Defenses Against Charges of Continuous Family Violence

Defenses Against Charges of Continuous Family ViolenceHaving a previous domestic violence charge made against you is bad enough, but when you face another allegation of domestic violence, Texas district attorneys can pursue a charge of continuous family violence against you, even if the incidents occurred in different counties and jurisdictions.

Continuous family violence, also known as Rachel’s Law, is a Texas criminal offense that involves a pattern of repetitive acts of family violence committed against a particular victim within a certain time frame. Rachel’s Law stems from a case where there were multiple instances of family violence in and out of Nueces County, Texas. Under Rachel’s Law, prosecutors in either county could file a charge of “continuous violence against the family” even if two incidents occurred in two separate counties.

While domestic violence is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000, making the crime “continuous violence against the family” elevates the domestic violence charge to a third-degree felony punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of as much as $10,000.

What is continuous family violence?

The specific statute addressing continuous family violence is found in Section 25.11 of the Texas Penal Code. The purpose of this law is to address situations where there is a pattern of abuse over time rather than isolated incidents and to acknowledge the serious and lasting impact that repeated acts of family violence can have on victims. Critical elements of the offense of continuous family violence include:

  • Repetitive acts: The defendant must have committed two or more acts of family violence against a victim within a 12-month period. These acts can include physical violence, threats, or other forms of abuse.
  • Same victim: The violent acts must be directed towards the same victim, creating a pattern of abuse within the context of a domestic or family relationship.
  • Family or household relationship: The offense typically occurs within a family or household relationship, as defined by Texas law. This includes relationships such as spouses, ex-spouses, parents and children, individuals in a dating relationship, and others who live together or have lived together in the past.
  • Penalties: Continuous family violence is a third-degree felony in Texas. Conviction can result in serious consequences, including imprisonment, fines, and other legal penalties.

In Texas, family violence encompasses various forms of abusive behavior, including physical violence, emotional abuse, threats, and more. Individuals accused of continuous family violence should seek legal representation to navigate the legal process and address the charges effectively.

Potential defenses against continuous family violence charges

Continuous family violence is a serious offense, and being charged with it indicates a pattern of repeated violent or threatening behavior within a domestic relationship. Defenses against charges of continuous family violence in Texas will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. While every case is unique, some potential defenses that could be raised include:

  • Lack of evidence: Challenging the prosecution’s evidence is a common defense strategy that typically involves questioning the credibility of witnesses, challenging the admissibility of certain evidence, or highlighting inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case.
  • False accusations: If the accused believes that the allegations are false or that they have been wrongly accused, asserting a defense based on false accusations may be an option. This could involve presenting evidence that contradicts the accuser’s claims.
  • Self-defense: If the accused can demonstrate that they acted in self-defense or in defense of others, it may be a valid defense. This could involve showing that using force was necessary to protect oneself or someone else from imminent harm.
  • Lack of knowledge: In some cases, an individual may be unaware that their actions were causing harm or that their behavior constituted family violence. Lack of knowledge or intent may be raised as a defense.
  • Mental health issues: If the accused has a mental health condition that affected their ability to understand the consequences of their actions, this may be considered in their defense. It could impact their culpability or intent.
  • Inadmissibility of statements: If statements made by the accused were obtained in violation of their constitutional rights, such as Miranda rights, the defense may argue for the exclusion of these statements from evidence.
  • Victim’s recantation: If the alleged victim recants or changes their testimony, the defense may use this to challenge the credibility of the accusations.

The success of these defenses will ultimately depend on the facts of the case and the legal strategies employed. Consulting with a qualified Copperas Cove criminal defense attorney is essential to assess the specific circumstances and determine the most effective defense strategy. The criminal defense attorneys at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm can help navigate the complexities of the legal system and work to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Although Rachel’s Law and similar measures can be an effective way to help protect potential victims of domestic violence, they can also make the legal system even more perilous for those who have been falsely accused of domestic violence, sometimes during the heat of an argument. In fact, some estimate that 10 percent of those facing domestic violence charges have been falsely accused of the crime.

Family and domestic violence allegations are severe. A conviction can lead to jail time, a criminal record, and the loss of the right to bear arms. Many individuals arrested for domestic violence offenses don’t understand the charges against them and may not even know why they were arrested in the first place. Given the serious nature of continuous family violence charges, individuals facing these charges are strongly encouraged to seek legal representation. A qualified criminal defense attorney like Mary Beth Harrell can assess the specific circumstances of the case, develop a defense strategy, and guide the accused through the legal process.

Are you facing charges of continuous family violence in Copperas Cove, Texas? Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm has represented dozens of individuals in your same situation, many of whom were falsely accused. Call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation with our experienced criminal defense lawyers today. We maintain an additional office in Killeen, and proudly serve Belton, Harker Heights, Waco, Williamson County, Bell County, Coryell County, and McLennan County.