An arrest for Houston Assault Family Violence (or Domestic Violence) can be a devastating experience to anyone. Whether the incident was a harmless situation that spun out of control, a gross misunderstanding, or a typical way of communicating between two people. The time after the arrest can be terrifying, as the criminal justice system is very complicated. Houston Assault Family Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson can make sure that your legal rights are protected. Attorney Johnson can determine whether police followed the proper legal procedures when arresting you and, when feasible, prove that the charges are unwarranted.
Being charged with any form of domestic violence is a very serious matter. Not only may you face jail time or probation, many domestic violence cases involve restraining orders, meaning you may have to leave your house and your family immediately – even if you own the house or pay the rent. In addition, a conviction or probated sentence that includes a finding of family violence will affect your right to possess any firearms or to obtain a hunting license.
You are entitled to the best legal defense possible. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can deliver that defense for you. You can contact Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson day or night, 24 hours/day 7 days/week and speak with him directly at (713) 222-7577. His Law Office is headquartered in Houston, with offices conveniently located in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Definitions of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence includes physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence. The relationships that most state domestic violence laws define as necessary for a charge of domestic assault or abuse include spouse or former spouse, persons who currently live together or who have lived together within the previous year, or persons who share a common child.
Definitions of criminal violence include physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
Violence by a man against his wife or intimate partner is often a way for a man to control “his woman.” Although domestic violence can occur between gay and lesbian couples, and by women against their male partners, by far the most common form is male violence against women.
Types of violence include:
- Common couple violence (CCV) which is not connected to general control behavior, but arises in a single argument where one or both partners physically lash out at the other.
- Intimate terrorism (IT) which can also involve emotional and psychological abuse. It is one element in a general pattern of control by one partner over the other. It is more common than common couple violence, more likely to escalate over time, not as likely to be mutual, and more likely to involve serious injury.
- Violent resistance (VR), which is sometimes interpreted as “self-defense,” is usually violence perpetrated by women against their abusive partners.
- Mutual violent control (MVC) which is a rare type of intimate partner violence that occurs when both partners use violence to battle for control.
- Situational couple violencewhich arises out of conflicts that escalate to arguments and then to violence. It is not connected to a general pattern of control. Although it occurs less frequently in relationships, and is less serious than intimate terrorism, it can be frequent and quite serious, even life-threatening.
Although domestic violence is sometimes explained as the result of the abuser losing control, many batterers do exhibit control over the nature and extent of their physical violence. They may direct their assaults to parts of their partners’ bodies that are covered by clothing so that any injuries will not be seen by others. Conversely, some batterers purposefully target their partners’ faces to compel isolation or to disfigure them so that “no one else will want them.” Batterers can often describe their personal limits for physical abuse. They may explain that while they have slapped their partners with an open hand, they would never punch them with their fists. Others admit to hitting and punching but report that they would never use a weapon.
Domestic violence often gets worse over time. One explanation for this is that increasing the intensity of the abuse is an effective way for batterers to maintain control over their partners and prevent them from leaving. The violence may also escalate because most batterers experience few, if any, negative consequences for their abusive behavior. Social tolerance of domestic violence thus not only contributes to its existence, but may also influence its progression and batterers’ definitions of the acceptable limits of their abuse.
Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in the United States as the statistics below indicate:
- Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually.
- Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crimes against women in 2001.
- In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, intimate partners killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.
- Access to firearms greatly increases the risk of intimate partner violence. Research suggests that abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners.
- Nearly half of all violent crimes committed against family members are crimes against spouses.
- Research indicates that 84% of spouse abuse victims are females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at are female.
- Wives are more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses; wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but made up 81% of all persons killed by their spouses.
- Slightly more than half of female domestic violence victims live in households with children under age 12. It is estimated that between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
- Fifty-six percent of women who experience any partner violence are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Twenty-nine percent of all women who attempt suicide are battered; 37% of battered women have symptoms of depression, 46% have symptoms of anxiety disorder, and 45% experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
Effects of domestic violence on women and children
Battered women suffer physical and mental effects from domestic violence. Battering causes more injuries to women than auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. It also threatens their financial wellbeing. They may miss work to appear in court or because of illnesses or injuries that result from the violence. They may have to move many times to avoid violence. Many battered women forgo financial security during divorce proceedings to avoid further abuse.
Battered women often lose social support. Their abusers isolate them from family and friends. Women who are being abused may isolate themselves from support persons to avoid the embarrassment that would result from discovery. Some battered women are abandoned by their churches when they separate from their abusers because some religious doctrines prohibit separation or divorce regardless of the severity of abuse.
When mothers are abused by their partners, the children are also affected. Children who witness domestic violence may feel confusion, stress, fear, and shame. They may think that they caused the problem or feel guilty for not protecting their mothers. They may themselves be abused or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are at risk for being physically abused or seriously neglected.
One-third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. They may cry excessively, be withdrawn or shy, have difficulty making friends or develop a fear of adults. Other consequences for children include excessive absences from school, depression, suicidal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, running away, committing criminal acts as juveniles and adults, and using violence to solve problems at school and home. The stress resulting from living with domestic violence can show up as difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting, over-achieving, behavior problems, withdrawing, stomach aches, headaches and/or diarrhea.
Domestic violence can carry over from one generation to the next. Boys who witness their fathers abuse their mothers are more likely to inflict severe violence as adults. Girls who witness their mothers being abused are more likely to tolerate abuse as adults than who girls did not grow up under these circumstances.
Domestic violence and alcohol and other drugs
There is little evidence for the widely-held belief that abusing alcohol causes domestic violence. Although research indicates that men who drink heavily do commit more assaults that result in serious physical injury, the majority of abusive men are not heavy drinkers and the majority of men who are heavy drinkers do not abuse their partners. Even for batterers who drink, there is little evidence to suggest that drinking causes abusive behavior. In 76% of physically abusive incidents, there is no alcohol involved, and there is no evidence to suggest that alcohol use or dependence is linked to the other non-violent behaviors that are part of the pattern of domestic violence. It is true, however, that when cultural norms and expectations about male behavior after drinking include boisterous or aggressive behaviors, individual men are more likely to engage in such behaviors when under the influence of alcohol than when sober.
There is a pervasive belief that alcohol lowers inhibitions and a historical tradition of holding people who commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs less accountable than those who commit crimes in a sober state. Historically, society has not held batterers accountable for their abusive behavior. They are held even less accountable for battering perpetrated when they are under the influence of alcohol. The alcohol provides a ready and socially acceptable excuse for their violence.
Evolving from the belief that abusing alcohol or other drugs causes domestic violence is the belief that treating the chemical dependency will stop the violence. However, research indicates that when batterers are in treatment, the abuse continues and often escalates during recovery, creating more danger to the victim than existed prior to treatment. In the cases in which battered women report that the level of physical abuse decreases, they often report a corresponding increase in threats, manipulation and isolation.
As noted earlier, domestic violence is often explained as a loss of control by the batterer. However, even when alcohol or other drugs are involved, the experiences of battered women contradict this view. Battered women report that even when their partners appear uncontrollably drunk during a physical assault, they routinely exhibit the ability to sober up remarkably quickly if there is an outside interruption, such as police intervention.
- Of the
32.1 million nonfatal violent crimes that took place between 1998 and 2002, 30% of victims said the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- An additional 29.2% indicated the offender was sober at the time, and 40.8% said they did not know.
- A larger percentage of family violence victims (38.5%) reported the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident than did nonfamily violence victims (28.9%).
- Offenders who abused their boyfriend or girlfriend were more likely than other types of nonfamily violence offenders to be drinking or using drugs. Four out of 10 (41.4%) offenders involved in violence with a boyfriend or girlfriend were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, compared to 26.3% of offend-ers involved in violence against a friend or acquaintance and 29.3% of stranger violence.
- Excluding the 19.5% of family violence victims who did not know whether the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, approximately 2.8 million victims of family violence were able to indicate whether the offender was or was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In nearly half the incidents, family violence victims reported the offender had been using drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense.
Interventions with substance-abusing batterers
If batterers use alcohol or other drugs, these problems should be addressed separately and concurrently. This is critical not only to maximize the victim’s safety, but also to prevent the battering from precipitating relapse or otherwise interfering with the recovery process. True recovery requires much more than abstinence. It includes adopting a lifestyle that enhances emotional and spiritual health, a goal that cannot be achieved if the battering continues.
Self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous promote and support emotional and spiritual health and have helped many alcoholics get sober. These programs, however, were not designed to address battering and are not sufficient, by themselves, to motivate batterers to stop their abuse. It is critical that any treatment plan for chemically dependent men who batter include attendance at programs designed specifically to address the attitudes and beliefs that encourage their abusive behavior.
When abusive men enter substance abuse treatment programs, their partners are often directed into self-help programs such as Al-Anon or co-dependency groups. However, these resources were not designed to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence and often inadvertently cause harm to battered women. The goals of these groups typically include helping alcoholics’ family members to focus on their own needs, practice emotional detachment from the substance abusers, and identify and stop protecting their partners from the harmful consequences of addiction. Group members are encouraged to define their personal boundaries, set limits on their partners’ behaviors, and stop protecting their partners from the harmful consequences of addiction. While these strategies and goals may be very useful for women whose partners are not abusive, for battered women such changes will likely result in an escalation of abuse, including physical violence.
Battered women are often very sensitive to their partners’ moods as a way to assess their level of danger. They focus on their partners’ needs and cover up for them as part of their survival strategy. These behaviors are not dysfunctional but are life-saving skills that protect them and their children from further harm. When battered women are encouraged to stop these behaviors through self-focusing and detachment, they are being asked to stop doing the things that may be keeping them and their children most safe.
Myths Regarding Domestic Violence
“Domestic Violence” can be defined in legal and clinical terms. For clinical purposes, domestic violence is “assaultive behavior.” Domestic violence generally represents a pattern of behavior rather then a single isolated event. The pattern of behavior can take on many different forms, all of them involving physical violence or threats of physical violence. The violence may be accomplished through the use of hand, feet, weapons, or other objects.
The National Institute of Justice estimates that a woman is battered every 18 seconds in the United States. Some studies have suggested that between 35 and 50 percent of the nation’s couples have experienced at least one violent incident in their relationship.
Historically, the problem of violence in the home has been surrounded by a number of myths and misconceptions, which has perpetuated spouse abuse in society and has hampered the effective response of law enforcement.
Some of the most common myths and misconceptions are briefly addressed below.
Domestic Violence is a Private “Family Matter”
Some feel that violence between people in intimate relationships is somehow “different” than violence between strangers. The privacy of the marital relationship and the family unit has been elevated above the prohibitions against violence contained in existing laws. Nevertheless, a spouse has no right under existing laws to physically abuse their spouse in any manner.
Domestic Violence is Usually Provoked by the Victim
This myth stems from a belief that men have the right to discipline their spouses for behavior that the man does not approve of. Most studies agree that mutual combat or provocation is not the cause of domestic violence. Indeed, verbal “provocation,” no matter how severe, should never be a justification for violence. The failure of a batterer to take responsibility for his violent behavior and the victim’s tendency for self-blame should not lead society to the same erroneous conclusions. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it is women who are being routinely and severely victimized by men. To be sure, abused men do exist and must be protected, but the incidents of husband and boyfriend battering are rare.
Battered Women are Masochistic
Some believe that if battered women were really abused, they would leave. Others believe that if victims of abuse wished to end the abuse, they could simply seek outside help and leave the relationship. These views reflect an ignorance regarding the dynamics of abusive relationships. Battered women have often been in the relationships for a significant period of time and have strong mental and emotional ties. Often children are involved and the battered spouse must resolve how to provide for her children if she were to leave the abusive relationship and take her children with her. Battered women face enormous pressures to remain in an abusive relationship, including economic dependency, lack of support from relatives and friends, and threats of increased violence if any action is taken against their abuse. For a victim, low self-esteem further compounds the problem of removing herself from an abusive relationship.
Batterers are Always Drug or Alcohol Abusers
Many believe that men who batter women are predominantly working class substance abusers. Experts, however, have determined that domestic violence spans every socioeconomic group and is not caused by substance abuse. Recent studies suggest that alcohol and drugs may increase the level of violence but do not precipitate the violence. The decision to use violence is often made before the batterer ingests the substance, which he will ultimately blame for his violence outburst. The drugs or alcohol, thereafter, becomes a convenient excuse for engaging in deviant behavior.
Understanding the Cycle of Domestic Violence
Relationships, which involve any level of physical violence generally, evidence a recurring cycle of behavior. The “cycle of violence” in a violent relationship consists of three stages:
(1) the tension building phase
(2) the acute battering episode and
(3) the aftermath: loving respite.
Tension Building Phase
The first phase is a tension-building stage. The woman senses the man becoming edgy and more prone to react negatively to any trivial frustration. Many women learn to recognize incipient violence and try to control it by becoming nurturing and compliant or by staying out of the way.
A woman often views the building rage in her partner as being directed toward her and internalizes the job of keeping the situation from exploding. If she does her job well, he will become calm; if she fails, it is her fault. A woman who has been battered over time knows that the tension building stage will aggravate, but denies this knowledge to help herself cope with her partner’s behavior. As the tension builds, he becomes more fearful that she will leave him; she may reinforce this fear by withdrawing from him to avoid inadvertently setting off the impending violence.
Acute Battering Episode
The second phase in the pattern of violence is the explosion. Many men report that they do not start out wanting to hurt the woman but want only to teach her a lesson. This is the stage where police, the victim, or the batterer may be killed. The violence may involve pushing, shoving, shaking, or pulling hair. It may involve hitting with an open hand or a closed fist.
The violence may be over in a moment or last for minutes or hours. There may be visible injuries, but often an experienced batterer will leave no marks. The violence attack rarely takes a single consistent form. Most women are extremely grateful when the battering ends. They consider themselves lucky that it was not worse, no matter how bad their injuries are. They often deny the seriousness of their injuries and refuse to seek immediate medical attention.
Aftermath: Loving Respite
The third phase is a period of calm, loving, contrite behavior. The man is genuinely sorry for what he has done. His worst fear is that his partner will leave him so he tries as hard as he can to make up for his brutal behavior. He really believes he can control himself and will never again hurt the woman he loves. The battered woman wants to believe she will no longer have to suffer abuse. His reasonableness and his loving behavior during this period support her wish that he can really change. He lets her know that he would fall apart without her. So, she feels responsible for her own conduct that led to the beating and also responsible for his well being.
Victims will most frequently enter the criminal justice system after an acute battering episode; the “loving respite” phase usually follows immediately. Both parties may be horrified by what has happened. Both feel guilty about the event and both resolve to never let it happen again. The batterer very typically will treat the victim with apparent respect, love, and affection. This is a great relief to the victim and is precisely what the victim has wanted out of their relationship all along.
This “loving respite” phase makes criminal prosecution difficult. As long as the batterer continues to behave affectionately, the victim may become increasingly reluctant to jeopardize such good behavior by cooperating with the prosecution. A victim-witness advocate who understands the dynamics of the battering cycle can effectively intervene by reminding the victim of similar remorseful periods in the past, predicting a return to the tension building phase, and explaining the likelihood of more frequent and severe injuries.
Domestic Violence Penalties
A family violence conviction can lead to numerous life-altering and long-term penalties, including up to one (1) year in jail, fines up to $4000.00, anger management or family violence classes, probation, and a finding of family violence that may affect the custody of your children. If you have a prior family violence conviction, you could be facing up to ten (10) years in prison, as well as a fine up to $10,000.00. The penalties also increase if the violence is aggravated in any way with a weapon or if you cause an injury to a child. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be prohibited from contacting the complainant for an extended period of time, thereby preventing you from spending time with your loved one.
Unlike most criminal offenses in Texas, you can never seal your criminal record if you are convicted of a family violence crime or accepted deferred adjudication with a finding of family violence. To avoid these significant penalties, it is critical that you contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm. He is skilled and experienced in these very sensitive cases.
Defined in Domestic Violence Civil LawsFam. Code §§ 71.004; 71.0021
‘Family violence’ means:
- 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 § 261.001, by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household
‘Dating violence’ means an act by an individual that is against another individual with whom that person has or has had a dating relationship and that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the individual in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.
Defined in Criminal Laws
Penal Code § 25.07
A person commits an offense if, in violation of a condition of bond set in a family violence case and related to the safety of the victim or the safety of the community, an order issued under article 17.292, Code of Criminal Procedure, an order issued under § 6.504, Family Code, chapter 83, Family Code, if the temporary ex parte order has been served on the person, or chapter 85, Family Code, or an order issued by another jurisdiction, the person knowingly or intentionally:
- Commits family violence or an act in furtherance of an offense under §§ 22.011, 22.021, or 42.072
- Directly with a protected individual or a member of the family or household in a threatening or harassing manner
- A threat through any person to a protected individual or a member of the family or household
- In any manner with the protected individual or a member of the family or household except through the person’s attorney or a person appointed by the court, if the violation is of an order described by this subsection, and the order prohibits any communication with a protected individual or a member of the family or household
- Goes to or near any of the following places as specifically described in the order or condition of bond:
- The residence or place of employment or business of a protected individual or a member of the family or household
- Any child care facility, residence, or school where a child protected by the order or condition of bond normally resides or attends
- Possesses a firearm
‘Family violence,’ ‘family,’ ‘household,’ and ‘member of a household’ have the meanings assigned by chapter 71, Family Code.
Persons Included in the Definitions
Fam. Code §§ 71.0021; 71.003; 71.005; 71.006
‘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
- The frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship
A casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context does not constitute a ‘dating relationship.’
‘Family’ includes individuals related by consanguinity or affinity, as determined under §§ 573.022 and 573.024, Government Code; 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.
‘Household’ means a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are related to each other. ‘Member of a household’ includes a person who previously lived in a household.
Building a Strong Defense
Many domestic violence or spousal abuse charges occur during the divorce process or in child custody disputes. Unfortunately, in these situations one spouse may try to obtain an advantage over the other by making false or exaggerated accusations.
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work hard to build a strong defense against the domestic violence charges you face. We will carefully listen to you and investigate the events leading up to the charges. What is the context of the domestic abuse accusation? Did the alleged victim start the fight? Is there a custody issue at stake? Understanding the context of the event can help us prepare an effective defense strategy on your behalf. Our goal is to obtain a dismissal of the charges, a negotiated plea agreement that minimizes the penalties you face, or a not guilty verdict after trial.
In the recent past, several factors have caused Domestic Violence to emerge as a distinction within the assault category. If a defendant and the alleged victim are spouses or former spouses, related by blood or marriage, reside or have resided in the same household or have a child or children in common; then any assaults would be categorized as “Domestic”. This distinction requires that certain federal statutes are triggered and the defendant shall no longer be allowed to own or possess a firearm.
It is often mistakenly assumed by defendants, as well as victims, that the decision to prosecute lies with the victim. Many presume that if the two have reconciled then they may avoid prosecution by merely allowing the victim to inform the court or prosecuting attorney that they do not wish to prosecute or by simply not appearing in court in violation of the subpoena requiring their appearance. This naive assumption has led to many defendants failing to prepare a defense to the charges that may have otherwise been successfully defended. The prosecutor may insist that the victim testify and proceed without their consent. The victim’s cooperation with the defense is of course valuable in preparing for court and often in avoiding prosecution on a criminal offense. This must be utilized in conjunction with a strategy tailored around the specific facts and circumstances of the offense at hand, as well as parties involved. In order for this to occur it is essential that the defendant obtain legal representation and closely follow the advice of his or her counsel.
Domestic Violence is a serious problem in this country. Certainly, however, anyone can understand that relationships are hard and with added stress from financial problems, work related stress and of course drug or alcohol addiction people may do things for which they are not proud. When charged with such an offense it is essential that an individual begin immediately preparing a defense which may include mitigating measures. These may include a drug and alcohol assessment, counseling, anger management training or even alcoholics or narcotics anonymous meetings. It is for this reason that a consultation with an attorney experienced in defending these matters occurs prior to proceeding to court.
Contact Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson
It’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as you’ve been arrested. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner work can be done to prevent your charges from escalating into a conviction.
Harris County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Charles Johnson knows how frustrating and hopeless things may seem right now, but urges you not to give up hope. There are many viable defense strategies for fighting domestic violence charges, and many things that can be done to ensure your charges don’t spiral out of control. You can depend on Attorney Johnson to thoroughly investigate your charges, and trust that he’ll make it known to the judge if he finds anything that may indicate the accusations were fabricated. The Charles Johnson Law Firm is here for you, and will do whatever can be done to make sure this ordeal results in the best possible outcome!
If you have been accused of domestic violence, don’t try to fight your charges alone.
Contact Houston Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson for experienced and dependable representation. He can be reached directly around the clock, 7 days/week at (713) 222-7577.