The Family Violence (FV or DV) Finding
A family Violence Finding (or FV Finding) is one of the key characteristics that sets Family Violence assaults apart from other types of charges. It is an additional punishment on top of the usual punishment for the charge, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony..
It applies when the person assaulted was a family member, a dating partner, or in some cases, just a roommate. If you hear it referred to as a Domestic Violence Finding or DV Finding, this is another name for the same thing.
If you are facing a pending charge for assault-family violence, now is the time to consider the FV finding. Once you are convicted (or even plea guilty in a deferred adjudication), the FV finding will stay for life.
Nothing in this blog post is legal advice. I have not considered your specific situation. If you would like legal advice, you can always fill out a contact form to set up a no-cost consultation.
When Does the Family Violence Finding apply?
Article 42.013 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that a judge shall make an affirmative finding of family violence for convictions involving family members. That word “shall” is important, because that means the judge does not have discretion here. He or she must make an affirmative FV finding in cases involving domestic violence. This includes guilty pleas and even deferred adjudication as well.
Another important consideration is that the DV Finding can apply even if not explicitly stated on the record. Even if the prosecutor in your current case states that he is “not seeking a family violence finding”, a later prosecutor, even a prosecutor in a different county, could still use your current case to make the later assault charge a felony (more on that in the next section).
Consequences of an DV Finding
So, why is a family violence finding so bad? Not only does a family violence finding restrict your rights, but under current Texas law, it stays with you forever. That’s right, the family violence finding does not expire, nor can it be sealed or expunged.
- Can never own or possess a gun
- Will face a felony charge in future family violence cases
- Can get deported if you are not a U.S. citizen
- May not be able to qualify for a PR bond if you are arrested in the future
- Cannot seal or expunge the arrest even with a deferred adjudication
- Could face social stigma from having a family violence charge
- May lose professional licenses
- May lose your hunting license
- May be less believable when dealing with law enforcement in the future
Gun OwnershipFamily violence charges in the future are automatically charged as a felony. Even if the case is weak, or the facts are very mild, it is a felony charge and therefore more serious and costly to you – even if the charge is later dismissed.
Immigration IssuesIf you are not a U.S. citizen, a family violence conviction – even a misdemeanor, is almost certain to get you deported. If you are charged with assault – or really any crime – it is a good idea to get the opinion of an immigration attorney in addition to you criminal defense attorney. Immigration consequences of a conviction can be very severe.
Trouble with Bonding Out of JailSenate Bill SB6 took effect in 2021-2022, and restricts who qualifies for a PR bond. A PR or Personal Recognizance bond allows a person to be released pending trial without having to pay a bond. However, now persons who have a family violence conviction in their past will be ineligible for a PR bond in most cases.
Social Stigma of a Family Violence chargeFinally, the social stigma of a family violence finding is very real. It can affect future relationships, your ability to find housing or get a job. It can also leave you vulnerable to false charges in the future and police might assume guilt even without evidence.
Cases involving family violence are NOT eligible for expunction or nondisclosure
Most cases that end in a deferred adjudication can be sealed after successful completion of the probation and a waiting period. This is not the case with family violence assaults. In fact, a deferred adjudication in a family violence case may as well be a conviction because in most cases, the consequences are the same. You might think that a deferred adjudication would mean that there is no family violence finding since there wasn’t a conviction, but you would be wrong. The family violence finding attaches the same as if you were convicted of the charges. Because the FV conviction or deferred adjudication cannot be removed via expunction or nondisclosure, that means, they attach for life. That’s right, the FV finding NEVER leaves your criminal history.
How to avoid a family violence finding?
So now we know the reasons that the FV finding is so bad. Now let’s talk about avoiding it. It is possible to avoid it entirely in many cases, but to do this, you cannot take a conviction or agree to deferred adjudication. Either of these two results will lead to all the consequences listed above for life!
This means that you’re going to need a dismissal. You must force the prosecutor to at least consider trial. Often, once they take a good look at their case, they realize that it is weak in some area. Maybe a witness has holes in their story or is unavailable. Maybe there was no evidence of an assault and the witness is motivated to lie.
There are infinite ways that a prosecutor’s case will seem much stronger until they take a good hard look and prepare for trial. And because of the severe consequences, that is exactly what you must do. Be wary of accepting any plea deal in a family violence case (with one exception – see below.)
The FVIP Program
The exception that proves the rule is something called a deferred prosecution. In Travis County, this is called the Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP). The FVIP Program does not lead to a conviction.
After you complete some classes, community service and perhaps some other requirements, your case is dismissed and can potentially be expunged. This option is not available in all jurisdictions. I often recommend FVIP to my clients when offered, but be careful of confusing this option with deferred adjudication.
An Experienced Attorney can help avoid a FV Finding that stays with you for life
Rob Chesnutt is an experienced criminal defense. With a principal office in Austin, Texas, his firm ATX Legal serves Travis, Hays and Williamson counties. This post is for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you would like legal advice on your specific case, we offer free case evaluations. Visit us at ATX.Legal.