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Success Stories: Assault Family Violence “Not Guilty” Jury Verdict

I experienced success with another Assault Family Violence case that I handled recently, so I thought I’d take some time to reflect on it. Not only because of the favorable outcome that I achieved for my client, but also because the facts and circumstances surrounding this particular case were pretty typical of most Assault Family Violence cases and how they are handled here in Collin County, Texas.

Assault Family Violence is an exceptionally nasty charge in the State of Texas. It’s generally charged as a Class A Misdemeanor which means that a person who is charged with the offense faces up to a year in county jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine. But, in addition to those penalties, a person who receives deferred adjudication or is convicted of Assault Family Violence will never be able to petition the court to have the records and documents related to his or her arrest sealed or destroyed. This means that the person’s charge and/or conviction will remain on his or her permanent criminal record forever. Also of particular importance here in the great State of Texas, is the fact that someone who is convicted of Assault Family Violence will never again be able to own or possess a firearm. So, taking into account all of the potential consequences, you can probably imagine the frantic calls and emails I receive from people who have been charged with this offense.

Typical Facts and Circumstances Surrounding an Assault Family Violence Case

As I’ve mentioned before, the facts and circumstances surrounding Assault Family Violence cases are often unique in the fact that there aren’t usually any police officer witnesses present when the alleged offense occurs. In fact, there usually aren’t any witnesses at all other than the two parties involved in the incident. With a Driving While Intoxicated case, you normally have a police officer who observes the suspect weaving between lanes of traffic and performing poorly on the Standardized Field Sobriety tests, and the officer can come to court and testify to those facts. In a drug case, it’s usually the same type of situation. A police officer makes contact with the suspect, finds drugs, and the officer seizes the drugs to use along side of his or her testimony at trial.

But, this isn’t usually the situation with Assault Family Violence cases. Because Assault Family Violence is an offense that always involves two people who have a pre-existing relationship with one another, the alleged offense often occurs behind closed doors in the privacy of the parties’ home. As I mentioned above, this means there aren’t usually any witnesses to the alleged offense. Therefore, an Assault Family Violence trial very often boils down to a simple case of “he said, she said” where the jury must choose who to believe. And, that’s exactly what happened in this particular case that I’m about to discuss.

The Incident

I received a call at my office one morning from a young man who had just been arrested for Assault Family Violence, and he was an absolute mess. I learned that he was self-employed, he and his wife had been married for almost five years, and he had never been arrested or been in any kind of trouble before. On the evening of the alleged assault, the young man and his wife had gotten into a verbal argument over a relatively simple matter, but it didn’t take long for the argument to escalate. At some point, the argument became physical when the young man’s wife struck him in the face. As a result, he pushed his wife away to defend himself and keep her from advancing upon him. A third party happened to overhear the altercation and called the police for safe measure. The police responded to the incident and, after briefly interviewing the young man and his wife, the police arrested him and charged him with Assault Family Violence even though his wife had no visible injuries. At this point, I told the young man that I thought I’d be able to help him, and he retained me as his criminal defense lawyer.

The Evidence

Only a few days after the incident, it turns out my client’s wife met with the police investigator who had been assigned to my client’s case and admitted to him that she had lied to the police when they responded to the incident. She told the investigator that she had actually hit my client first but, at the time, she was angry, emotional, and was scared of going to jail. The police investigator, however, informed my client’s wife that he had no authority to dismiss or drop the assault charge against my client (which wasn’t necessarily true). Therefore, he informed her that he would be forwarding the case file to the Collin County District Attorney’s office so they could pursue the charge and prosecute my client. And, that’s exactly what happened. Once the District Attorney received the case, they moved forward with it full steam ahead.

Texas law requires that the District Attorney provide the defense with any and all evidence concerning a case, especially any evidence that might tend to show that the person charged is not guilty of the offense. So, the first thing I did was request all of the State’s evidence, and they didn’t have much that I wasn’t already aware of. Next, I set up a meeting between the District attorney and my client’s wife so she, herself, could explain what really happened on the night of the incident. Finally, I even arranged for my client’s wife to complete a sworn statement with the District Attorney’s lead investigator detailing what she had already told the police investigator months before about how she hadn’t been truthful with the responding police officers.

But, in the end, none of this mattered to the District Attorney. In their eyes, my client was guilty the moment he was arrested, and the only reason that his wife had changed her story was because my client was such an intimidating, dangerous, and violent criminal. They refused to dismiss the case and told me that my client’s only options were for him to either plead guilty and receive probation or set the case for trial. So, we set the case for trial.

The Trial

While it may have come as a surprise to the District Attorney, it was certainly no surprise to me or my client that his wife failed to appear on the day of the trial so that she could testify on behalf of the State. After all, she had been telling the District Attorney for months that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with the case. So, there we were on the day of trial, and the District Attorney didn’t have a single witness who could testify that my client actually assaulted his wife. Their entire case was based off of a 911 call from a person who didn’t even see the altercation occur and the testimony of the responding officers who knew nothing about what actually happened other than what they were told by my client and his wife months ago on the night of the incident.

And, it gets better. Remember how I said the District Attorney is required to provide the defense with any and all evidence that might tend to show that the defendant is not guilty? Well, evidently, the District Attorney didn’t catch the fact that my client’s wife had managed to rack up two prior convictions for assault, herself, just within the past few years. And, the victim in one of those assault cases of her’s? My client!!! (Which is how I found out about them)

So, after spending a half day in trial listening to the District Attorney talk about how manipulative and dangerous my client is, he finally got to take the witness stand and tell the jury in his own words what really happened. Towards the end of his testimony, is when I suggested that we take a quick break so the District Attorney, the Judge, and myself could hash out the can of worms I was about to open for the State with the wife’s previous assault convictions.

In Texas, evidence of a crime or other wrong is normally not admissible at trial to prove a person’s character in order to show that, on a particular occasion, the person acted in accordance with that character. But, after about an hour of arguing back and forth with the District Attorney, the Judge finally ruled that he would allow my client’s wife’s prior assault convictions into the evidence at trial. Needless to say, after the jury heard about the assault convictions, it wasn’t long afterwards that my client was walking out of the courthouse a free man after having been found not guilty.

Why this Case is Significant

I think this case is significant for a few reasons. First, it demonstrates the haphazard and inept manner in which the District Attorney’s office operates most of the time. My client had no prior criminal record, his wife flat out told the police and the District Attorney that she had lied about the assault, and the District Attorney had no clue that their “victim” had two prior convictions for assault. Next, I think this case is significant because it wasn’t really a typical case of “he said, she said.” In this case, it was simply “he said.” The District Attorney’s principal witness — the alleged victim — didn’t even bother to show up for trial, but they still went forward with the case anyway. Finally, this case serves as the perfect example of why an independent investigation into the facts and circumstances of each case should always be conducted. Had I relied solely on the evidence that the District Attorney had provided to me, I would have never learned about my client’s wife’s prior assault convictions which were probably responsible for pushing the jury’s verdict in my client’s favor. So, if you have been arrested or charged with Assault Family Violence, I invite you to contact me at (972) 372-4054 to see how I can help you!

*****Please note that each case is different, and the final outcome of any case strongly depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding that particular case.