Upon hearing the term “domestic violence,” most of probably imagine things we’ve seen in TV shows or movies. Usually couples where one is abusing the other. However, Texas domestic violence laws apply to more than just romantic couples.
According to the Texas Penal Code (Title 5, Chapter 22, Section 22.01), domestic violence is the use of force against a family member, household member, or a current or past dating partner that causes or threatens to cause bodily injury or other physical contact regarded as offensive or provocative.
The point? Every case is nuanced, for the best chance at a positive outcome, you need a competent criminal defense attorney experienced in domestic violence. They will be able to consider your unique circumstances and review the evidence in order to guide you in the development of an appropriate defense.
If you have been charged with domestic violence, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you have acted intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly to cause bodily injury to, threaten imminent bodily harm to, or come into contact with your accuser in a way they find provocative or offensive.
There are a number of common defense strategies to help you fight domestic – or family – violence charges that typically fall into one of two categories: either a) you didn’t do it, or b) you did, but there are extenuating circumstances.
Let’s take a closer look:
You Didn’t Do It
Sometimes, even when an accuser has the best intentions, they make a mistake. We see this happen more frequently when children are involved than with adults, but these occurrences aren’t limited by age.
Often the best defense against not committing a crime is offering evidence that you were busy doing something else, somewhere else, with someone else when the alleged violence occurred. This is called providing an alibi.
In other cases, usually involving already rocky relationships or a messy legal battle in divorce court, deliberately false allegations surface. When this happens, the courts look at whether there is direct proof, intent, and probable cause for the alleged acts to occur. Because the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor, often a lack of these things is grounds to have charges dismissed.
You Did It, But There Were Extenuating Circumstances
This is where actual bodily injury did occur, but you had a good reason for taking the actions you did.
Depending on your circumstances, there are a couple of roads your criminal defense attorney may suggest you take. Some questions you may be required to answer during your consultation are whether the victim’s injuries were caused by your acting in self-defense or to protect someone else in the household.
A judge is also likely to consider whether the injury was unintentional. If you were acting in self-defense or in defense of others, perhaps you were trying to restrain someone who was intentionally attempting to inflict bodily harm when the injuries occurred.
Another instance most frequently seen in cases of divorce: judges have been known to consider throwing out a case entirely with the “de minimis” defense – when the conduct of the accused or the resulting injury was too trivial to be a criminal offense.
Other options include diminished capacity and insanity defenses. Those should only be used in very specific circumstances. In rare cases, the court will examine whether the act constitutes domestic violence at all.
In any case, having charges of domestic violence brought against you by an otherwise trusted member of your household can understandably leave you feeling like you’re on shaky ground and stumbling over what to do next. The most important thing to remember is that you have rights, and that help sorting things out is only a phone call away.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.