Are Your Hands a “Deadly Weapon” for Purposes of a Criminal Domestic Violence Case?

December 13th, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Domestic Violence

When it comes to domestic violence cases, prosecutors will employ every legal tactic available to try and maximize a criminal defendant’s potential sentence. These tactics do not always succeed. But even the attempt may raise serious questions about a defendant’s ability to receive a fair trial.

Appeals Court Says Trial Court Did Not Err in Allowing Prosecution to Argue, Then Withdraw, Deadly Weapon Enhancement

A recent Texas appeals court decision, Walker v. State, helps to illustrate the problem. This case involved a defendant accused of beating his girlfriend. To go into more detail, the prosecution presented evidence at trial that the defendant “had an early morning argument at home that became physical.” In quick succession, the defendant grabbed his girlfriend “by the ears and hair and threw her against the bedroom wall, picked her up and ‘body-slam[med]’ her onto the floor, threw her across the room by her hair, pushed her into the bathtub, and placed his arm against her throat as she was leaned back in a rocking chair with her head against the wall.”

The prosecution’s initial charge included a “deadly weapon” enhancement. The alleged deadly weapon here was actually the defendant’s hands. But after deliberating for some time, the jury informed the trial judge that “ad reached a unanimous decision” on the underlying assault charge, but not on the deadly weapon enhancement. At that point, the prosecution agreed to drop the deadly weapon allegation “in the interest of justice.” The jury then returned a guilty verdict on the charge of “assault family violence, second offense.” Based on the verdict, the judge imposed a sentence of 35 years.

On appeal, the defendant argued the trial court should never have allowed the jury to consider the deadly weapon issue in the first place. The Court of Appeals disagreed. First, the appeals court noted the defendant was convicted of felony assault, and that “all felonies are theoretically susceptible to an affirmative finding of use or exhibition of a deadly weapon,” according to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Furthermore, the definition of “deadly weapon” is “exceedingly broad” can include a defendant’s hands.

Next, although the prosecution ultimately withdrew the deadly weapon enhancement, they nevertheless presented sufficient evidence to support the charge. The appeals court noted the “manner in which [the defendant ]used his hands” was more than capable of causing “even greater harm” to the victim than she actually sustained.

Finally, the Court of Appeals rejected the defendant’s claim that initially submitting the deadly weapon argument was nothing more than a tactic to “excite the passion of the jury.” The court noted the trial judge properly instructed the jury as to the law on this subject.

Speak with a Houston Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today

As you can see, even when prosecutors are forced to take a step back from their position at trial, the courts still afford them broad latitude to argue a case. This is why, if you are charged with a crime arising from allegations of domestic violence, you need to take the matter seriously. If you need to speak with a qualified Galveston or League City criminal defense lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.

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