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What Are the Penalties in Texas for Multiple Acts of Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence allegations can lead to serious jail time in Texas, particularly if prosecutors can prove you committed two or more assaults against a family member or dating partner over a 12-month period. Such behavior is classified as “continuous violence against the family” in the Texas Penal Code, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, in certain cases involving first-time offenders, the court may agree to a “deferred adjudication” of the defendant, placing him on a term of probation in lieu of entering a formal judgment of guilt.

Court Sentences Defendant to 8 Years Following New Domestic Violence Allegations

Deferred adjudication is not a “get out of jail free” card, however. During probation it is critical that the defendant not commit any additional offenses–especially another act of domestic violence. If this happens, the district attorney can ask the judge to “adjudicate” the original charge and sentence the defendant accordingly.

And when determining if a defendant committed another act of domestic violence while on probation–or “community supervision” as it is called in Texas–the judge need only find the new allegations true by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a lower burden of proof than the traditional “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in most criminal trials. Since many domestic violence cases come down to a “he said/she said,” in practice the lower standard means the judge basically decides which side he or she considers more credible.

Consider this recent domestic violence case from Fort Worth. The defendant in this case was accused of assaulting his now ex-wife at least three times over a 12-month period, sufficient to qualify for a “continuous violence” felony charge. The defendant entered a guilty plea in exchange for deferred adjudication. (Note that you cannot receive deferred adjudication in Texas if you ask for a jury trial.)

About a year into his probation, prosecutors filed a motion to adjudicate the defendant’s guilt, citing evidence he committed two additional assaults against his ex-wife. The state’s evidence largely consisted of the ex-wife’s testimony. In one incident, the ex-wife said the defendant grabbed her neck and choked her. She took pictures of her neck afterward and sent them to her sister. In the second incident, the ex-wife said the defendant “slammed her hand in a door multiple times,” fracturing her hand.

The defendant denied the new allegations. His attorney cross-examined the ex-wife and pointed out inconsistencies in her statements. Nevertheless, the trial judge found her credible and held the new domestic allegations were true. The court then proceeded to sentence the defendant to 8 years in prison for the original domestic violence charges. The Texas Second District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding it was ultimately responsible for resolving any conflicting evidence and assessing witness credibility.

Have You Been Accused of Domestic Violence?

Prosecutors and judges take domestic violence charges extremely seriously. If you are facing charges, do not think you will be able to simply “tell your side of the story” and make the whole thing go away. You need to work with an experienced Houston domestic violence attorney who understands the criminal justice system. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 if you live in the Houston, Galveston, or League City areas and need representation in a domestic violence or any criminal defense matter.