Austin Domestic Violence Attorney
Assault Charges in Austin, TX
Domestic Violence is an area that has received increased focus and attention from media and law enforcement in recent years. There is a good reason for this, as too many people (mostly women) were seriously injured or killed back in the “good ole days” when law enforcement would look the other direction. But with the additional attention has also come additional problems. Unfortunately, in today’s world, false accusations of family violence are common, and often defendants are treated as if they are presumed guilty. If you’re facing family violence charges in Austin it’s recommended that you speak with an Austin domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible to begin building your defense.
Assault vs Family Violence
Assault – Family Violence (AFV) is a very serious charge in Texas, whether charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Incidents that may seem minor to you are not treated as minor by law enforcement. Convictions carry with them a “Family Violence Finding”, which prohibits gun ownership for life and would enhance any future family violence charges to a felony. These charges are not to be taken lightly.
Family Violence assault is exactly the same as regular assault, except that there is a relationship between the person charged and the alleged victim. This can be a spouse, dating partner, parent-child, or other familial relationship. It can even apply in situations where there is no relationship, but the alleged victim lives in the same dwelling as roommates.
It is usually charged as a Class A Misdemeanor but can be enhanced to a felony if there is strangulation alleged, or if the defendant has a previous family violence conviction. Class A Misdemeanors can be punished with up to a year of jail time, a $4,000 fine, or both. All misdemeanor family violence cases in Travis County are handled in County Court #4. As you might imagine, the prosecutors and judges are inundated with family violence cases. In my experience, this can shift their worldview and cause them to be jaded, seeing the worst in defendants who are charged and end up in their court day in and day out. It’s critical to seek counsel from an experienced Austin domestic violence attorney to better understand the finer details of these types of cases and the best way to defend against them.
Family Violence Outcomes
Despite the factors listed above, many domestic violence cases end in dismissal. Why? There are a lot of factors, but a few major factors that stand above the rest.
First, there are a lot of false accusations. Unfortunately, there are some women and men who use law enforcement and the justice system to cause their partner or ex-partner pain. There are a lot of toxic relationships out there, and there are people willing to go to extremes.
Second, there are many cases where the accuser has second thoughts and does not wish to “press charges.” Contrary to what some people think, this does NOT mean that the prosecutor will immediately drop the charges. However, it will often lead to favorable plea offers, and sometimes charges are dropped.
Third, domestic assaults are often difficult to prove because usually they happen in private. It can be difficult to tell who turned a verbal argument into a physical one. Often, one of the parties was merely defending themselves. Police have to make a determination based on incomplete information, and sometimes they will make an arrest solely to separate the arguing couple.
Fortunately, in court, the State must show that the assault happened beyond a reasonable doubt, and this is a much more difficult burden. Family Violence cases are very serious, but they also have the lowest conviction rate – often because of a lack of evidence to support the charge.
Release On Bond
People who are arrested for assault often stay in jail longer than in other types of cases. Judges do not want to release someone who later goes on to commit a more serious crime. To prevent this, the Judge will often wait to release a defendant until there is a “cooling off” period. Once released, there will often be conditions such as no contact with the alleged victim, a mandatory ankle monitor, anger management classes, or in extreme cases, even house arrest. Sometimes these conditions can sometimes be removed in the months following release.
The “Cycle of Violence”
Unfortunately, it is often the case that the alleged victim suffers along with the defendant that has been arrested. If the defendant is, for example, the father of their child, the alleged victim may lose their main source of income or support with raising their child. Often the alleged victim is in support of dropping the charges. For prosecutors, this presents a conundrum because even though it does help the defendant’s case, prosecutors are often skeptical and believe that the offender will resort back to violence even if the couple is back on friendly terms at the moment.
They even have a term for this, referring to it as the “cycle of violence”. Generally speaking, this refers to a cycle in which an abuser “makes up” with the victim in a honeymoon phase, but eventually falls back into the cycle of violence, leading to more abuse. In my experience, there is some truth to the Cycle of Violence, but prosecutors who handle these cases day in and day out see it everywhere. As a result, they will often mistrust the alleged victims who they are supposedly trying to protect, causing stress and financial hardship for everyone. Therefore it is very important to have a good Austin domestic violence attorney on the case even if there is no one who is “pressing charges”.
Family Violence Finding
As touched upon earlier, a family violence (FV) finding is very serious. Many people – even lawyers – think that the FV finding can be waived by the prosecutor. But be very careful about this! A later judge can find that family violence occurred even if there was no specific finding. Additionally, even a deferred adjudication that does not even lead to a conviction will still lead to a family violence finding. Once you have family violence finding on your record, it will never be erased, unless something truly extraordinary happens, like a pardon from the Governor.
The family violence finding will prevent you from possessing a gun. In fact, no one who you live with can possess a gun. Future family violence charges will automatically be bumped up to a felony. If you are not a citizen, the consequences are even more serious and deportation is a probable outcome.
Contact An Experienced Austin Domestic Violence Attorney
Domestic Violence charges in Travis County are very serious, but fortunately, a good Austin domestic violence attorney can help navigate to a good result in many cases. If you or a loved one has been charged with domestic violence, whether misdemeanor or felony, contact ATX Legal today for a free case evaluation.