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Can I Still Be Convicted of Family Violence Even if the Accuser Changed Her Story?

Once a domestic violence allegation is made to law enforcement, even a subsequent recantation by the accuser will not necessarily stop the case from going to trial. Indeed, the legal system is often eager to excuse an accuser changing his or her story as part of the underlying act of domestic violence. So even the testimony of an accuser or witness who contradicts themselves on the stand may be enough to send someone to prison.

Consider the recent case of [McDonald v. State], where a Texas appeals court upheld the conviction and 10-year prison sentence of a defendant charged with felony assault-family violence. This case began when a police officer in Lewisville, Texas, received an early-morning dispatch to a local convenience store. There, the officer interviewed the accuser, who initially said her boyfriend–the defendant–“backhanded her in the face multiple times” following an argument at a nearby restaurant.

Although the accuser told the officer she did not wish to pursue charges, the officer said he was required to make a formal report. The next day, the accuser called the officer on the phone and said it was actually another woman who struck her, not the defendant. A police detective assigned to the case also testified that the accuser recanted to him, stating that a woman assaulted her in a parking lot following a verbal altercation inside the restaurant.

Both police officers told the court that it “was common to hear changing stories and excuses” from domestic violence victims, and that the accuser’s initial allegations should be considered the true account of what happened. The accuser herself returned to her original story on the stand, testifying that the defendant backhanded her several times.

The Court of Appeals noted that even though the accuser “gave other versions of the night’s events, it is also true that she explained why she did so: she was afraid of being left homeless and of [the defendant] generally.” And even though the trial judge–who tried the case without a jury–was critical of how the police investigated the case, the judge nevertheless found the state proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, finding the accuser “ consistently disavowed her recantations.” According to the Court of Appeals, this was good enough. Ultimately, it is the trial court (or jury’s) function to assess the credibility of the witnesses presented.

Speak with a Houston Domestic and Family Violence Defense Lawyer Today

Police, prosecutors, and even judges are often favorably disposed towards the accuser in domestic violence cases. You should never assume that such cases will “just go away” even if the accuser recants or changes their story. This is why you need to contact an experienced Houston domestic violence defense attorney as soon as the police make contact with you.

If you have been charged with any type of family violence, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100  today. We assist clients throughout the Houston, Galveston, and League City areas.