Can I Still Be Convicted of Domestic Violence If the Accuser Does Not Testify?

April 17th, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Domestic Violence

Domestic violence often involves accusers who are unwilling or unable to testify in open court against the defendant. But this does not mean a jury cannot find the defendant guilty. Prosecutors can introduce other direct and circumstantial evidence–including testimony from police officers responding to a domestic violence call–to establish a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Houston-Area Man Convicted of Assault After Jury Hears Wife’s 911 Call

Here is a recent case from Houston that helps illustrate this point. This case began with a 911 call to Houston police. A woman gave her name and said her husband “beat” her with his “fist.” She gave an address and described her husband as an “Asian” man.

Police responded to the address provided. An Asian man–the defendant in this case–answered the door. He told the officers that nobody had called the police. The officers inquired about the presence of a woman with the name given to the 911 operator. The defendant replied that woman was his wife, who was in the house.

The officers then observed the wife, who appeared to them as “upset, sad, in fear, and shaken up.” The officers also saw what appeared to be “fresh” blood on the wife’s mouth and face, as well as scratches on her forehead. Although the wife told the officers she was fine and had injured herself, the officers did not believe her. When they asked the defendant for an explanation, he invoked his right to counsel.

Prosecutors eventually charged the defendant with criminal assault under Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code. While this is normally a Class A misdemeanor, when the crime involves a family member or someone in a “dating relationship” with the defendant, the charge is elevated to a third-degree felony. At the defendant’s trial, his wife did not testify. But jurors heard the recording of the 911 call, as well as the testimony of the officers who responded at the scene.

The jury found the defendant guilty. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals disagreed. Affirming the conviction, the appeals court said the jury could rationally infer from the 911 call that the wife was the accuser and the defendant was the man she identified as her attacker. The officers’ testimony further established the wife had sustained “bodily injury,” a necessary element of assault. Finally, the 911 call was enough to infer the defendant caused those injuries by striking his wife with his hand.

Taking Domestic Violence Seriously in the Houston Area

Domestic violence is a serious matter. As the case above shows, it is often the line between facing a simple misdemeanor charge and spending the rest of your life as a convicted felon. This is why you should never take a family violence charge lightly, even if your accuser recants and declines to testify in court. If police suspect you have assaulted or otherwise harmed a family member, you need to speak with a qualified Houston domestic violence defense lawyer right away. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 if you live in the Houston, Galveston, or League City areas and need immediate assistance.

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