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Domestic Violence Is Not Exclusive to Marital or Romantic Relationships

Although we often associate domestic violence with acts involving a spouse or romantic partner, in fact, Texas law provides enhanced penalties for anyone convicted who commits a violent crime against any “family member,” which can include a parent, sibling, or child. These instances can result in a variety of consequences. If it is between spouses or romantic partners, separation or divorce could be a consequence of the violence. If it’s between siblings or children and parents, other penalties can come up. It is therefore important to understand the consequences of a potential domestic violence-related conviction, as judges and juries are keen to sentence such defendants quite harshly.

Defendant Sentenced to 35 Years for Shooting Father

A recent decision from the Texas Third District Court of Appeals, Thompson v. State, provides a cautionary tale in this regard. This case involved a defendant accused of shooting his father. The arresting officer testified in court that the defendant confessed to the shooting during an interrogation.

After the trial judge denied the defendant’s motion to suppress his confession, he pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree aggravated assault with a family violence enhancement. The defendant then elected to have the judge conduct a trial solely on the issue of punishment. During this sentencing hearing, a forensic psychologist testified that he had evaluated the defendant and said he “would be surprised” if the defendant repeated his violent acts–i.e., shooting at someone with a gun–in the future. However, the defendant’s father also testified that he “absolutely” feared his son and noted that he required 17 surgeries and 10 months of rehabilitation following the shooting.

thief with gun

Taking all of the evidence into account, the trial judge sentenced the defendant to 35 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support this sentence. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial judge’s decision.

The appellate court noted that 35 years was “within the permissible statutory range” for the offense charged. Indeed, a first-degree felony conviction carries a maximum possible sentence of 99 years or life. More to the point, there was “substantial evidence” supporting the sentence, including the testimony of the defendant’s father and the arresting officer.

The Court of Appeals also upheld the trial judge’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress his confession to the police. The defendant’s main argument here was that he was too drunk at the time to give “voluntary” consent to the waiver of his constitutional right to remain silent. The appellate court noted that while “[i]ntoxication is a relevant factor,” it “does not render a defendant’s confession involuntary per se.”

In any event, the Third District said it really did not matter. The prosecution never actually introduced the defendant’s confession during the sentencing hearing. The arresting officer testified regarding the interrogation, and he said he did not believe the defendant was intoxicated during that time. The appellate court said the trial judge was entitled to credit this testimony and accordingly deny the motion to suppress.

Speak with a Houston Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Today

As we always caution clients, it is best to say as little as possible when questioned by police. It is definitely a bad idea to make any sort of statement without first consulting a qualified criminal defense attorney. So if you are facing criminal domestic violence charges and need legal representation, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today.