Austin, TX

The Process and Timeline in DV Cases

The Process and Timeline for DV Cases

Court Dates

In Travis County, after the covid lockdowns, in-person court appearances are much less frequent.  Check-ins can happen on attorney-only dockets where the defendant will not need to be present.  Some dockets are still held on Zoom.  At some point, you will need to check in with the court in-person.  Always consult with your attorney. 


Almost all misdemeanor family violence cases are heard in County Court #4.  Felony cases can be heard in any of the District Courts, but there is always one prosecutor in those courts that exclusively deals with family violence cases.

The amount of time it takes to dispose of a case varies greatly.  When the evidence for a charge is truly lacking, a dismissal can happen swiftly.  In other cases, there is some grey area and the prosecutor will not dismiss right away. 

For many cases, there is no offer of dismissal, and we need to press forward toward trial.  This can mean gathering additional exculpatory evidence, or simply setting on a trial docket to force the prosecutor to prove the case.  Each case is going to be handled differently at this stage.  I almost never accept a plea that requires a family violence finding without a compelling reason.  If that is the best offer we get, the typical response is to set for trial.


Plea Negotiations


Assault – Family Violence cases are somewhat unique in the way plea negotiations are handled.  They can require taking a hard stance with the prosecutors.  Because any conviction or even a deferred adjudication will lead to a family violence finding (discussed later), and because an FV finding will be on your criminal record forever, I do not usually counsel my clients to accept an offer that includes the FV finding.



Input from the Complaining Witness can have a big impact.  If the Complaining Witness is pushing hard for prosecution, the prosecutor may continue with the case even in the face of shaky or exculpatory evidence.  If the CW does not want to cooperate with prosecutors, we may have better options. 


In some of these cases, the prosecutor may offer the Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) in misdemeanor cases, or pretrial diversion if the charge is a felony.  These options are generally attractive and I often encourage my clients to accept.  In fact, they are important enough that I dedicate an entire section to these options in a later chapter.  Check it out if you’re interested to learn more.


Trial Docket


            If there is not an offer that is worth accepting, we will usually ask for the case to go onto the trial docket.  Once on the trial docket, this does not mean that your case will be going to trial at the next setting.  In fact, it is very likely that we will be set with a number of older cases that will take precedence.  The judge will determine which case is actually tried. 


            An important note about the trial docket is that you can continue plea negotiations.  I have often been able to secure a much better offer once the case is on the trial docket.  Once the prosecutor begins digging deeper into the case for trial prep, they will often encounter holes that they didn’t know were there.  Maybe a witness has recanted or is unavailable.  Maybe a police officer has moved out of state.  A lot can happen that will disrupt their ability to put on their case, and they might not be aware until they give the case a hard look.  In that situation, we can often accept a better offer that avoids the need for trial.


The downside of setting a case on a trial docket is that it will certainly delay the outcome in the case.  We may need to be present at court for settings several months in a row before we actually go to trial.  Attorney and defendant both need to be present when a case is set for trial.  If the alternative is to accept a conviction, it is usually worth it to press forward.  If an offer is made that avoids a conviction, it is usually worth considering at this stage.


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