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A private family argument over finances, custody, or infidelity will sometimes deteriorate into a public domestic violence incident with little warning. The aftermath of these kinds of charges can have serious and long-term effects on your job, family, and other rights and freedoms. In addition to having a permanent criminal record, you may be incarcerated, fined, or placed on probation. You may also be restricted from contacting certain family members and lose certain privileges like possessing a gun or firearm.

In a large number of domestic violence cases, alleged “victims” wish to have the charges dropped or dismissed for various reasons. However, in Texas, only prosecutors and district attorneys have the power to drop a case. For this reason, those who have been charged with the crime of domestic assault should take this allegation extremely seriously. Just because a spouse or family member changes their mind and wishes to drop a charge doesn’t mean that it will be.

If you are facing a domestic violence charge, it’s vital you have a seasoned Houston criminal defense attorney in your corner. The professionals at The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp have the experience, knowledge and skill required to effectively protect your rights and liberties if you’ve been accused of domestic violence.

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Find out what is involved in your consultation process. Whatever crime you’ve been charged with, rest assured that Matt Sharp has the knowledge, experience and skill to ensure you get the best possible defense.

What is domestic violence?

According to Texas law (Texas Penal Code § 22.01) a person commits domestic violence if they “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” cause or threaten bodily injury to another person, including their spouse.

Domestic violence also occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another person that is regarded as offensive or provocative.

Physical abuse is the most common type of domestic violence charge. Examples of physically abusive behavior can include hitting, punching, shoving, and choking. However, other types of mistreatment can also be considered domestic violence, including sexual abuse, verbal abuse and emotional (psychological) abuse.

Spouses aren’t the only individuals who can be the victim of domestic violence. In addition to incidents between legally married spouses, Texas further defines the term “family” to include other relationships, such as:

  • Any persons related by blood or marriage
  • Former spouses
  • Parents of the same child
  • Foster parents/children
  • Dating partners
  • Anyone who has previously or currently lives in the same household (roommate)

An act of violence committed against any one of these individuals can constitute domestic violence and result in criminal charges.

Types of domestic violence in Texas

Looking for a Qualified Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Houston, Texas?

The state of Texas recognizes 3 types of crimes relating to domestic violence. Each of these charges have different definitions and punishments:

  1. Domestic assault. Domestic assault occurs when a person is violent or threatens imminent bodily injury against someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. This act must have been committed intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. Most first-time domestic assault crimes in Texas are charged as a Class A misdemeanor. If you have a prior record of assault, the charge may be elevated to a third-degree felony.
  2. Aggravated domestic assault. A domestic assault charge is elevated to “aggravated” if a person uses a deadly weapon (such as a gun, knife, brass knuckles, baseball bat, even a motor vehicle) to inflict serious bodily injury or threaten violence. Serious bodily injury differs from a regular “bodily injury” in that it encompasses grave harm such as amputation, paralysis, disfigurement, head injuries and broken bones. Most aggravated domestic assault crimes are charged as 1st or 2nd degree felonies.
  3. Continuous violence against the family. If a person commits more than 1 act of domestic violence in a year (12 months) or less, the charge of continuous violence against the family may apply. This charge can apply regardless of whether or not the alleged abuser was arrested and convicted previously, and if multiple individuals were assaulted. A charge of continuous violence against the family is a 3rd degree felony in Texas.

What are Texas’ domestic violence laws and penalties?

Here’s the bad news:

If you’re convicted of a domestic violence crime in Texas, the punishment assigned to you by the judge will depend on a number of factors and can range widely — from a Class A misdemeanor to a 1st degree felony. Factors such as your relationship to the defendant, your past criminal record and whether a weapon was involved will all ultimately play a role in determining your sentence.

For felony crimes, judges may be forced to follow mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, which include hefty fines and extensive jail time. The penalty category your criminal charge falls into greatly impacts the punishment that you will be served upon conviction.

In Texas, domestic violence offenses are punishable as follows:

  • Class A misdemeanor: up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine up to $4,000
  • 3rd degree felony: 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
  • 2nd degree felony: 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
  • 1st degree felony: 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000

In some cases, additional penalties (known as “restitution”) may be awarded to the victims of domestic violence to cover their medical bills, counseling and property damage.

What are possible defenses to a domestic violence charge?

Now for the good news:

Should you choose to hire us, the focus of our law firm will be to vigorously protect your rights and ensure the fair treatment of your case by the justice system. To accomplish, we will employ the best possible defense strategy based on the facts and details of your charge.

Here are a few examples of possible defenses we’ve successfully used in past domestic violence cases:

Unintentional or mistake

Perhaps you don’t deny that you were at least partly responsible for an injury suffered by your spouse or another person, but you didn’t intentionally harm them. If the bodily injury was caused accidentally or unintentionally, this doesn’t constitute domestic violence. Per Texas law, a person only commits domestic violence if they “intentionally” or “knowingly” harm another person. We can help defend you by investigating and proving your side of the story.

No offense occurred

False allegations are perhaps more common in domestic violence charges than any other type of case. People falsely report domestic violence for many reasons. Perhaps a spurned spouse or past dating partner is seeking revenge, or maybe the accuser is trying to gain leverage in a child custody or divorce battle. Whatever the motive, don’t make the mistake of dismissing the accusation as unimportant just because it never happened. Even if you know the truth, it’s up to you (and your legal team) to show that to the judge or investigators.

Lack of evidence

The prosecution has a tough burden of proof; they must prove that you committed domestic violence beyond a reasonable doubt. While a he said/she said scenario is enough to arrest you, it’s not enough to convict you. We can challenge the prosecution’s case from Day 1 and gather evidence that supports your defense. If the case against you is weak enough, we can convince the prosecutor to drop or dismiss the charges altogether.

Self-defense

When a police officer responds to a domestic violence complaint, the scene is often chaotic and confusing. They may have to make a quick decision about who to arrest, and in the process they might arrest someone who was merely defending themselves against the “primary aggressor.” Every Texan has the right to defend themselves from harm or assault. However, self-defense laws only apply when a person uses a reasonable amount of force to stop the attack. Proving that the amount of force you used for self-defense was appropriate can be a difficult battle. We can help you prove that you acted in self-defense.

Police misconduct

Often, police officers who are called to a domestic violence complaint are required to make an arrest to ensure the safety of the perceived victim. Many times, law enforcement will conduct a very brief and hurried investigation before making the decision to arrest someone for assault or domestic violence. If a mistake was made during this process or during arrest (such as the officer not reading your Miranda Rights or mishandling key evidence), then we may be able to get the entire case dismissed.

What type of assault charge do you face?

If you or a loved one have been arrested for or accused of domestic violence in Houston, you deserve a competent and aggressive defense attorney who will be dedicated to protecting your rights and reputation. Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp to protect your good name if you’ve been charged with any assault crime, including the following:

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Contact Houston domestic violence defense attorney Matt Sharp.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, make no mistake that police investigators and prosecutors are working this very moment to build a case against you. It’s vital that you start building your defense immediately.

There are a variety of defense techniques that are often effective against domestic violence charges. We will meet with your neighbors, acquaintances, or other relatives to gain a better understanding of how your family functions and pinpoint inconsistencies in the complainant’s statements. Additionally, medical specialists or previous incidents may be presented which could indicate that what you may have done was to simply defend yourself.

On the occasion that your charges are not dismissed, we can successfully negotiate with the prosecutor or judge for a lighter sentence in exchange for counseling, community service, deferred adjudication or anger management programs. When your livelihood is on the line, you deserve to have a knowledgeable Houston domestic violence attorney looking out for you. We invite you to learn more about how we can defend you by giving us a call. Your first consultation is free.

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