Domestic violence is an unfortunate reality throughout the United States. Every year, thousands of people experience various forms of domestic violence from family members and other members of their households. Domestic violence cases are unique in that they often entail not only criminal court proceedings but also family court filings as well. Anyone convicted of domestic assault, or any form of domestic violence, faces a wide range of penalties.
A charge of assault involving a family member (domestic violence) is treated differently under Texas law than a regular assault. Unlike a regular assault case, even if you complete deferred adjudication (a type of probation that does not result in a final conviction), you can never seal the case afterward. That means that the case will always show up on a background check.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you are mandatorily deportable if you plead guilty or no contest to this type of charge. Even if the complainant does not want to press charges, the DA’s office has a special division called the Family Criminal Law Division (FCLD) that will press forward if they believe they can piece the case together with the other evidence available, such as photos, 911 calls, and witness statements.
This area of the law is full of complex Constitutional and evidentiary issues that are still being litigated in the U.S. Supreme Court. With the stakes being this high and the law so fluid, you need a lawyer well versed in the admissibility of certain key pieces of evidence that the government will try to use against you.
Every American has the right to legal representation when they are accused of a crime, even if they are unable or unwilling to pay for a private defense attorney. The court can appoint a public defender at no cost to the defendant. However, a private Houston domestic violence lawyer can offer a higher level of defense representation, ensuring your case receives the close attention it deserves.
The Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, has years of experience representing Houston clients in a variety of criminal cases, including those pertaining to domestic violence. We understand the scope of the penalties any defendant may face in this type of case. We’ve devised outside-the-box strategies for obtaining dismissals on these types of cases and have secured acquittals from juries when all else fails. We’ve also helped keep countless families intact by preventing non-U.S. citizen clients from being convicted and deported.
The right attorney can have a tremendous influence on the outcome of your domestic violence case. While state law focuses primarily on the rights and safety of the alleged victim, domestic violence cases inherently cast the accused in a negative light. Unfortunately, many people are falsely accused of initiating domestic violence when they, in fact, only acted in self-defense. As a result, it’s easy to feel that the entire system is pitted against you when you are falsely accused of domestic violence. Alternatively, if you know you broke the law, you need a defense lawyer to help you mitigate the penalties you face in sentencing.
Most domestic violence cases open with a call to the police concerning a domestic disturbance. The victim of domestic violence may call for help, or a neighbor or other household member may notify the police of domestic violence. When the police respond to a domestic violence call, they have a legal obligation to prevent further harm to the alleged victim, even if they cannot irrefutably prove fault immediately at the scene. Therefore, the police will arrest the alleged aggressor and help the victim obtain a temporary restraining order. This order will last until a hearing date, and the defendant will be legally prohibited from contacting or coming near the alleged victim.
If you are wrongfully accused of domestic violence, the initial police response can easily feel unfair and one-sided. However, it is always best to comply with directions from the police and refrain from resisting arrest. Even if you did not commit the offense in question, arguing with the police or physically resisting arrest does nothing to help your situation and can lead to additional charges. Observe your right to remain silent before taking advantage of your right to legal counsel and securing defense representation. Your Houston domestic violence attorney can help you determine the best defensive strategy available to you.
“Domestic violence” is a very broad term that applies to any abuse within a family or household. An offense qualifies as domestic violence when the parties involved are members of the same family or household. It’s also possible for domestic violence to manifest between family members or former close relations who no longer live together. Most domestic violence cases in the Houston area pertain to currently or formerly married spouses, current or former romantic partners or roommates, parents and children, and extended family members. Acts that potentially qualify as domestic violence include:
The penalties for domestic violence typically mirror those assigned to the standard versions of these offenses. However, the fact that an offense qualifies as domestic violence automatically increases the penalties for the offense under Texas law.
Individuals convicted of domestic violence can face fines and incarceration in county jail or state prison. Where they serve their time is typically determined by whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony. When a victim has sustained measurable damages, the defendant faces civil liability for medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering. The judge handling sentencing of their criminal charges may also include restitution to the victim as part of the defendant’s sentence.
In addition to criminal penalties and liability for civil damages, the defendant will also be subject to a restraining order, likely compelled to move into a new home, and face various other personal and professional consequences. The temporary restraining order issued in response to the incident in question can transition into a “permanent” restraining order with stricter terms.
While subject to a restraining order, the defendant will not be permitted to contact those protected by the order, and they will not be allowed to come into close contact with them. This order will need to be periodically renewed, and any violations will lead to incarceration and other severe penalties. Additionally, the criminal record for domestic violence could lead to the defendant losing any professional licenses they may have held, and they may be unable to work in certain fields or locations. It is also very likely for them to lose any child custody or visitation rights they may have held previously, but they will still be responsible for paying child support.
If you are charged with domestic violence in Houston, the penalties you face can change your life in many ways for years to come. Therefore, you need defense representation you can trust in this situation to help you determine your best defenses and best opportunities to minimize penalties or avoid conviction. When you choose the Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, to represent you in a domestic violence case, our team will thoroughly review every detail of your claim and help you formulate an effective strategy.
In the U.S., the criminal justice system upholds the standard of “innocent unless proven guilty,” and the burden of proving guilt rests on the prosecution. Your Houston domestic violence defense attorney’s job is to prevent the prosecution from meeting its burden of proof. Your defense team may seek contradictory evidence that counteracts the alleged victim’s claims and/or proves you acted in self-defense. Eyewitness testimony, past interactions with the police, and various other factors may come into play in creating your defense.
The defendant may avoid conviction if the prosecution cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, however, conviction is unavoidable. If the defendant is clearly guilty of the charge in question and the prosecution has all of the evidence and testimony to secure a conviction, the defendant’s best option may be a plea deal. Plea bargaining is only offered in certain cases at the discretion of the prosecutors. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecution offers lighter sentencing and/or reduced charges to conserve court resources that would otherwise be spent on lengthy litigation.
Your Houston domestic violence attorney can help ensure your rights remain protected throughout your interactions with the criminal justice system. They can also provide valuable guidance if you face civil action from your accuser in addition to criminal court proceedings. The Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, ensures client-focused legal counsel in every case we accept. We understand you have lots of questions and concerns about how your case is likely to unfold and what penalties you could potentially face.
The most important thing to do after an arrest for domestic violence is to take full advantage of your right to remain silent and your right to legal counsel. Remember that anything you say during or after an arrest could be used against you later, so remain silent until you have a defense attorney handling your case. The Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, offers free consultations to potential new clients and has obtained hundreds of dismissals on these types of charges. Call a Houston domestic violence lawyer today to begin building your defense.