Messina Madson & Kendall Castello, MC Criminal Law
COVID-19 and Domestic Violence: What You Need to Know
In a year of unprecedented stressors, couples are among those feeling the effects. The number of family violence allegations and arrests have skyrocketed, and they often result in extreme consequences. If conflict between you and your partner has become heated, we urge you to get help now.
Seek support from a professional counselor, family member, friend, or faith community. Getting help takes courage and persistence, but it’s far better to take action long before the police get involved. If the criminal process has already begun, you should find a qualified attorney immediately.
Early intervention is key for a criminal attorney. A good attorney can help navigate the first critical steps in ways that mitigate the immediate and long-term consequences of these types of cases. Once the criminal process has begun, don’t talk to your spouse, and don’t talk to the police; talk to a qualified attorney. Here’s why.
The Immediate Consequences of a Domestic Violence Allegation
What most people don’t understand about a domestic or family violence allegation is that when the police get involved, the couple loses control. This happens in three major ways.
- First, in the face of an allegation of domestic violence, police usually make an arrest. No police officer wants to respond to a domestic violence call, leave the scene without making an arrest, and have a worse incident occur. Police policy often dictates an arrest—even when the initial reporter does not want that result.
- Second, an emergency protective order (“EPO”) can be sought by either a complaining witness or a police officer. A judge also can issue an EPO, despite protests against this action by the complaining witness. The EPO can prohibit an accused person from contacting the complaining witness and other family members—including any children—and can prohibit a return home for 30, 60, or 90 days. All of this can occur even if the complaining witness doesn’t want this prohibition. Additionally, an EPO can lengthen the amount of time an accused person will serve in jail before he may bond out.
- Third, the police often will file a case and the district attorney’s office will prosecute it, even if the complaining witness does not want the case to proceed. Because of the unpredictability of future events in these types of cases, the safest choice for police or prosecutors is often to move forward, even against the will of the complaining witness.
Long-term Consequences of a Domestic Violence Case
A domestic violence offense can permanently affect a person, both civilly and criminally. On the criminal side, a family violence offense carries an affirmative finding of family violence (“AFFV”). This means it’s treated differently from most other offenses in Texas.
For any level of family violence offense (including a Class C Misdemeanor offense), an AFFV attaches to probation (including deferred probation). An AFFV also attaches at the granting of a 2-year protective order. An AFFV is such a big deal for two major reasons:
- A case with an AFFV can never be non-disclosed or expunged. It will always be on a person’s record and cannot be concealed from public sight.
- An AFFV bars an individual for life from buying, owning, or possessing a firearm.
The civil consequences to an AFFV also can prove severe. An AFFV can be used in a divorce or child custody proceeding in the state of Texas. In a divorce proceeding, a spouse who can prove domestic violence is entitled to considerably more spousal support than is usually allowed in Texas. And in a child custody proceeding, courts will nearly always rule against a person with an AFFV.
If any interaction with the police already has occurred, find an attorney. The earlier we get involved, the better. When you consult an attorney, you begin to limit the consequences of the incident. To see case results or testimonials about our firm, visit our web site’s Domestic Violence page.