Assaults and domestic violence crimes in particular have always been hot topic crimes. Per the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) on average there are nearly thirteen million incidents per year of domestic violence.
Even so, assault and domestic violence incidents are on the rise, receiving a boost as the nation comes to grip with pandemic caused isolation. Isolation, financial concerns, employment concerns and family concerns are all heightened creating a perfect storm of sorts for an increase in domestic abuse and domestic violence.
If you find yourself in such a situation this is what you need to know.
The Law in Texas for Domestic Violence
There are a number of different Texas assault laws, but for purposes of this article, we will focus on Texas Penal Code Section 22.01 (Assault) which states:
*If you’re not interested in the statutory language of the law, scroll down for a summary)
Sec. 22.01. ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse; (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person's spouse; or(3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative. (b) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the offense is committed against:(2) a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code, if:(A) it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has been previously convicted of an offense under this chapter, Chapter 19 (murder), or Section 20.03 (kidnapping), 20.04 (aggravated kidnapping), 21.11 (indecency with a child), or 25.11 (continuous violence against the family) against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code; or(B) the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person's throat or neck or by blocking the person's nose or mouth;(7) a person the actor knows is pregnant at the time of the offense.(b-2) Notwithstanding Subsection (b)(1), an offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree if the offense is committed against a person the actor knows is a peace officer or judge while the officer or judge is lawfully discharging an official duty or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a peace officer or judge.(b-3) Notwithstanding Subsection (b)(2), an offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree if:(1) the offense is committed against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code;(2) it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has been previously convicted of an offense under this chapter, Chapter 19, or Section 20.03, 20.04, or 21.11 against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code; and(3) the offense is committed by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of the person by applying pressure to the person's throat or neck or by blocking the person's nose or mouth. (f) For the purposes of Subsections (b)(2)(A) and (b-3)(2):(1) a defendant has been previously convicted of an offense listed in those subsections committed against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Section 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, Family Code, if the defendant was adjudged guilty of the offense or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere in return for a grant of deferred adjudication, regardless of whether the sentence for the offense was ever imposed or whether the sentence was probated and the defendant was subsequently discharged from community supervision; and(2) a conviction under the laws of another state for an offense containing elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense listed in those subsections is a conviction of the offense listed.
Summary of domestic assault law: if you are suspected of domestic assault you can be charged with a class A misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail), a 3rd degree felony (up to 10 years in prison) (e.g. choking, pregnant victim, or previous assault conviction), or a 2nd degree felony (up to 20 years in prison) (e.g. choking + previous assault conviction). Serious stuff.
When the Police Come Out on a Domestic Abuse Call
In most instances the police are called out to the location of the reported domestic assault. This could be by the alleged victim, an eye witness, or a neighbor who overhears the commotion to name a few.
When the police arrive they are going to want to speak to the alleged victim, and you (if you are still on location). The police are most likely mic’ed up and wearing body cameras. This is important to know because whatever is said locks that person into the statement/s. In the heat of the moment with emotions running high, people typically aren’t at their best and have been known to say some outlandish, inconsistent stuff. We have even seen cases where the alleged victim, who initially called the police, talked their way into becoming the person arrested. Domestic assault crimes are often he said, she said situations where the officer subjectively concludes who is at fault. Many times when officer’s are dispatched to a location, the dispatcher has already given the officer a description of the “suspect”. In other officers subconsciously have already concluded who is at fault and if you are the suspect, anything you say will be later used against you.
If You Have Been Charged or Arrested For Assault
If you are not at the scene when the police arrive a warrant may be issued for your arrest. If this is the case, you need to contact a lawyer who can guide you through the process of lifting the warrant.
If you are arrested for domestic violence you will be taken down to the county jail and eventually appear in front of magistrate (judge). The magistrate will determine whether to give you a personal recognizance bond or a surety bond. A magistrate will also likely issue a emergency protective order.
What is an Emergency Protective Order in a Family Violence Case
To protect the alleged victim, the magistrate may (shall if a deadly weapon or serious bodily injury is involved) order the arrested person not to:
- commit additional family violence;
- stalk another person, including the victim;
- communicate directly or indirectly in a threatening or harassing manner with a member of the victim’s family or household (including the victim);
- go near the residence, work place, residence, school, or child-care facility of thevictim or a member of the victim’s family or household. possess a firearm (unless the alleged offender works full time as a licensed peace officer) for the duration of the order.
You will also be given your first court date, location, and time. At your first court date a judge may order additional no contact orders and then your case will be reset for three to four weeks.
Finding the Right Domestic Violence and Abuse Criminal Defense Attorney
1. Your Lawyer, should be a Criminal Defense Lawyer.
That is, your criminal defense lawyer should primarily practice criminal defense. You would not see an orthopedic surgeon if you were having heart problems, and you shouldn’t see a family lawyer or civil lawyer with your life, liberty, and freedom on the line.
2. Your Lawyer, should be a Criminal Defense Lawyer with experience in beating assault and domestic abuse cases.
3. Your Criminal Defense Domestic Violence Attorney should come with board certification.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization was established by the State bar of Texas and certifies twenty-one select areas of law. Of the nearly 100,000 attorneys in Texas, only 7,000 are board certified. This recognized specialization exists to acknowledge the most qualified attorneys in their respective area of law.
4. Your Criminal Defense Assault Attorney should be active in relevant defense organizations.
Any lawyer who is serious about their occupation and in turn serious about the results achieved will be active in organizations related to their craft. In Houston there is the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. In Texas there is the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Nationally there is the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. All of the above organizations provide guidance, assistance and support to criminal defense lawyers seeking to obtain the best possible results.
5. Your Criminal Defense Domestic Abuse Lawyer should be able to show you results.
It’s easy to talk a big game, but in this industry, it is the results that matter. Ask if the attorney has handled similar cases. Ask if the attorney can show you results from similar cases. A good criminal defense lawyer will be able to back up his or her results. How long has the firm been in business? A good criminal law firm will have continued business because their clients walk away satisfied, and subsequently refer new clients.
6. How much is the legal fee?
The all important question and unfortunately all too often the leading reason a person hires a particular lawyer. Understand lawyers, like cars, come in all different shapes, sizes, abilities and price. While you should seek the best criminal lawyer you can afford, you should not seek the cheapest. You get what you pay for! Think about it, an attorney’s fee reflects the confidence in that attorney’s ability. If they are cheap then they probably don’t place much value in their time, effort, or ability. If they are more expensive, the opposite holds true. While you may not be able to afford the most expensive attorney in town, you should expect to hire the most expensive criminal lawyer you can afford. You will thank yourself in the end.
Assault Criminal Lawyer Fee Arrangements.
Assault defense lawyer fees vary depending on many factors such as the nature and seriousness of the charge/s, the number of charges, the county the charges are pending, the stage of the charges, any prior criminal charges or convictions, and more.
The Non-Trial Criminal Attorney Fee
In a typical situation a person contacts an assault criminal lawyer because they have a warrant out for their arrest or they have been arrested and now out on bond. In these instances, most attorneys will charge a flat non-trial fee. Because of the stakes, and unlike divorce lawyers (hourly legal fee) or civil plaintiff lawyers (contingent fee), domestic violence criminal law firms choose flat fees because they typically know not only how much work is necessary to get the required result, but also understand the client and the client’s family have enough to worry about other than how much a phone call to their attorney is going to cost them. Flat fees eliminate grey area and has proven to be the best criminal lawyer fee structure.
While it will vary amongst lawyers, non-trial flat fees typically cover court appearances, client meetings, discussions and plea bargaining with the prosecutors, and pre-trial motions.
The Assault Attorney Trial Fee
Should the case eventually get to where the prosecutor is not willing to dismiss the assault case and you do not want to accept the deal the prosecutor is offering, the case will be set for trial. At this time, most assault lawyers will require additional legal fees or what is commonly referred to as a trial fee. Prior to hiring your criminal assault lawyer you should discuss the anticipated cost should the case have to go to trial.
Other Fee Factors to Know
- While most criminal attorneys break their fees down into non-trial and trial-fees, we are aware of some defense attorneys who do not do so, choosing instead to combine both the pre-trial and trial fee into one lump sum.
- Watch out for attorneys who charge by the court appearance (e.g. $250 per court appearance). No reputable criminal attorney we are aware of structures their legal fees this way.
- Depending on the type of case there can also be additional legal fees in the form of investigation fees. expert witness fees, record sealing or record erasing fees, bond violation fees, pretrial intervention violation, deferred adjudication violations, or probation violation fees (for example a battered spouse expert may be necessary in an assault case).
- Lastly, if you have not been arrested, but have been contacted by a police officer and are concerned, a criminal lawyer may charge an investigation fee. Often, if you retain a criminal attorney to contact the officer he or she may be able to keep charges from being filed or to convince the investigating officer to file less serious charges. While it does not mean your case is doomed if you have already spoken with the police, it is best to never speak to the police if you are under investigation or if you believe you may be under investigation. If you are caught off guard, it is best to tell the police “you’d be happy to cooperate with your attoney present.” You need not say anymore or less and you need to stick to your guns. Police are legally allowed to lie to try and get you to talk. Know your constitutionally protected rights and engage those rights.
If you have been charged with an assault, you should exhaust all resources to get the best domestic violence criminal defense attorney you can afford. Whether you like it or not, whether you are willing to accept it or not, the truth about the criminal justice system is that it is a money system. Those that can gather the finances are able to deploy more lawyers, more resources, and more tools to defeat the assault charges. That is the goal to win. Because of the grave consequences an assault conviction can carry, like loss of employment, divorce issues, custody issues, enhancements and stiffer penalties, etc. it is imperative you find the best assault criminal defenses lawyer you can afford!
Appearing For Court in an Assault Case
As previously mentioned your first court date will likely end in being reset for three to four weeks. You can expect this to occur a few times, especially if you are in it to get the best possible result. Like a fine wine, assault cases tend to garner better results over time. There are a number of reasons for this and your domestic violence attorney can explain the reasons to you.
Make sure you know where your court location is and that you show up on time and properly dressed (think Sunday’s best). When you arrive, have a seat in the courtroom and your attorney will arrive shortly to speak with the court, prosecutors.
How to Beat the Domestic Violence Charge
The goal in any domestic violence case is to win. That is, to get the charges dismissed and our attorneys at the Adamo & Adamo Criminal Defense Law Firm have received many dismissals in domestic violence cases.
Getting the Assault case dismissed based on legal reasons
- Witness recants;
- 911 call inadmissible;
- 911 caller did not see the alleged assault;
- Key witness not credible;
- Key witness unavailable.
Getting the Domestic Violence Case Dismissed, Mitigation Reasons
Young age of accused;
No prior criminal history of accused;
Accused is the sole provider for family;
Loss of employment if convicted;
Mental history of accused;
And much more.
Sam Adamo Jr. is an attorney at The Adamo & Adamo Criminal Defense Law Firm, a Houston based, family-owned law firm nationally known for high quality criminal defense.