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The Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Burglary

Although many people associate a burglar with a thief who breaks into someone’s house and steals their property, the legal definition of “robbery” is actually quite different. Under the Texas Penal Code, a person commits burglary if they enter someone else’s house without their consent and then commits (or attempts to commit) a felony, theft, or assault.

In the context of domestic violence, this means that if you enter your ex-partner’s house without their consent and attempt to assault them, you can be charged with a second-degree felony under Texas law.

Defendant Sentenced to 20 Years for Entering Ex-Girlfriend’s Apartment Without Her “Effective” Consent

Here is a recent example of where this happened. In Turner v. State, a 911 dispatcher received a call from a woman who claimed her ex-boyfriend–the defendant in this case–was “banging on her door and window attempting to gain access to her apartment.” Police responded and issued a “criminal trespass warning” to the defendant. This meant that if the defendant showed up again at his ex-girlfriend’s home, he would be arrested.

The following afternoon, there was a series of calls made to 911 that police traced back to the same woman who called to complain about the defendant the previous day. The woman later told police that the defendant “had entered her apartment and assaulted her in front of their daughter.” Police again responded and removed the defendant from the ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

The ex-girlfriend later signed a “non-prosecution affidavit,” explaining that she did not wish to testify against the defendant at trial. The district attorney still subpoenaed her to testify. At trial, she testified she let the defendant into her apartment and then he proceeded to assault her. She then said she signed the affidavit because she did not want the defendant, who was also the father of her children, to get into trouble.

A jury convicted the defendant of “burglary of a habitation” and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

On appeal, the defendant focused on the issue of consent. He maintained that he was in his ex-girlfriend’s apartment with her permission. If true, that would negate a necessary element of the burglary charge.

Indeed, when the ex-girlfriend testified at trial, she said that she consented to the defendant entering her apartment prior to the assault. But as the Court of Appeals explained, the jury was free to disbelieve this account in favor of prior accounts she gave to the police. And the jury could reasonably infer from these prior statements that the ex-girlfriend did not give her “effective consent” to the defendant’s presence in her apartment. That is to say, based on the prior trespass warning and the fact the defendant was banging and kicking the ex-girlfriend’s door, the jury could look at the overall context and determine the defendant effectively forced his way into the apartment.

Speak with a Houston Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today

Domestic violence cases often involve heat-of-the-moment actions that can have a serious, long-term impact on a defendant’s freedom. This is why you need to work with an experienced Houston domestic violence defense lawyer if you are facing any criminal charges stemming from such an incident. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need immediate advice or assistance in Houston, Galveston, or League City. Call (281) 280-0100