The Difficulty of Defending Against a Domestic Violence Charge

June 6th, 2017 by Tad Nelson in Criminal Defense

Texas treats domestic violence more harshly than other types of violent crime. For example, assault is normally prosecuted as a Class C misdemeanor under the Texas Penal Code. But assault can be elevated to a third-degree felony if the defendant and the alleged victim are family or in a “dating relationship,” and the prosecution can prove the defendant “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” tried to impede the victim’s breathing.

Court Is Free to Believe Accuser Over Defendant

Many times allegations of “family violence by strangulation” come down to the word of the accuser against that of the defendant. This does not preclude a conviction, however. Police, judges, and juries tend to be very sympathetic towards accusers, even when presented with conflicting evidence as to what may have actually happened.

Consider a recent domestic violence case from San Antonio. Here, a police officer responded to a report of an “assault in progress.” When the officer arrived at the scene, he saw a woman–the accuser in this case–and her young daughter were “visibly distressed and crying.” The officer also observed “swelling” on the accuser’s neck and face. She told the officer that the defendant, the father of her child, had choked her.

The defendant was charged with felony family violence by strangulation. The only prosecution witnesses at trial were the accuser and the arresting officer who took her statement. The defendant also testified. He said the accuser assaulted him and that he only responded in self-defense. He testified the accuser would not let him leave the bedroom they were in, and that she “was hitting me with both hands.” The defense also introduced photographs of injuries that the defendant allegedly sustained in this attack.

The defendant opted to try the case before a judge without a jury. The judge believed the accuser’s story, found the defendant guilty, and gave him a suspended sentence of 10 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

The appeals court disagreed. There may have been conflicting testimony, the appeals court said, but a “rational trier of fact” could still find the prosecution proved its case while the defendant failed to establish that he acted in self-defense. At the end of the day, the appeals court said the trial judge was free to believe the accuser and disbelieve the defendant.

Have You Been Accused of Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence trials are often “he said/she said” affairs. And you should never assume the police or the court will believe your side of the story. If you have been accused or charged with any type of domestic violence offense, you need to work with an experienced League City criminal defense lawyer who can fight for your rights in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you need to speak to a lawyer right away.

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