How To Defend a Domestic Violence Assault Charge in Austin

Man in handcuffs

Allegations of domestic violence, referred to as assault family violence under Texas law, are extremely serious. The consequences associated with a conviction for assault family violence under Texas law can have life-long implications and therefore require a specialized approach when defending anyone accused of assault family violence.

As with every case, reviewing in detail case-specific evidence in a domestic violence matter is crucial—injuries, broken furniture, and the history between the parties. Our Austin criminal defense team is led by Attorney Rick Cofer, a former prosecutor in the Travis County District Attorney’s Family Violence Unit. We have the skill and experience you need to fight domestic violence criminal charges in Austin and throughout Texas.

Contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC today if you or a loved one has been arrested for assault family violence in the Austin area.

The Error of Preemptive Arrests

The first step when defending an allegation of domestic violence is understanding that, unlike with other charges, police almost always make an arrest on the spot. Many law enforcement agencies require this, under the theory that the safest first step is to remove any threat, but that often means the police get it wrong.

Police make assumptions when responding to the scene that are not always justified by the evidence. For example, just because someone calls 911 doesn’t mean that person is the victim. Likewise, if a neighbor reported a domestic dispute, it does not mean any abuse actually occurred.

Our firm frequently sees assault family violence cases involving the following circumstances:

Abuser Used the 911 Call Against Their Victim

Serial abusers know perfectly well that calling 911 sets them up as a victim and thus calling 911 can actually be a sign that the other party is the one being abused. Quite often, the abuser in a relationship will intentionally provoke, antagonize, and belittle their partner to solicit a violent response. The abusive party will then call the police as a method of physical and psychological control, asserting a deeper form of control over their victim. The abuser can then request charges be dismissed or otherwise “save” their victim, which will be used in the future in two ways: first, as a tool to evoke guilt or gratitude that they were rescued from the legal system, and second as a threat that the abuser will call the police again, and a record of a prior arrest will count against the truly abused party.

In such a case, Mary (not her real name) was arrested twice for assaulting her boyfriend Jim. Jim provided the state with dozens of videos of Mary upset as evidence of how angry she can get. However, a deeper look at their relationship dynamic revealed that Jim was actually the abuser. Jim is 25 years older than Mary and controlled her every movement, secretly recording her and using calls to the police to intimidate her into submission, then cancelling those calls as a sign of benevolence.

No Abuse Actually Occurred

There are other ways to defend a domestic violence case—especially when there is no real abuser in the relationship. Because law enforcement is so quick to arrest someone on scene, often someone is arrested when no actual crime has occurred. Alcohol, frankly, is a big factor in many domestic violence allegations. There are often cases where a couple is drinking and gets into a verbal dispute. Maybe one pushes the other or one falls and gets hurt. If a neighbor calls the police to report the altercation, one of the couple will doubtless be arrested at the scene, even if the neither of the parties have the intention or desire to see the other arrested, let alone charged with a crime.

How We Fight Allegations of Domestic Violence

One of the most important things to understand when defending an allegation of assault family violence is that rule of evidence in these types of cases is unique. The statute allowing admission of evidence in Texas domestic violence cases is much broader than in most other criminal trials, allowing the defense attorney to paint a fuller picture of the relationship between the accuser and the defendant.

Proving Who the Real Victim Is

In cases where the accused is the real victim, this rule of evidence is incredibly helpful. First, your attorney can meet with the prosecutor and explain that the defendant is actually the victim in the relationship and that dismissing the charges is the right thing to do. If the prosecutor remains unconvinced, your attorney can point out that all the evidence they have collected that demonstrates who the real victim is will be admissible at trial, making their case unwinnable.

Dismissing a Case Where No Abuse Occurred

In instances where no abuse occurred, a skilled defense attorney can collect an affidavit (sworn statement) from the person the police have identified as the “victim” and present it to the prosecution showing that not only does their so-called victim not want to prosecute, but if they are forced to testify, they will say their partner didn’t assault them.

Such an affidavit isn’t dispositive – the state ultimately decides whether or not to prosecute a crime, not the alleged victim – but it can be persuasive. A prosecutor will be hesitant to go to trial if they know their main (and possibly only) witness will say there was no crime.

Get Skilled Defense from Experienced Domestic Violence Lawyers in Austin, TX

Even where the case looks strong for the prosecution, there is plenty we can do. Cofer & Connelly’s team approach and mitigation capabilities mean that a one-off incident can be overshadowed by an impressive mitigation packet that paints a full picture of the client. Remember, to the prosecution, folks charged with a crime are a name, a number, and an allegation, little more. We work hard to make sure they see our clients as the people they are, making it much easier to obtain a favorable resolution.

The reality is that someone can live a law-abiding life for thirty, forty, or fifty years and suddenly find themselves in handcuffs over a misunderstanding at home. Their first arrest and trip to jail is a whirlwind of confusion and fear, understandably. The assault family violence charge is quick to be leveled by authorities—but it doesn’t have to result in a conviction or leave any kind of permanent stain on a person’s record.

When approached with a detailed review of the evidence and knowledge of both domestic violence cases and the jurisdiction in which the charge is being brought, there is every reason to trust that what feels at first like a nightmare can end positively.

Contact our skilled domestic violence attorneys in Austin today if you have been arrested for assault family violence in Texas.