Five Keys to Defending Assault/ Family Violence Cases

May 1, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Police and prosecutors have built a machine to combat domestic violence.  Their intentions are noble yet often misguided and built on false assumptions and one-size fits all narratives.

Family assault cases are one of the most common cases our office handles.  Every one of them is unique but the more and more we focus on them, the better able we are to know the focal points needed for success.

  1.  “No Compromise” attitude.

The fact is in domestic violence cases, the harder you work and the less willing you are to compromise — the luckier you’ll be.  In family assault cases the prosecution’s case tends to deteriorate when pressed.  This doesn’t mean I have to be a jerk to the prosecution — in fact, quite the opposite.  I want to be able to offer them a way out – but on my terms.  If they don’t want out, then we have to be ready to hammer them at trial.  A lawyer’s attitude in these cases is the single most important key to defending these cases.

2.  Legal (And not Emotional) Analysis of the State’s Case.

The law surrounding domestic violence and assault cases is complex and intricate.  There are enough cases analyzing the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution’s confrontation clause to fill an entire law school course.  There are also multiple defenses to assault which might often apply in any given fact scenario – and your lawyer must also understand in what circumstances the Judge would legally be required to instruct a jury as to those defenses.

Legal analysis is critical because often we know well before the case goes to court the prosecution can’t or is unlikely to win.  This gives us the power and leverage to dictate our terms to the State.

One of the main reasons our system provides for lawyers is so we can effectively divorce our legal problems from our emotional ones.  By that, I mean these cases require a cold-dispassionate analysis.  Just because you might “feel” like you should be at fault doesn’t mean the law says this.

3.  Aggressive Factual Investigation

In spousal abuse allegations your lawyer can’t be afraid of the facts.  As discussed above, the harder we work, typically the luckier we get.  One distinct advantage a criminal defense lawyer has over the prosecution in the vast majority of cases is we typically have a better road map.  We know their side of the story in the police report and they either don’t have our side of the story (because of the 5th Amendment right to remain silent) or they know our story but tune it out because they never think they’re wrong.  In any event, I feel like we always have a more “powerful flashlight” to find the aspects of the case we know will help us win.

Also, it is key to be aggressive particularly from the outset of the case.  Perspectives and accounts tend to change in these cases.  By capturing witness’ recollections early, a lawyer can capitalize on changing stories instead of being victimized by them.

4.  Knowing the Collateral Consequences of a Domestic Violence Charge

One of the reasons I think it is important to have an attitude of “no compromise” is because family assault cases can be so damaging in ways which aren’t obvious.  We call these “collateral consequences.”  Direct consequences would be things such as possible jail sentences (up to a year in Class A Misdemeanor assault cases or up to 10 years prison for cases where impeding breath is alleged), fines, and court costs.  Collateral consequences are issues such as loss of 2nd Amendment rights to possess firearms, your ability to adopt a child in the future, inability to hide your criminal record from the public and on and on.  In truth, even misdemeanor family violence charges can act like “mini-felonies” and there are abundant tripwires.

5.  Persistence

Many of my client’s want me to waive a magic wand and have the problem go away with the snap of my fingers.  It might work like that from time to time but usually not.  One of the keys to a good outcome in a domestic violence charge is knowing we have to be prepared for a “marathon” as compared to a “sprint.”  If we get lucky sooner — so much the better.  But we have to understand the “luck” is normally a function of hard work.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters for 2019.

 

 


Will Assault Charges be Dropped if the Accuser Doesn’t Want to Prosecute?

March 10, 2010

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Possibly, but it mainly depends on the prosecutor.

A criminal assault or family violence charge in Texas is a proceeding between the State of Texas and the accused.  The accuser is mainly treated as a witness.  The decision to prosecute is squarely on the prosecuting attorney.

This is typically a policy driven area with prosecutors.  District and County Attorneys are elected officials in Texas and none want to look weak on this sort of matter.

Affidavits of Non-Prosecution

Many criminal defense attorneys or prosecutors ask that alleged victims that wish to drop charges fill out an “affidavit of non-prosecution.”  That is a statement under oath which gives the alleged victims reasons for not wanting to prosecute.  An affidavit of non-prosecution does not bind the prosecutor or the judge to dismiss the case.

If the accuser is considering filing an affidavit of non-prosecution, that statement is almost always a statement under the penalty of perjury.

If the alleged victim gives an inconsistent account in the affidavit as she did to the police — he or she may be guilty of giving a false statement to a police officer.

It is crucial for the alleged victim to know that defendant’s lawyer is not their lawyer.  In fact, that lawyer has a direct conflict of interest in advising them.  It is not imprudent, improper, or uncommon for the alleged victim to have their own attorney in these situations.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice, please consult an attorney.


There’s No Such Thing as a Minor Family Assault Charge

March 8, 2010

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Domestic or family violence charges in Texas range from class c misdemeanors (the same level as a minor traffic offense), to felonies in other circumstances.  The fact that some are charged as class c’s doesn’t diminish their importance and can act as a trap door.

A class c assault occurs where there is unwelcome offensive or provocative contact.  The state does not need to prove the victim suffered any pain or discomfort whatsoever.  They appear deceptively insignificant because they can be charged in smaller municipal courts and before justices of the peace where the rules are less formal and far fewer people have lawyers.

In class c domestic violence cases, the prosecution may try and add a small enhancement paragraph to the charge known as “an affirmative finding of family violence” under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.013 and Texas Family Code 71.004.  If the court enters this finding, even where the defendant gets deferred adjudication, then that finding can be used to enhance a future misdemeanor assaults all the way to a felony.

Most domestic violence cases in Texas are charged as the class a misdemeanor assault — where the state must prove some bodily injury (defined as any pain or discomfort).  These cases can be very difficult for the state to prove.  Often times the state will offer a class c deferred on the morning of trial if they feel badly about their case.  Even in those instances, a person charged must be very careful because the affirmative finding may still be attached even though the charges reduced and getting deferred.

If you are charged with a class c assault where the alleged victim was a family member or someone in a dating relationship, you should strongly consider getting a lawyer regardless of how minor you think the situation to be.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice, please contact an attorney.