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What You Need to Know If You Are on Probation for a Domestic Violence Charge

Houston-area prosecutors often pursue family violence enhancements to criminal charges in order to secure a more severe sentence for the defendant. But even with a domestic violence conviction, the judge may still sentence the defendant to a term of community supervision (probation). However, any violations of the terms of release can–and will–lead to jail time on the original charge.

Court Revokes Probation After Defendant Fails to Submit to Drug Test

Consider this recent case from here in Harris County. In September 2015, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge of assault with an enhancement for “continuous family violence,” which the Texas Penal Code defines as assaulting a family member–or someone with whom the defendant is in a “dating relationship”–at least twice over a 12-month period. Rather than sentence the defendant to jail immediately, the parties agreed to a five-year deferred adjudication. This is a special type of probation where, if the defendant successfully complies with the conditions of his release, no conviction is subsequently entered on the original charge.

Unfortunately, in this case the prosecution said the plaintiff failed to comply. Less than two years into the defendant’s five-year term, the state moved to adjudicate his guilt on the original domestic violence charges, citing at least three violations of his probation terms. Specifically, the prosecution said the defendant “failed to submit a urine sample” for alcohol and drug testing, made a “false report of a crime” to the Houston Police Department, and attacked a person “with whom he had a dating relationship.”

The trial judge agreed the defendant violated his probation. The court then sentenced the defendant to 10 years in prison on the original assault-continuous family violence charge. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support the findings that he violated probation.

The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals disagreed. In a September 27, 2018, opinion, the appeals court noted the defendant himself admitted to the first violation–failing to provide a required urine sample. The defendant argued the state “abandoned” this claim before the trial court. But in fact, the appeals court said the state only abandoned a related claim that the defendant later tested positive for alcohol use. There was no dispute that the defendant was required to submit to drug testing when required by his probation officer. He failed to do so. This alone provided sufficient grounds to find the defendant “violated the terms of his community supervision,” and the trial judge’s decision to adjudicate the defendant’s guilt on the domestic violence conviction. The appeals court therefore did not even both to consider whether there was sufficient evidence supporting the other two probation violations.

Get Advice from a Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer

As you can see, Texas prosecutors and judges take domestic violence seriously. If you are able to secure community supervision or deferred adjudication, you need to be vigilant in complying with any conditions the court spells out. And if you need advice or assistance from a qualified Houston domestic violence defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 280-0100.