Galveston \ League City Domestic Violence Attorney
Compassionate Domestic Violence Lawyers Serving Galveston County, Texas
Allegations of domestic violence are very serious issues. No matter how small you believe an incident to be, you cannot sit back and let this type of situation handle itself. Not only can domestic violence allegations ultimately result in criminal penalties that may include jail time, but you can also lose your ability to enjoy certain parental rights and responsibilities under the Texas Family Code. What do you need to know if you have been accused of domestic violence? Our Houston domestic violence lawyers are here to help, and the following are some of the steps you should take to protect yourself when you are facing allegations. Whether your case involves alleged spousal abuse, child abuse, or child endangerment, the best thing you can do is to get a legal professional by your side as soon as possible. You never know what could take place or what could end up happening in these situations. Take the proper steps to protect yourself and your family.
At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we are uniquely qualified to handle these types of cases, as our firm is committed to both Texas family law and Texas criminal law. With allegations of domestic violence, these two areas of the law frequently overlap. If you need legal advice, please do not delay in contacting our compassionate Galveston domestic violence lawyer today.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is an umbrella term for violent acts or threats between two (or more) people in a certain relationship. These relationships span from people, regardless of sexual orientation, living together to those who are married, dating, and those who have had a child together. When it comes to determining what domestic violence is, you may need the input of a domestic violence attorney. The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates has the experience in this field to provide you with ample information and assistance in determining a domestic violence case. We know understanding protective orders and how to defend yourself against these allegations is a great start to building a strong defense.
Domestic violence can be anything from slapping or punching to stalking and rape (in some extreme cases). These crimes can be committed against adults and, unfortunately, children alike. More detailed information on what you could be falsely accused of is outlined below.
It is important to get legal representation as soon as possible if you find yourself accused of domestic violence. Waiting for representation or not getting it at all could cost you more than you realize. Our domestic violence lawyers are ready to fight for your justice.
Domestic Violence and Protective Orders in Texas
It is important that people understand the fact that domestic abuse can be both physical and emotional. If you have been the victim of any type of abuse, you need to protect yourself and your family. Should you feel that you are being threatened, or if you have been involved in a physical altercation, our Galveston domestic violence lawyers can help.
We will assist you by preparing and filing the petition you will need in order to obtain a protective order against your spouse. We find it especially important for clients to always remain cautious, even after an order has been filed. If there are children involved, you may need to modify a child custody agreement. We can also assist with such modifications to protect the best interests of your child. Regardless, we will find the legal solution that best fits your unique personal needs.
Restraining Order/Protective Order Violations
Protective orders are very restrictive and easy to violate. If you’ve been charged with violating a restraining order — the sooner you hire an attorney the better. As a former assistant district attorney for Galveston County, Tad Nelson will work to minimize the potential damage and be the strongest advocate he can possibly be on your behalf.
The Family Violence Enhancement
Texas has what is known as a family violence enhancement for criminal charges involving domestic violence. What that means is that if you are convicted on a domestic violence-related charge such as aggravated assault, the sentence you receive will likely be more severe than for a charge stemming from a bar fight with a stranger. This family violence enhancement may have other long-lasting effects that could cost you your right to own or possess a firearm.
In Texas, allegations of domestic violence are taken very seriously. For this reason, a number of processes were put in place, from the time of the initial accusations and potential arrest to the eventual resolution of a case, to ensure that victims are protected and that defendants who have been wrongly accused are not unfairly convicted.
Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction in Texas
When you are facing any kind of charges related to domestic violence in Texas, it is critical to understand that you can be facing a wide range of penalties and consequences. While the criminal penalties associated with a conviction for an offense that involves domestic violence can be severe, you can also face additional consequences that do not have anything to do with your criminal sentence, from various restrictions on your personal freedoms to your ability to share child custody of your minor child. To be clear, the consequences of a domestic violence conviction in Texas are severe and far-reaching, and it is essential to have an experienced Texas domestic violence defense lawyer on your side who can help you to fight the charges you are facing or to defend against allegations of domestic violence in a hearing for a protective order.
There are criminal consequences for domestic violence allegations if the allegations result in criminal charges and a conviction. Generally speaking, domestic violence allegations can be charged under the Texas Penal Code as assault against a spouse or assault against a family member. These elements of these criminal offenses usually involve knowingly or recklessly causing harm to a spouse or family member. If you are convicted of a domestic violence-related assault charge, you will face at least Class A misdemeanor consequences. For a Class A misdemeanor conviction, you can be sentenced to up to one year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $4,000. When there are aggravating factors, or when you have a previous domestic violence conviction on your record, you can be convicted of a third-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Consequences of a Protective Order in Domestic Violence Cases
If a spouse, current or former partner, or other family member seeks a domestic violence protective order in Texas, you need to present your side of the case at the hearing in order to avoid having a protective order entered against you. If a protective order is entered, that order can order you to do any of the following, depending upon the facts of the case.
- Move out of your home;
- Not carry a firearm, even if you have a valid license;
- Attend a substance abuse treatment program;
- Get drug testing; and/or
- Stay away from your family, including your partner’s home or workplace, and your child’s school.
These are just some examples of what a protective order can do.
Family Law Repercussions and Child Custody Limitations
In addition to the consequences outlined above, the Texas Family Code also allows a court to restrict child custody—known as a conservatorship and possession in Texas—in cases involving domestic violence.
Defending Yourself Against Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence charges should not be taken lightly, as conviction can have devastating consequences not only for a defendant, but also for his or her entire family, especially if those allegations are false. You can, however, defend yourself against these kinds of charges, so if you were recently accused of domestic violence, you should speak with a Galveston domestic violence lawyer who can review your case, explain your legal options, and help you develop a sound defense.
The Accuser Made a Mistake
Defendants who have been falsely accused of domestic violence are often able to demonstrate that the allegations in their case are a mistake. This is especially common in cases where the accuser is young and impressionable, making it difficult for him or her to remember who was present at the time of the alleged offense. Evidence that the identity of the aggressor is unclear can also be used to weaken a prosecutor’s domestic violence case. Proof that there were few lights or that no one actually saw the event occur, for instance, can quickly poke holes in the state’s arguments. This type of evidence often proves to be particularly helpful in cases where the accuser or the witness only heard but didn’t actually see the alleged act of violence.
The Accuser is Misrepresenting the Truth
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for heated arguments to end in allegations of domestic violence, especially when the case involves the end of a romantic relationship or a former partner. For instance, these allegations often arise in divorce cases, with the accuser hoping to gain leverage in a custody dispute. By scouring an accuser’s story against other evidence, like eyewitness testimony and police reports, for inconsistencies could help a defendant avoid wrongful conviction.
I Acted in Self-Defense
When a person commits an act of violence against a family or household member in self-defense, he or she cannot be convicted of domestic violence. However, for this defense to apply, a defendant will need to prove that he or she:
- Did not initiate the first act of aggression;
- Reasonably perceived an imminent threat to him or herself or another family member; and
- Responded to the aggressor’s actions in a proportional manner.
To learn more about the kinds of evidence that can be used when claiming self-defense, please reach out to our office today.
There is no Evidence of Domestic Violence
Under Texas law, those who accuse someone else of a crime, including domestic violence, must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the act occurred. Evidence can include everything from photos and police reports to medical records and witness testimony. When this evidence is circumstantial, however, the state will also need to prove that the abuse was intentional, a feat that is often difficult to achieve.
Unfortunately, in some cases, domestic violence and abuse allegations are leveled against people who are wholly innocent of the charges. You could be falsely accused of:
Hire a Domestic Violence Lawyer in Texas
The first step in any domestic violence case in which you are facing allegations is to hire a Houston domestic violence lawyer who has experience representing clients in family violence cases involving the criminal justice system and the family law system. Since domestic violence often involves both civil and criminal aspects, you need to have an attorney with experience navigating both interrelated areas of the law.
Regardless, these accusations can and will have major ramifications on your life. Not only could you end up in jail, but you could also lose out on your family law rights, potentially even being denied from having a relationship with your own children. If you are facing false domestic abuse allegations in Galveston, TX, we can aggressively defend you. We have found that arguments can get heated and parties can make false allegations out of anger or fear. We are here to set the record straight by representing you thoroughly and effectively against all charges.
Texas Domestic Violence Proceedings
The Initial Report
The typical domestic violence matter starts with a report to law enforcement about an alleged incident of physical violence or threats. In most cases, the report is made by the person who is experiencing the harm, although it is not unheard of for a witness, such as a relative, neighbor, or child to make the initial call.
If the officer who responds to the emergency call believes that the accused did harm or is in danger of harming a family member, he or she can arrest the individual in question, at which point, the accused would be taken into custody and booked. Even if a person is not arrested, criminal charges can be filed at a later date and the alleged victim still has the right to request an Order of Protection.
Orders of Protection
After a domestic violence incident has been reported, the alleged victim often chooses to request an Order of Protection from a judge. If granted, these restraining orders will bar the accused from contacting the victim in any way and could also restrict use of a shared residence or the right to visitation. Violating a restraining order constitutes a felony offense, which means that offenders can suffer additional penalties if convicted of the domestic violence charge.
The Criminal Complaint
After responding to an emergency call regarding domestic violence, the officer in question will complete a written record of the events, including the names of the people involved, the date and time of the incident, and any claims of injury made by the victim. A copy of this report will automatically be sent to the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Once a state prosecutor receives the officer’s report, he or she will review the case and decide if enough evidence exists to pursue criminal charges. This is an important step in domestic violence proceedings, as it is the prosecutor, and not the victim, who ultimately decides whether to bring a case against the accused.
Once criminal charges have been filed, the accused will need to attend a court appearance, where he or she will enter a plea. If the accused doesn’t agree to a plea deal, the case will be scheduled for trial, where a prosecutor will attempt to prove that the defendant is guilty of domestic violence beyond a reasonable doubt. Fortunately, many domestic violence cases don’t go to trial, but are settled through negotiation. In the event that a person is found guilty, he or she faces jail time, fines, and probation.
Understand How the Criminal Justice Process Works
Next, you should learn more about how the criminal justice process works when it comes to allegations of family violence or sexual abuse so that you know what to expect and are prepared to assist your lawyer with your defense. The criminal side of domestic violence allegations ultimately will intersect in various ways with your family law case, but these are the general steps that you should anticipate if an ex-partner or family member accuses you of a criminal act that falls under the broader term of domestic violence:
- The party alleging domestic violence will make a criminal complaint, and a prosecutor will review the charges;
- If a warrant is issued based on the evidence, you will be arrested, and you will be required to appear in court, at which point you may have an opportunity to have bail posted;
- You will go before a grand jury, which will hear the allegations and decide whether there is enough evidence against you for the prosecutor to move forward.
- You will typically then have the opportunity to enter a plea and go through a pretrial hearing, and you may have the opportunity to agree to a plea bargain if the prosecution offers one; and
- If there is no plea deal, your case will go to trial, at which point you will need to have a clear defense strategy to avoid a conviction (if you are convicted, you will be sentenced).
The criminal process for domestic violence-related charges can be lengthy, and during the process, you may not be able to have access to your child. Given the seriousness of the process, you should recognize that you need to have an attorney on your side if you have not already hired one.
How Witnessing Domestic Violence Affects Children
While they may not experience the same physical pain that a direct victim of abuse does, the impacts of domestic violence on children who witness it are no less severe. “Witnessing” may involve child who sees an attack or hears fighting, but it may also include seeing the after effects, such as blood, bruises, or other injuries. It may also mean a general state of awareness, such as watching the victim’s fear and mannerism when the abuser enters a room.
The Childhood Domestic Violence Association reports that five million children observe domestic attacks every year in the US, and there are currently 40 million adults in this country that grew up in environments where domestic violence was the norm. Considering the high number of Americans who are or will be affected, it is worth reviewing the short and long term implications for children who observe domestic abuse.
Children who are exposed to domestic violence often suffer silently, becoming fearful, anxious, and distrustful. They worry for themselves, the victim, and their siblings, causing them to miss out on typical childhood emotions like excitement and enjoyment. Life at home is agony, as these children witnesses feel emotional abandonment and isolation, even from others in the household.
Because they lack the maturity to address their complicated feelings, children experience guilt, shame, and depression. They may also become angry, both at the abuser for engaging in violence and at the victim they perceive as allowing it.
The emotional implications of witnessing domestic violence manifest themselves in children physically, most often through sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Younger children may be unable to control their rage, causing injury to themselves. Other physical responses to observing domestic abuse include stomach problems, headaches, bedwetting, difficulty concentrating, and others. In a worst-case scenario, a physical effect may be actual injury when a child tries to intervene in an attack and is injured as a result.
Children who witness domestic violence may experience physical and emotional issues for years, long after they are no longer even in an abusive environment. Long-term effects include:
- Learning disabilities, lower scores on IQ and standardized testing;
- Problems with motor skills, memory, and attention;
- Conditions similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) akin to what combat veterans face;
- Premature aging by up to 7-10 years;
- A propensity to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, up to 50 percent more likely than in non-abusive situations;
- Increased potential of resorting to suicide, at up to six times more likely; and,
- The tendency to become involved in criminal activity, with a 74 percent chance of committing a violent crime against another person after reaching adulthood.
Learn About How Domestic Violence Allegations Can Affect Your Family Law Case
If you have minor children from a relationship, your ability to be appointed a conservator (i.e., to have child custody) may be at risk. Indeed, under the Texas Family Code, a history of family violence or sexual abuse can result in the court deciding that a parent cannot be a conservator and, in some cases, may not have access to the child.
Contact Our Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers Today
At Tad Nelson & Associates, we understand how small disagreements within a relationship can quickly snowball out of control. We also understand just how dramatically a conviction for domestic violence can change your life. Our goal is to keep you out of jail if at all possible, and to minimize the potential for serious damage to your life and standing in the community. Our compassionate Galveston domestic violence lawyers are standing by, ready to assist you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at (281) 280-0100 to set up a no-obligation, fully confidential consultation. From our office in the heart of Galveston, we serve individuals and families all around Galveston County and throughout Southeast Texas.
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