Domestic violence, or family violence as it is called in the Texas Family Code, is a common kind of criminal case that can cause widespread problems for entire families. A person who has been arrested for a domestic violence offense can face extreme confusion about what will occur in their case and how seriously they need to take the process.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy presents this page as a resource for those who are trying to understand what they can expect in their domestic violence case. It is important to keep in mind that every case is different and any case could possibly take an unexpected turn other than what is outlined here.
Were you recently arrested for an alleged domestic violence offense in Garland, Irving, Dallas, or a different community in Dallas County? Do not wait to find yourself a hard-working criminal defense attorney for assistance in fighting your criminal charges.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy has defended hundreds of clients accused of various family violence offenses and we have helped many of the same people get the criminal charges reduced or dismissed. You can have us examine your own case and talk about everything that will happen when you call (972) 233-5700 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.
Texas Family Code § 71.003 defines the term family as including “individuals related by consanguinity or affinity, individuals who are former spouses of each other, individuals who are the parents of the same child, without regard to marriage, and a foster child and foster parent, without regard to whether those individuals reside together.” Two individuals are related to each other by consanguinity if one is a descendant of the other or they share a common ancestor, and two individuals are related to each other by affinity if they are married to each other or the spouse of one of the individuals is related by consanguinity to the other individual.
Under Texas Family Code § 71.004, family violence is defined as:
- an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself;
- abuse, as that term is defined by Texas Family Code § 261.001(1)(C), (E), (G), (H), (I), (J), (K), and (M), by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or
- dating violence, as that term is defined by Texas Family Code § 71.0021.
Texas Family Code § 261.001 defines abuse as follows for the relevant sections:
- (C) physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation is given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm;
- (E) sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children under Section 21.02, Penal Code, indecency with a child under Section 21.11, Penal Code, sexual assault under Section 22.011, Penal Code, or aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021, Penal Code;
- (G) compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by Section 43.01, Penal Code, including compelling or encouraging the child in a manner that constitutes an offense of trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(7) or (8), Penal Code, prostitution under Section 43.02(b), Penal Code, or compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a)(2), Penal Code;
- (H) causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene as defined by Section 43.21, Penal Code, or pornographic;
- (I) the current use by a person of a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child;
- (J) causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code;
- (K) causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child as defined by Section 43.25, Penal Code;
- (M) forcing or coercing a child to enter into a marriage.
Under Texas Family Code § 71.0021, dating violence is defined as an act, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, by an actor that:
- is committed against a victim or applicant for a protective order with whom the actor has or has had a dating relationship; or because of the victim’s or applicant’s marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage; and
- is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.
A dating relationship means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on consideration of the length of the relationship; the nature of the relationship; and the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
Overview of Court Process in Domestic Violence Cases
In general, the domestic violence case will unfold as follows:
- Making a criminal complaint — Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 5.04 establishes that the “primary duties of a peace officer who investigates a family violence allegation or who responds to a disturbance call that may involve family violence are to protect any potential victim of family violence, enforce the law of this state, enforce a protective order from another jurisdiction as provided by Chapter 88, Family Code, and make lawful arrests of violators.” Law enforcement will typically offer a sworn statement in filing a criminal complaint against an alleged offender in a domestic violence case.
- Charges sent to the prosecutor for review — After criminal charges have been filed, it is then the prosecutor they are assigned to who reviews the case and determines the next steps that will be taken. The prosecutor could seek an arrest warrant when an alleged offender was not arrested at the scene of an alleged offense.
- Arresting the alleged offender — If a prosecutor seeks an arrest warrant for an alleged offender, then that person will usually be taken into custody by the local law enforcement agency.
- Court appearance — The alleged offender is taken into court and is informed of the charges against them.
- Setting bail — The court will decide what bail the alleged offender must post to be released and may also outline measures to detain an alleged offender if bail is posted.
- Grand jury — A prosecutor may present the case to a private proceeding in which jurors decide whether there is sufficient evidence to take the case to trial.
- Pretrial hearing — The preliminary hearing will be used to allow a prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge to examine the evidence and criminal charges to determine if the case can proceed to trial.
- Plea bargaining — A defense lawyer and prosecutor will negotiate to avoid a trial through some sort of plea agreement if one can be reached.
- Trial — After a case is approved to head toward trial, then the day will arrive in which a prosecutor presents their case before a jury and the defense attorney gets a chance to defend the alleged offender’s innocence.
- Sentencing — If an alleged offender is convicted of a family violence offense, then the next appearance will be to receive their sentence from the court.
- Appeal — An alleged offender who is convicted of a domestic violence offense in one court may choose to appeal the decision to a higher court if there was an error in the decision.
Dallas, TX Court Process in Domestic Violence Case Resources
A Guide to the Texas Criminal Legal System for Family Violence Victims | TexasLawHelp.org— Visit this website to learn more about what you should do when a crime of family violence occurs. You can also find more information about steps in the criminal justice process. You can also find a link to a brochure created by the Texas Council on Family Violence.
Texas Attorney General | Family Violence | Liberty and Justice for Texas — On this section of the attorney general’s website, you can learn more about how prevalent family violence is in Texas. Also, find more information about who the victims of domestic violence are and what the effects of family violence are. You can read about the Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Program.
If you were arrested for a domestic violence crime in Dallas or a surrounding area of Dallas County, you will have to take swift and decisive action. Make sure that you are seeking an experienced criminal defense lawyer for your case.