Have you or a family one been charged with domestic violence in Houston?
Are you facing a domestic abuse charge? Domestic violence is a persistent and growing problem in Houston and throughout the United States. More than 75,000 Texans each year report that they have been the victim of abuse by a current or former spouse. Nationally, one in every three women, and one in every four men, say that they have experienced some type of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
Having said that, domestic violence presents some unique problems for the person accused of abuse:
- In most situations, there are no independent witnesses to the alleged abuse. Only the participants were present.
- While the criminal justice system guarantees that you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, those accused of domestic abuse are often seen as guilty until proven innocent.
- Because of the pressure on local law enforcement in this area, a mere allegation of domestic violence often leads to one party being hauled off to jail based solely on the statement of, for example, a current or former spouse or intimate partner.
Because of these unique factors, and because a conviction could lead to jail time and loss of rights, if you are facing a domestic violence charge you need the assistance of an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer. Call former prosecutor Nathaniel Pitoniak today for a free consultation.
What is a Family Violence Relationship in Texas?
Family violence (including domestic abuse and dating violence), as defined under Texas law, requires the existence of one of several types of relationships between the parties. Those relationships are defined in Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code. They include the following:
- Family members;
- Household members;
- Those with a “dating relationship.”
The definition of the above terms is broad. It covers those with a current or former dating or romantic relationship, those who are or were married, those who live or lived in the same household, children (including foster children) in the household, foster parents, and more.
What is a “Dating Relationship”?
In order to be charged with dating violence under section 71.0021 of the Family Code, a “dating relationship” must be established. Although it includes those people who are dating (or who have dated), whether a particular relationship falls within the definition is not always easy to determine. It will depend upon:
- the length of the dating relationship;
- the “nature” of that relationship; and
- the “frequency and type” of interaction between the parties.
The definition is vague, and this is all the more reason why you need an experienced attorney by your side if you are facing a domestic violence charge.
What is Family Violence?
The definition of family violence is contained in section 71.004 of the Family Code. It includes, where a family or dating relationship exists:
- Assault – Family Violence;
- Sexual assault;
- Threats that reasonably place the other person in fear of imminent physical harm, including terroristic threats;
- Child abuse; and
- Dating violence.
What are the Penalties for Domestic Violence?
The potential penalties for domestic or family violence vary with the type of offense involved, as well as factors such as a defendant’s prior convictions for domestic violence. For example, simple domestic assault is a Class A misdemeanor. But if you have a previous conviction for domestic violence, family violence or dating violence, of if the act involved choking or strangulation, it becomes a felony. Similarly, aggravated domestic assault carries heavy potential penalties.
Defenses to Family Violence Charges
There are many possible defenses to a domestic violence or dating violence charge. Depending upon the facts of your case, the following examples may apply:
- While many domestic violence cases involve just the alleged victim and the alleged wrongdoer, in others there may be witnesses who can corroborate the fact, for example, that (a) you were not the aggressor, or (b) that the other person made statements indicating a desire or intent to threaten you or to provoke physical violence.
- False accusations. Even if there were no independent witnesses to the incident, it is usually still possible to mount a strong defense. Many domestic violence claims are “he said, she said” cases, in which it is one person’s word against another. While there may not have been someone there viewing the dispute, issues such as recent or pending divorces, property disputes between spouses, custody battles and other issues may exist. If properly presented by an experienced attorney, the jury may be convinced that, at the very least, there is reasonable doubt which will lead to a not guilty verdict.
- Self-defense. The fact that there was physical contact between the parties does not mean that the stronger of the two (usually the man) is guilty of domestic violence. Statistics show that men are often victims in domestic violence situations. The defendant’s involvement may, in fact, have been simply protecting himself or herself from an assault by the other person.
Defending Domestic Violence Cases
Given the possible consequences in a domestic violence case, it pays to have the right attorney in your corner. At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we have the experience you want if you are charged with a domestic or family offense. Call us to schedule a free consultation.