaluated. First, the court will review whether the police behaved in a suggestive manner to solicit the identification. Behavior such as showing the witness a photo of the accused before the line-up may be considered suggestive. If suggestive behavior occurred, then the court will review a series of reliability factors to determine if witness’ evidence should be admitted. These may include the witness’ distance from the event and accused, the accuracy of the description given to the police or confidence of the witness during a line-up. If the judge determines that suggestive behavior occurred and the identification was not reliable, the witness may be prevented from testifying at trial and the identification will be excluded from evidence.
Consider the following example. A woman visiting a crowded playground with her children claims that she witnessed a blond woman aggressively attacking her two small children on the other side of the park on the walking trail. She notifies police and gives her description. The next day, the police patrol the park and locate a woman with blond hair playing with two kids. They handcuff her and detain her in the patrol car. The police locate the witness at the park and ask her if the woman in the squad car is the attacker. She positively identifies her as the aggressor. By presenting the suspect to the witness while in custody with no other suspects by comparison, the police have engaged in suggestive behavior. In reviewing the reliability of the witness’ identification, the judge would likely note that the witness was extremely far away from the attack with a bad vantage point. The judge may also consider that the park was crowded at the time, the identification was 24 hours after the alleged attack, and that many families present at the park met the description of the suspect’s family. If found to be unreliable, the witness would be prevented from testifying against the suspect at trial.
Being wrongfully accused of a crime, whether as a result of an eyewitness mistake or identification due to suggestive police activity is an extremely serious matter. Defending oneself against such claims can involve complicated legal theories and will depend upon the facts of each specific case. I cannot overemphasize the importance of retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer to review the facts of your situation and zealously defend your rights. If you have been accused of domestic violence, contact my office today to speak with an Austin criminal defense lawyer.
Other common defenses against Texas domestic violence charges presented at trial
Austin residents may be required to defend against false accusations of domestic violence
Domestic violence charges are, unfortunately, often based on false allegations for a variety of reasons. It is not uncommon, for instance, for individuals to fabricate family violence claims to use as leverage in divorce or child custody proceedings. If a person is the subject of a civil protective order as a result of family violence accusations or is convicted of domestic assault, it is unlikely that a family court Judge would award primary, or even joint, custody of a child. The judge may even decide that the offending party’s visitation must be supervised.
In other instances, false domestic violence claims are sometimes based on revenge. Attempting to punish a former significant other by falsely accusing them of assault is irrational, but not uncommon. Creating problems for an ex by damaging their reputation, causing them to incur legal expenses and potentially subjecting them to incarceration or fines is an extreme way of handling the end of a relationship. Failing to defend oneself, even if the accusation seems outlandish, can have serious consequences including receiving a permanent criminal record and being disqualified from future employment. It is essential therefore to take the matter seriously and vigorously defend oneself against false accusations of domestic violence.
It is easy to understand why a defendant may view false allegations as “ridiculous” while thinking that they will simply explain the matter to the judge. Whether or not the accused is facing a temporary protection order hearing or is formally charged with domestic violence, they still run the risk of being found guilty of the accusations. This means your attorney will be required to present evidence in your defense demonstrating that the alleged event did not occur. Taking a lackadaisical approach to the fabricated charges or waiting to retain counsel may result in potentially disastrous consequences. It is important to understand that you are facing criminal charges and that a failure to vigorously defend yourself is a mistake. Retaining a defense attorney as early in the process as possible will allow counsel to fully investigate the case, make the necessary arguments on your behalf and protect your legal rights.
Texas residents are permitted to engage in self-defense in domestic violence matters
Austin residents have the right to defend themselves against aggression from others, including in the context of family violence. Under Texas law, a person may use reasonable and proportionate force to defend themselves. This means that you may protect yourself but may use no more force than is necessary to do so. Whether one’s amount of response is considered reasonable will depend, of course, on the specific facts surrounding the altercation. For example, if a person is attacked with a weapon, the use of a weapon to defend themself may indeed be appropriate. If, on the other hand, one uses a gun to respond to being verbally threatened, that will likely not be considered reasonably necessary.
It is possible for Austin residents to be acquitted of domestic violence if they can establish that they were acting in self-defense. It is not uncommon for one accused of family violence to have been mistaken for the initial aggressor in a fight. For example, if an eyewitness sees a husband pin his wife’s arms to her sides and restrain her, the witness may believe he was attacking her. During the trial, the husband’s attorney cross-examines his wife and the eyewitness to ascertain their version of events. Counsel introduces evidence which contradicts her story, including a photo after the incident showing multiple bruises. This could be seen as evidence that the husband was simply protecting himself from further attack. This compelling evidence helps prove he acted in self-defense. Working with an attorney with trial experience and the ability to convey legal theories and disputed facts clearly to a jury is imperative to any self-defense case.
The importance of selecting an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney in domestic violence matters
As mentioned throughout this Guide, the consequences of a domestic violence conviction can be devastating. Retaining an attorney with experience in criminal defense will be essential to protecting your legal rights. Your lawyer will investigate the details of your arrest and the charges against you to determine which defenses may be available to you. Whether you have been falsely accused of a crime or are the victim of police misconduct, you are entitled to a vigorous defense of your rights. Your attorney should understand how best to present your case to the Judge and jury, either through pretrial Motions or at trial. Finally, effective counsel will be prepared to handle a case from start to finish, including appealing unfavorable outcomes if necessary.
I am an Austin criminal defense lawyer handling domestic assault cases. I have been licensed since 1995 and am certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in criminal law. I believe that every client is entitled to an aggressive defense. I will work diligently to represent you at trial, will make sure that your rights are protected throughout the process, and will ensure that you know what to expect as the process moves forward. If you have a pending divorce or child custody case, I will coordinate with your family law attorney to attempt to ensure that the outcome of the criminal case does not adversely affect your rights to child custody, visitation, and the division of property. I devote my practice to protecting the rights of the accused and I am ready to assist you.
In addition to Austin our firm also services the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.
[i] See Texas Family Code Ann. (Section 71.003) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.71.htm#71.003
[ii] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.01) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.01
[iii] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.02) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.02
[iv] See Texas Family Code Ann. (Section 71.0021) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.71.htm#71.0021
[v] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 25.11) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.25.htm#25.11
[vi] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.01(b)) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.01
[vii] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.01(b)(2)) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.01
[viii] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.01(b-3)) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.01
[ix] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.01(f)) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.01
[x] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 22.02(b)) accessed on April 13, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm#22.02
[xi] See Texas Penal Code Ann. (Section 25.11) accessed on April 16, 2020 at https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.25.htm#25.11