The Texas statutes concerning domestic violence have dramatically changed over the last few decades, and there are likely more changes on the way. These laws now provide harsher penalties for abusers, but the state has also developed programs to help change the offender’s behavior and prevent future acts of family violence. With all the changes, many people believe that police will automatically arrest the alleged abuser when they are called to a domestic violence scene. However, this is not the case.
Although Texas does not have a mandatory arrest policy for domestic violence calls, there are some things you should know.
In Texas, three different crimes of domestic violence are recognized:
Domestic assault: Causing or threatening bodily injury against a family or household member. In addition to physical violence, actions such as yelling or breaking things may also result in a domestic assault charge.
Aggravated domestic violence: Causing “serious” bodily injury or using a weapon. Bone fractures, concussions, burns and scars are examples of what might constitute serious bodily injury under Texas domestic violence laws.
Continuous violence against the family: Two or more domestic violence assaults in a 12-month period. The accused does not have to have been arrested or convicted of the previous assaults, nor do the assaults have to be on the same family member.
Domestic violence is when an act of violence occurs against someone in your family – most often a spouse or child, a household member or someone you are dating. Generally, there must be some kind of relationship. It might even be a past relationship.
Warrantless arrests for Domestic Violence
Until 1981, police officers would not make an arrest in a domestic violence case without a court order unless the officer actually witnessed the violence. The law changed in ’81, allowing warrantless arrests in cases of domestic violence provided the officer has probable cause.
The key question here is, what constitutes probable cause to arrest someone for domestic violence? Perhaps there is an eyewitness account from a third party who saw the act of violence. Perhaps the victim has injuries consistent with the allegations being made. Perhaps there are broken objects or evidence of a physical altercation.
Ultimately, it is not the police officer’s job to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as that is the role of the prosecutor. While police are not required to make an arrest when called to a domestic violence scene, some may err on the side of caution in order to protect the alleged victim, and they have to power to do so.
Remember, if police are called and you have been accused of domestic violence, you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to try to explain the situation, as that could make matters worse. You also have the right to contact an attorney at 210-888-9653 to defend against the allegations.
San Antonio’s Domestic Violence Task Force
The San Antonio Police Department’s Crisis Response Team has been created with the sole focus of addressing domestic violence. The CRT has members at every police substation who are trained to deal with the unique circumstances that come with domestic violence calls. If you have been accused of domestic violence in San Antonio, you will likely have interactions with one of these specially trained police officers.
Emergency phone call interruption
Interfering with an emergency phone call is a misdemeanor. If someone calls 911 to report a domestic violence incident and the call is dropped or interrupted, most Texas police departments will send personnel to the address. This is to make sure the abuser did not prevent the victim from making the call. Repeat offenders can be charged with a felony and sent to a state jail.
Domestic Violence Protective orders
It was once common for only family members to be granted protective orders. In Texas, the law has since been expanded to include dating relationships, stalking victims, pets and third parties.
If you have been notified of a protective order or temporary order against you, it is critical that you follow it. Do not violate protective orders or temporary orders to talk to the other person to try to work things out or to ask about dropping the charges. You might face even more serious charges for violating the court order.
A domestic violence charge is a serious problem
If you are convicted of a domestic violence crime, the penalties are severe. You could have to pay large fines or even spend time behind bars. You will have this mark on your record. Even if you are granted treatment instead of punishment, there will still be costs. A conviction might also hinder your right to own firearms and make you ineligible for financial aid. Even before you are convicted, you may be at risk of job loss or other problems just for being accused and arrested.
It is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to protect your rights and give you options for your situation. Do not talk to law enforcement without an attorney present to prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations. No matter the reason for your charge or arrest, speaking with an attorney is one of the best ways to protect your rights and understand your legal options.