Domestic violence charges of any kind are serious. But Texas law pays special attention to cases where the defendant is accused of strangling someone to whom are married to or in a “dating relationship.” Section 22.01(b)(2)(B) of the Texas Penal Code expressly makes it a third-degree felony to assault a protected individual by “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding” their “normal breathing or circulation of the blood…by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.”
Court Said Jury Could “Infer” Existence of Dating Relationship
How serious are the consequences for strangling a family member or dating partner? Consider this recent decision from a Texas appeals court. The defendant here received a 30-year prison sentence after a jury convicted him of strangling a woman outside a fast food restaurant in Amarillo.
The accuser lived with the defendant at the time of the attack. On the night in question, she testified that they got into an argument at the restaurant. At one point, she said the defendant “choked me or he had his hands around my neck.” She said she was unable to breathe because the defendant had “covered her mouth and nose.” A police officer who responded at the scene also testified that he saw “a lot of redness on the victim’s neck” and concluded that, based on his observations, the defendant had choked the accuser and cut off her breath “by the covering of the nose and the mouth.”
On appeal, the defense argued the accuser’s statements at trial were inconsistent as to the nature of the defendant’s attack. But the Texas Seventh District Court of Appeals said it was up to the jury to resolve those inconsistencies. In other words, it was free to believe the accuser even if there were possible “conflicts in the evidence.”
A second issue raised on appeal was whether or not the prosecution proved the defendant and the accuser were actually in a “dating relationship,” which was necessary to support the felony domestic-violence assault charge. At trial, the accuser testified she was “living with” the defendant and his brother, and that she and the defendant had “been together” for approximately six months prior to the attack. The police officer also gave testimony that suggested the defendant had represented the accuser as his “fiancé.”
Based on this, the appeals court said the jury could rationally “infer” there was a “dating relationship” between the defendant and the accuser, even if it was not “directly established” in the testimony.
Have You Been Charged With Domestic Violence? We Can Help
Juries often find accusers more sympathetic than defendants in domestic violence cases. This is why, if you are charged with assaulting a family member or dating partner, you need to work with an experienced Texas domestic violence defense attorney who will fight to make sure the jury hears your side of the story. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City if you need legal assistance right away, (281) 280-0100.