Acts of violence against intimate partners or family members are taken very seriously in Texas. The Houston Police Department has an entire unit dedicated to the investigation of domestic abuse cases, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has similarly devoted a unit to the prosecution of these cases. If you are accused of one of these types of crimes, it is important that you have an experienced attorney who can provide the information and assistance that you will need to defend your case.
There is no other area of the law more prone to false accusations than domestic violence. It is not uncommon for a spouse or partner to accuse someone of a violent act for their own personal gain during a pending divorce or child custody case.
When an officer is called to the scene of a domestic disturbance, they are prepared to make an arrest and rarely investigate the situation fully or properly determine who the aggressor actually was. This can lead to the law enforcement officer making a number of possible mistakes. In these situations, it is vitally important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
A conviction for one of these types of crimes can impact every facet of your life, including your employment opportunities, professional licensing, and access to your children. In addition to the serious criminal penalties, the stigma of being accused or convicted of these types of crimes can follow you for the rest of your life.
If you have been arrested on these charges, you may have questions about the following areas of law:
- Restraining / Protective Order Hearings
- Domestic Assault
- Domestic Battery
- Child Abuse
- Harassment and Stalking
Houston Domestic Violence Attorney
For alleged offenders in these cases, having the representation of an experienced lawyer is critical. Matt Horak has helped countless Texans accused of domestic violence crimes. He has the experience and expertise to fight for you.
If you are arrested for domestic violence or another violent crime, your time to protect your rights is limited. If you are located in anywhere in the greater Houston area, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Liberty County, or Waller County, contact Matt Horak, Attorney at Law, PLLC today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to discuss your case.
Texas Domestic Violence Information Center
- What is the definition of domestic violence?
- Is there still a criminal case if the alleged victim says that he or she wants to drop the charges?
- What are the conditions of bond in these cases?
- Are there any possible defense strategies against these charges?
- What kinds of punishments does an alleged offender face if convicted?
- Where can I learn more about this crime?
Texas does not have a specific statute for domestic violence. Instead, these charges most often involve assaultive offenses listed under Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code. Additionally, the Texas Family Code assigns two different definitions to types of violence in domestic settings.
Texas Family Code § 71.0021 defines dating violence as an act—other than a defensive measure to protect oneself—by an alleged offender that is committed against an alleged victim:
- with whom the alleged offender has or has had a dating relationship; or
- because of the alleged victim's marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the alleged offender is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage.
The alleged act must also be intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. A dating relationship is defined as a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature, and the existence of such a relationship is based on consideration of:
- the length of the relationship;
- the nature of the relationship; and
- the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
Additionally, Texas Family Code § 71.004 defines family violence as meaning any of the following:
- an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself;
- abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or
- dating violence.
A household means a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, regardless of their relation, and any person who previously lived in a household can be considered a member of a household. Common members of a family or household include:
- Current or former spouses
- Children of a current or former spouse
- Domestic partners
- Individuals in a dating relationship
- Grandparents and grandchildren
- Foster children or foster parents
One common misperception in these types of cases is that loved ones have the power to “drop charges” against alleged offenders. Many people mistakenly believe that their cases are dismissed when alleged victims claim that they do not want to press charges. This is simply not true.
In Texas, victims of crime have no power to dismiss or “drop” the charges. This authority rests entirely with the district attorney. While many alleged offenders believe that prosecutors will not pursue false or exaggerated claims, this is not always the case.
All alleged victims should carefully consider whether or not to make an accusation of domestic violence. There are some very good reasons to do so; for example, if you or your children have been physically harmed or are in danger, you should do everything you can to protect yourself—including getting help from law enforcement. However, you should never make an accusation to get back at a family member or out of spite.
Similarly, those accused of this crime should always take these charges very seriously—even when the arrest was the result of false accusations. You may think that your family member will change their mind and “drop charges” against you, but they cannot. If you have been charged with domestic violence or someone in your family is threatening to do so, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Judges are authorized under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 17.40 to “impose any reasonable condition of bond related to the safety of a victim of the alleged offense or to the safety of the community” to secure an alleged offender’s attendance at trial. While a case is pending, these conditions will typically include a prohibition of possession of firearms or ammunition, no contact with alleged victims, required attendance at a batterer intervention or other counseling program, and/or possibly wearing an electronic location-monitoring bracelet. In certain cases, a judge may set a very high bond amount.
If an alleged offender violates one of these bond conditions, he or she can be immediately returned to custody and denied bail. If a judge determines by a preponderance of the evidence that a bond violation occurred, the subsequent revocation of the alleged offender’s bond discharges the sureties (or bondsman) from any future liability but does not discharge them from liability for previous forfeitures on the bond.
Many defendants are curious about which, if any, possible defenses might be the most effective in their case. The answer really depends on the circumstances of each individual case. These circumstances include the nature of the offense, the relationship between the parties, past incidences of violence in the home, and the criminal history of the defendant.
Some possible defenses that you and your attorney might consider include:
- Actual Innocence — The alleged offender simply did not commit the crime he or she is accused of. This is often proved by attacking the credibility of the accuser.
- Self-Defense — Under Texas Penal Code § 9.31, a person is justified in using force against another party when and to the degree he or she reasonably believes that the force is immediately necessary to protect him or herself against the other person’s use of unlawful force. Self-defense is not a defense when another person only verbally provoked you.
- Defense of Third Person — The alleged offender reasonably believed that his or her intervention was necessary to protect a third person, under Texas Penal Code § 9.33.
You should be prepared to discuss all aspects of your case openly and honestly with your attorney. Your lawyer will use all of this information to determine which defenses might apply to your case.
The consequences of convictions in these types of cases can be very severe. What, if any, punishment an alleged offender is sentenced to depends on a variety of factors, including the crime he or she has been charged with as well as his or her criminal history.
Some possible penalties include:
- Incarceration — A simple assault conviction can result in one year in prison, or up to 10 years if there is a history of family violence. Aggravated assault, such as assault with a weapon, can carry a penalty of between two years to life in prison if the incident resulted in serious injuries.
- Fines — Depending on whether an alleged offender has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, he or she could be ordered to pay a fine of up $10,000 as well as possible restitution, fees, and other court costs.
- Probation — Also called community supervision, probation means that the defendant will continue to live in the community, with certain stipulations. For example, the defendant may be required to pay certain fees, do community service, or submit to drug testing. If the defendant fails to meet these requirements, probation is revoked and he or she may be incarcerated for the rest of their sentence.
- Counseling — An alleged offender might be required to receive anger management or other counseling services, and/or provide for counseling for the alleged victim(s).
Of course, there are other serious out-of-court “side effects” of a conviction, including the loss of employment opportunities, difficulty getting into college, and even problems finding a romantic partner. Being labeled an abuser is a serious stigma which cannot easily be removed or explained away. Anyone who has been accused of this type of violent crime should contact an attorney immediately to ensure that their rights are protected and the damage to their future is minimized.
Houston Area Women's Center — For nearly four decades, this nonprofit organization has helped domestic violence victims throughout the Houston area. You can learn more about their domestic violence, sexual assault, and counseling services on this website. There is also information relating to annual reports and ways to get involved.
1010 Waugh Drive
Houston, TX 77019
(713) 528- 6798
Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) — AVDA is a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that helps victims of domestic violence in the Houston area. You can learn more about some of its services, including a Teen Abuse & Prevention Program (TAPP) in the Harris County Juvenile Probation Youth Detention Center, a Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), and a Victim Advocacy program.
1001 Texas Avenue
Houston, TX 77002
Houston Police Department (HPD) Family Violence Unit— This is an investigative unit of the Special Crimes Division of the HPD. You can learn more about family violence services, community agencies, and protective orders on this website. This unit has four downtown offices, and you should call (713) 308-1100 if you are unsure which location is nearest you.
1200 Travis Street
Houston, TX 77002
9455 West Montgomery Road
Houston, TX 77088
8300 Mykawa Road
Houston, TX 77048
Westside3203 South Dairy Ashford Road
Houston, TX 77082
Horak Law | Texas Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with or believe you are under investigation for domestic violence, you are likely very worried. This is a serious crime, and the punishments can be very severe. You should contact a Houston criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure that everything possible is done to protect your rights and your reputation.
Matt Horak represents clients throughout the Houston, TX area, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Liberty County, and Waller County. Call us today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to a consultation and discuss the specific facts of your case.