Whether you’ve been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, here is what to expect from the process of an assault family member case.
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The Defendant (person charged) must first post bond before we can begin to speak to any of the parties at all about the case. The process is slightly different depending on whether you have already been arrested or not.
If the person charged was not arrested at the scene, he or she must post bond before we can begin working on this case. The district attorney (DA) and judge won’t discuss the facts of the case at all while there is an open warrant pending. Here’s the process:
- First, hire an attorney to begin this process, then set up an account with a bail bondsman. Houston assault family violence attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss recommends Burns Bail Bonds, (713) 224-7049. They will get your information and set up your credit so that we can go into the court together when we are ready.
- Once those 2 things are in place, we will confirm that the judge of your court will be there on the day we can both agree to meet and we will set up a time to meet in court to approach the judge with the DA to have the judge set the bond amount.
- The DA will print out a Motion for Emergency Protection (MOEP), which is standard in every single assault family member case and cannot be avoided at this point. This is the reason that the bond cannot be set until you are taken into custody.
- You will be expected to sign the MOEP, which requires you to not have contact with the “complaining witness”/victim in the case. This includes not residing together, talking on the phone, texting or having any type of contact at all.
- After we are done with all of the bond issues, a week or two later, we can discuss this and possibly get the judge to amend the MOEP if necessary for you to move back home.
Every judge sets different bond amounts based on what they feel is necessary. We will argue to help make it as low as possible.
The case begins after bond is in place. At the first real court date in an arraignment setting, the judge is really just the “referee” and only rules on things that we ask them to. This is really between us and the DA’s office.
Aside from the matter of the bond, the judge is out of the picture for the most part unless the case goes to trial.
Examining the Evidence
The next thing we need to do is request evidence from the DA’s office. We never want to start telling your side of the story until we have seen all of the evidence. This can take a long time to get.
Here are the things we will be waiting for:
- Police reports (usually available pretty quickly)
- 911 calls (usually available within 1 to 2 months)
- Photos, if any were taken
- Body worn cameras. Police cameras from the incident that record everything that was said when they came out. these take the longest — about 4 to 5 months currently. Once we get them, we have to watch and transcribe them, which also takes a few weeks.
Complaining Witness Statements
The complaining witness’s statements about what happened almost always are different — in fact, the majority of the assault family member cases we handle have victims who want the charges dropped and do not want to prosecute. That is the “normal” situation in most cases.
When the DA’s Office calls to speak to the complaining witness, they should NOT avoid those phone calls. Nothing will ever be resolved in this case until they speak to the DA’s Office. They must tell the DA’s Office what they want to happen, even if they are afraid to speak up.
The complaining witness will NOT get into any trouble if they say that they were not being truthful when they spoke to police. They will NOT be charged for filing a false report (although the DA’s Office could threaten that it’s a possibility, but it’s very, very unlikely to ever happen. We have never seen it).
They may have to tell their story several times to several different DA’s over the time period that this goes on.
Playing the Waiting Game
These cases take a long time to get resolved. We must wait until all of the evidence is in before evaluating the case and telling the DA the situation from our perspective. During this time period, we need our clients to provide us with any additional evidence they have that supports their version of the events, including writing a page or two letter to us that explains what happened so we can understand it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Assault Family Violence Charges
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. Family violence can also be defined as any other type of threatening behavior that puts another member of the family or household in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.
The penalties for family violence charges in Texas depend on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. If the alleged victim sustained no physical injuries or only minor injuries, the defendant may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. If the alleged victim sustained more serious injuries, the defendant can be charged with a felony, which is punishable by two years to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Yes, women can be charged with domestic violence in Texas. The law does not discriminate based on gender.
Yes, a family violence conviction can affect child custody in Texas. In many cases, the court will order that the defendant have no contact with the children if there is a finding of family violence or require supervised visitation.