FAQ: Domestic Violence
Charges against an act of domestic violence are serious. When you come face to face with the reality of its consequences, whether you were innocent or not, it may feel like there’s nowhere left to go. However, it’s important to understand that you have rights, and it’s important to practice those rights, and an attorney can not only help you understand them but also fight for them. Whether you committed an act of domestic violence, an incident was blown out of proportion, or you are innocent of accusations made against you, you need to practice your constitutional right to answer no questions until you have hired an experienced criminal defense attorney.
At Madson Castello Law, we represent those charged with domestic violence in Dallas and North Texas, including Denton, Fort Worth, and McKinney. We know how a conviction will alter the lives of our clients. That is why we treat every one of them with compassion and understanding and take the time to listen to what happened and why. We believe in the presumption of innocence and the right that everyone accused of a crime can have strong criminal defense on their side.
We also believe in dealing with our clients honestly and helping them face what’s happening to them head-on. The answers we give you may not be the ones you want to hear, but they will always be the ones you need to hear.
How Does Texas Define “Domestic Violence”?
When most people hear the term “domestic violence,” they immediately think of one spouse abusing the other. However, domestic violence, also referred to as “family violence” in Texas, is more than spousal abuse, although that can be included.
Texas law defines family violence as the act of one member of a household intending to physically harm, injure, assault, or sexually assault another household member. It also includes the threat of imminent danger of physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. What constitutes a household or family member under the law is much broader than someone related by blood or living under the same roof. It includes blood, adoptive, and foster relatives, current and former spouses, romantic partners, and roommates regardless of intimate relationship or gender. Family violence includes dating violence and child abuse.
What Are the Possible Consequences of a Domestic Violence Charge?
Immediate consequences of domestic violence accusations/charges include arrest and a protective order being issued. Law enforcement and the magistrate will take steps to protect the accuser long before you get your day in court.
The potential consequences if convicted depend on multiple factors, including any history of family violence and any other criminal history, as well as the severity of any injuries suffered by the victim. Consequences include incarceration; probation; counseling and treatment; significant fines; loss of employment, professional licensure, and certification; loss of child custody and visitation; and lifetime loss of gun rights.
Moreover, a magistrate can include an Affirmation of Family Violence (AFV) in non-domestic violence judgments. Even if you are convicted of assault but the judge determines the assault falls under the broad definition of family violence under Texas law, the judgment can include an AFV.
That designation will negatively impact other criminal and even civil actions. For example, if you are involved in a divorce at the time, the family court can award additional spousal support and divide marital assets and debts in your spouse’s favor. The AFV may also affect any future civil actions, such as divorces and child custody cases. It can also be used to enhance future criminal charges.
What If the Alleged Victim Drops the Domestic Violence Charge?
From the moment an allegation of family violence is made, neither you nor your accuser is in control any longer. Law enforcement, the district attorney, and the court can proceed against you regardless of the victim’s willingness to sign what is called an “Affidavit of Non-Prosecution.”
Can I Expunge a Domestic Violence Charge from My Criminal Record?
Unlike other charges you can have removed or “expunged” from your criminal record, a domestic violence charge will remain on it forever. Likewise, judgments with the AFV cannot be expunged.
Are There Any Defenses I Can Use?
As with any other criminal charge, those charged with domestic violence should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, but every angle should be explored in putting forth defenses against the charge. As former Dallas district attorneys, we’ve seen those angles from both sides of the courtroom.
Of course, which defenses we raise depend on the circumstances of the incident or incidents from which the charges stem. However, among those used are self-defense and reasonable discipline of a child, which are excluded from the definition of family violence in Texas statutes.
Other defenses include false accusations, defense of others or of property, lack of intent to harm or threaten, investigative error, lack of violence, or the inability of the district attorney to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Should I Hire an Attorney if I’m Accused of Domestic Violence?
There are more than 200,000 family violence offenders facing charges in Texas every year. They face domestic battery and assault charges, and sexual abuse and assault charges, among others. Regardless of guilt, innocence, or extenuating circumstances, every one of them would have benefitted from experienced legal representation.
The ability of the district attorney to prove guilt and the opportunity to reduce charges and mitigate penalties are lost without experienced legal counsel. The answer here is that there is no question: the first thing you should do is contact a criminal defense attorney.
Experienced Help When You Need it Most
There are numerous criminal defense attorneys in Dallas and North Texas, but what sets us apart is our extensive experience along with our personalized care for you. Not only do we give the details of your case the attention it deserves, but we also work with you to overcome any behaviors or issues you may have with the goal to create a brighter future for you. We have been on the other side of hundreds of domestic violence cases during our time as district attorneys. That’s what makes us formidable in our defense of those accused of crimes since opening Madson Castello Law.
If you have been charged with domestic violence, call Madson Castello Law right now. With over 30 years of combined extensive trial experience, we are ready to help.