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It’s Valentine’s Day season, and for many that means spending time and money on romantic gestures.  For many though, they may be experiencing the awful feeling of being accused and charged with a domestic violence offense.  Family violence or, “domestic violence,” as it is often referred to, is a species of crimes in Texas that involve some type of an assault on a family member or romantic/intimate partner.  The accusers in a family violence case can and often do include: spouse, girlfriend, mistress, brother, sister, parent and child.

Most Common Types of Family Violence Cases

            The type of charge someone can face in family violence cases is often determined by the type of injury the victim or “complainant” allegedly sustained.  “Bodily injury” is any type of injury that involved pain.  A slap, scratch, push and punch are classic examples of physical contact that involve pain.  Bodily injury does not need to result in permanent injury and there does not even need to be signs of injury exhibited (though, prosecutors will often use pictures of visible injuries in court as evidence).  Assault family violence bodily injury is a common charge in Texas and is a Class A misdemeanor – punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $4,000 fine.  It also carries the possibility of being branded with an “affirmative finding of family violence” or “AFFV” for the remainder of one’s life.  An AFFV is a special finding made by a court that prohibits someone from carrying a firearm indefinitely.  It also has other consequences, such as an enhanced offense to a felony if a person is charged with another family violence offense in the future (even a Class C assault family violence, which typically involved no pain but a touch that was deemed “offensive”).  An AFFV can also complicate a person’s options and outcomes in divorce and child custody proceedings.

            Family Violence Assault Impeding Breath or Circulation is specific type of charge involving strangulation or pressing on the neck/chest area in such a way that it impairs the breathing or blood flow of an accuser.  It has been deemed so common and menacing by the state authorities it was placed in a different offense level – that of a third degree felony.  This level of offense carries a penalty range of not less than 2 years in prison and up to 10 years in prison… with an optional fine not to exceed $10,000.  Assault impeding breath/circulation typically involves a prosecutor proving up the elements of assault bodily injury with the added element of impeding breath or circulation. 

            Enhanced family violence offenses are those offenses that would normally be a regular Class A or C family violence assault case… but because of the criminal history of the defendant – the charge has been upgraded or “enhanced” to a more serious level.  This can happen when someone has a previous affirmative finding of family violence or when someone is arrested twice in 12 months for family violence charges.  These enhanced offenses are most often felonies.  They are serious and require careful attention and consideration.

            A Violation of a Protective Order, or ‘VPO,” is a charge involving a defendant that has been placed under a protective order or conditions of bond by a court.  Often times, when a person is accused of family violence, the accuser will be granted a protective order by a court, or the defendant’s bond conditions will have express parameters that dictate the physical location of the defendant.  These orders and conditions prohibit the accused of going within a certain physical proximity of the accuser’s person or place of residence/work and often prohibits them from also contacting the accuser via phone, text, email, social media, etc.  Many times, accusers and those charged with the offenses live together, and so when someone is released from jail, they will go to their homes and suddenly be in violation of a protective order because they are physically present at the accuser’s “home,” even when it is still the defendant’s home.  A VPO is typically a class A misdemeanor, but, it can become a felony when there are previous convictions of VPO. 

How to Fight Off and Defeat a Family Violence Accusation

            An accusation of family violence in the beginning is just that – an accusation and no more.  Often times… MANY times, people are falsely accused of family violence.  As a former family violence prosecutor and defense attorney of 10+ years, I have seen most every kind of family violence case imaginable – including a host of false accusations. I have obtained dismissals on well over a hundred different cases involving family violence – ranging from serious felonies to class C ticket assault cases.  The main currency in family violence cases is: TESTIMONY.

            Most people watch TV shows and movies and are constantly looking for exotic pieces of evidence in criminal cases, such as DNA, fingerprints, cell phone location pings, etc.  Those types of evidence are difficult to obtain by the state because they require specialists and are also very expensive for the state to handle.  They are often reserved for murder and sexual assault cases.  The most common and readily available evidence in a criminal proceeding is testimony.  Testimony involves the recitation of events from the memory of a witness that is sworn under oath to tell the truth.  Testimony is the oldest type of evidence, and has won or lost more criminal cases throughout history that any other type of evidence. 

            Because most family violence accusations are described as having occurred behind closed doors (in the house, in a hotel room, in a car) and outside of the public view – it is not surprising that the most widely used evidence by prosecutors is testimony.  This is not to say that video and recordings are not common – they are becoming increasingly common in the modern day era of smart phones and miniature security cams.  But, testimony is a cheap and widely available form of evidence used by the State – and so is still BY FAR the most common.  But … this also means IT’S OPEN TO ATTACK. 

            An experienced criminal attorney is good at contacting witnesses and potential witnesses that could be used at trial. Often after speaking with them, the story they gave to the police is different after reflection.  Many times an accuser will agree to drop charges and complete and sign and Affidavit of Non-Prosecution or “ANP.”  ANPs can be used to push prosecutors to drop cases or can be used at the grand jury level to convince grand juries to NO-BILL felonies (to opt not to proceed further with felony charges).

            When witnesses and accusers are hell-bent on testifying – a good criminal offense attorney can find discrepancies in their testimony and attack flaws in their character at trial.  Remember, just because a witness is testifying doesn’t mean they are telling the truth – nor does it mean that the jury or judge believes them.

            We at Hindieh Law have broad spanning experiences in family violence charges.  Ray Hindieh was a former chief prosecutor of a family violence court during his time as a prosecutor for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.  As a criminal defense attorney, family violence cases are a corner stone of Ray’s practice.  Call us now for a consult and start the journey of defeating your family violence charge.  Remember, it’s only an accusation at this point, and with the representation of the right attorney, it doesn’t need to blemish your record or put you in jail.

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