Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence is a serious charge with severe consequences. If a Protective Order has been issued, you may not be able to return to your home or see your children. Being convicted of a domestic violence charge in Houston can result in incarceration and hefty fines. If you face these types of charges, secure legal representation from our Houston domestic violence lawyers that will work with you to create a fair and complete picture of events. Domestic violence charges can take many forms, and they can include assault and battery, stalking, phone or email harassment, and domestic homicide. No matter what the specific allegation, it is essential to have an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of David A. Breston who will fight to protect your rights.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Texas?
Domestic violence is a very serious offense in Texas. The police take allegations seriously and are quick to make arrests when someone says another person has been violent or abusive. Upon receiving your charges, it may surprise you to hear the word “felony.” While not every domestic violence charge results in a felony conviction, the most severe cases can qualify as felonies and come with extreme sentences – including up to 99 years in prison. This is why it’s crucial to retain a great domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible after arrest.
Domestic Violence Misdemeanor vs. Felony
In Texas, the conviction for domestic violence can range from a Class C misdemeanor (the most minor class) to a first-degree felony (the most serious felony conviction below a capital felony). If you receive a Class C misdemeanor for domestic violence, you could face a fine of no more than $500. First-degree felonies come with consequences such as imprisonment from five years to life (no more than 99 years) and fines of up to $10,000. Other potential punishments are as follows:
- Second-degree felony. Imprisonment for two to 20 years and/or fines up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony. Imprisonment for no more than 10 years and/or fines up to $10,000.
- Class A misdemeanor. Jail time a maximum of one year and/or fines up to $4,000.
- Class B misdemeanor. Jail time a maximum of 180 days and/or fines up to $2,000.
As you can see, the penalties for domestic violence in Texas can vary greatly in severity depending on the circumstances of the crime. What you say upon arrest, how you answer police questions, what defense strategy you use, and the defense attorney you hire can all make a big difference in the outcome of your domestic violence case. The best way to increase the odds of minimizing your conviction and sentence is with help from a lawyer.
When Might Domestic Violence Receive a Felony Conviction?
- You do not have to have actually injured the victim to face a conviction for domestic violence in Houston. Simply putting the person under threat of bodily harm can be enough for an arrest. Likewise, any physical contact (even if it does not cause pain) that is “offensive” can lead to a charge. These more minor charges will likely result in Class C misdemeanor convictions, without very serious penalties. Everything changes, however, if you already have a previous domestic violence conviction.
- With one domestic violence conviction under your belt, you’re suddenly at risk of facing felony charges even if you don’t actually hurt the victim. Texas law is very strict when it comes to family violence and abuse and often won’t wait for the alleged abuser to defend him or herself before pressing charges. If the victim alleges any form of domestic violence against you when you already have a previous conviction, the prosecution can charge you with a third-degree felony – even if the physical contact did not cause pain to the victim. You could also receive a third-degree felony charge for a first offense if allegations involve choking or suffocating.
- You could face a second-degree felony charge if the victim is a family member, someone in your household, or someone you have a dating relationship with, or if you have a previous domestic violence conviction against one such person. If you choke or suffocate someone knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly, you could also receive a second-degree felony charge. The courts reserve first-degree domestic violence felony convictions for offenders who use deadly weapons to commit aggravated assault and who cause serious bodily injuries to victims.
How to Challenge Inaccurate Assumptions
It is a sad reality, but sometimes domestic violence allegations are filed fraudulently by a spouse to get preferential treatment in custody or property division proceedings during a divorce. Unfortunately, police and the jury have a tendency to assume all domestic violence complaints are true, even if you say they are not. This culture creates a difficult situation for those falsely accused. Fortunately, a competent legal team can work to challenge these assumptions. This can be done several ways:
- In criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the accuser. Often, the most effective defense involves poking holes in the prosecution’s argument so it cannot adequately provide a body of proof.
- In the event of deliberately false accusations, we will search for inconsistencies in the accuser’s story and compare them to eyewitness accounts and police reports.
- If you claim self-defense, our team can work with you if you perceived an imminent threat to yourself or your children. This works best if you were not the initial aggressor.
If you have been charged with domestic violence, contact a domestic violence attorney at the Law Office of David A. Breston as soon as possible. We will go straight to work to uphold your rights and pursue the best possible outcome in your case.
What to Expect From a Court Proceeding
When you are charged with or falsely accused of domestic violence, it can be hard to know what to expect. With most criminal proceedings, there is a predictable series of steps:
- First court date/arraignment. In the state of Texas, misdemeanor cases are arraigned in county court, while felony charges are arraigned in District Court. You will be identified as a defendant, read the charges, and asked to enter a plea. Options for pleas are guilty, not guilty, or no contest. You should always enter a plea of not guilty, unless you have been advised otherwise by your legal representation.
- Plea bargain. If you enter a guilty plea, your attorney will typically attempt to bargain with the prosecutor’s office for a reduced sentence, community service, or dismissal of any additional charges.
- Preliminary hearings. If you are facing a felony charge, you will have to face a grand jury for indictment. In some cases, you may request a preliminary hearing to challenge probable cause.
- Trial and sentencing. If your case makes it to trial, you will be assigned six jurors in a misdemeanor case and 12 in felony cases. Remember: to be convicted, the prosecution has to convince every member of a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Contact a Houston Domestic Assault Lawyer to Defend You
If you face sentencing, a judge will often take into account any remorse, personal history, or individual circumstances.
We know this sounds like a lot of information, and you may feel overwhelmed. At the Law Office of David A. Breston, we are committed to keeping you informed every step of the process. We are experienced at handling all types of domestic violence cases, and we will work to find the best outcome on your behalf. You can rely on us for quality legal representation and personal service at a reasonable rate. If you have any questions, contact us.