ASSAULT - FAMILY MEMBER
July 27, 2017
Let’s say you and your significant other are at home. You both have had a bad day at work, and neither of you are in a particularly good mood. Your significant other says something to you that annoys you, and you verbally snap back. An argument ensues, and voices are raised until it becomes a shouting match. A nosy neighbor hears the sonic uproar, and she calls 911. She tells the dispatcher: “It sounds like my neighbors are fighting. You better send somebody down here!” The argument continues until you hear a loud knock on the door, followed by a bellowing, “Open up, it’s the police!” You and your significant other stop yelling at each other for a moment, and you walk to the door to see who’s there. “We are here responding to a report of domestic disturbance at this address,” the cop tells you. Surprised to see law enforcement at your door, you step aside as the cop and his partner push their way into your home. Per police procedure, the second cop takes your significant other into another room to “talk,” while the first cop stands in front of you and starts asking you a bunch of questions to get “your side of the story.” You are inexperienced in dealing with law enforcement, and a combination of frustration, fear, and uneasiness comes over you. You are wondering what your significant other is telling the second cop. Suddenly, the second cop comes back into the room, and he whispers something into his partner’s ear. The next thing you know, the cops are telling you to turn around and put your hands behind your back. Your significant other, in order to get back at you for the things you said during the argument, has told the second cop that you “pushed” her. The cop tells you that you are being arrested for Assault – Family Member. This has just gotten real.
Being charged with Assault – Family Member in Texas is a very serious charge – even if it is of the misdemeanor variety. There are draconian consequences associated with such a conviction, including the inability to ever own a gun again (under Federal law), the fact that any future allegation of similar conduct is automatically filed as a felony, and of course the stain on one’s criminal record (and reputation) as a result of being convicted of this crime. What’s worse is that many District Attorney’s Offices hold on to these types of cases like a dog holds on to a bone, EVEN IF the complaining witness later admits that he/she lied about or embellished the allegations that led to your arrest and prosecution. In fact, in larger counties, the DA’s Offices have special divisions that exclusively deal with Assault – Family Member cases in which the complaining witness recants or changes his/her story. Legal troubles follow a person charged with this offense even if that person is NOT convicted! For example, if the person charged successfully completes a deferred adjudication community supervision (which precludes a final conviction), he/she still cannot get the arrest sealed through a petition for nondisclosure. This means that under current Texas law, the arrest and allegation will be on your criminal record forever!
Bottom line: if you and a significant other/family member/roommate get into an argument, do your best to keep law enforcement out of it. If the cops show up responding to a “report of domestic disturbance,” somebody is going to end up in handcuffs.