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What Evidence Is Needed to Prove Domestic Violence by Strangulation in Texas?

Domestic violence allegations can quickly lead to felony charges depending on the circumstances. Under Texas law, it is a second-degree felony when a person previously convicted of domestic violence is later charged with “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of” a family member “by applying pressure to the person’s throat or neck or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth.” If convicted, the accused faces up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Court Upholds 4-Year Prison Term for Austin Man Convicted of Strangling Girlfriend

It is critical to understand that evidence of strangulation, as defined above, is sufficient to support a conviction. The prosecution does not need to show the victim lost consciousness or suffered any additional ill-effects. The act of strangulation itself is what constitutes a felony.

For example, the Texas Third District Court of Appeals in Austin recently upheld the conviction and four-year prison sentence of a defendant convicted of family violence assault by strangulation. In this case, Griffith v. State, the defendant and his girlfriend were living together. One night in October 2017, the girlfriend called the police to report the defendant for assault.

According to the officer who responded to the call, the girlfriend told him that the defendant had “demanded sex.” When she declined, the girlfriend told the officer the defendant “became upset and grabbed her by the throat, punched her and threw her out of the van.” Although the girlfriend did not testify at trial, the judge allowed the jury to hear the officer’s description of this interview.

The officer said he contacted emergency medical services after noticing “visible injuries” on the girlfriend, including “[r]edness and fresh bruising to her throat” and “redness to her stomach and back.” The officer testified these injuries were “frequently a sign of strangulation.” The paramedic who later treated the girlfriend offered similar testimony. The jury also reviewed photographs taken of the girlfriend.

The jury ultimately found the defendant guilty. On appeal to the Third District, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence supporting his conviction. Specifically, the defendant challenged the credibility of his girlfriend’s initial statements to the police. The appeals court, however, said the jury was entitled to believe the officer’s recollection and the truth of the girlfriend’s statements to him. Additionally, the jury was well within its rights to accept the other evidence presented showing the girlfriend had been strangled. Contrary to the defense’s position, the Third District said, the prosecution was only “required to prove that [the defendant] impeded [his girlfriend’s] normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure to her throat or neck–proof of bodily injury per se–not that she suffered loss of consciousness or any other specific symptom.”

Speak with a Houston Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Today

Another critical lesson from this case is that just because an accuser elects not to testify at trial, that does not mean that a jury cannot convict a defendant on domestic violence charges. So if you are facing such allegations yourself, never assume that you will “get off” just because your accuser changes their mind about what happened. You still need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will zealously represent your interests in court. If you need immediate assistance, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today. Call (281) 280-0100.