domestic violence

Can an Alleged Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

By Peek & Toland on March 10, 2019

Domestic violence allegations, whether true or false, often arise in the heat of a moment, when an argument or disagreement gets out of control between family or household members. The alleged victim calls the police, and the accused ends up facing domestic violence charges, which can have serious implications, including a sentence of incarceration. A short time later, the alleged victims may wish to reunite with their alleged abusers, and they suddenly want to take back the complaint that they made to police. However, even if the alleged victims provided the sole source of evidence supporting the allegations of abuse, they are not simply free to drop the domestic violence charges on their own.

From the state’s perspective, alleged victims sometimes recant their stories or push for a dismissal out of fear, such as if the accused has threatened them with harm or to take their children away. Since the state has a vested interest in creating a safe place for all people living in Texas, they may not always readily accept the alleged victims’ requests to dismiss the charges. They realize that in some cases, the alleged victims are acting out of fear or self-preservation, rather than being committed to making the community and their lives safer by punishing the alleged abuser.

Can an Alleged Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

While the alleged victim doesn’t have the final say on dropping charges of domestic violence, there are steps that these individuals can take to help the accused. For instance, they can talk to the prosecutor directly and explain why the state should drop the charges. They can agree to testify on behalf of the accused person at trial. Finally, alleged victims may want to seek mental health counseling in order to prove to the state that they are calm, emotionally stable, and trying to make the best decisions possible for themselves and their families.

If you are facing domestic violence or other types of criminal charges, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that your rights a protected at all stages of your criminal proceedings. At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you any accusations of wrongdoing that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.

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Domestic Violence Laws in Texas

By Peek & Toland on January 18, 2019

Many states have specific domestic violence statutes that provide for criminal penalties. However, Texas includes elements of domestic violence in some of its general criminal offenses that often involve family or household members.

Domestic Violence Laws in Texas

Some states have established a separate criminal offense of domestic violence, but Texas has simply included elements of domestic violence within some criminal offenses that commonly involve family or household members. In order to qualify as family or household members, individuals must have one of the following relationships:

·         Live together in the same residence

·         Share a child, whether living together or not

·         Be in a dating relationship or previously dating

·         Spouses or former spouses

·         Family members

The involvement of a family or household member in a criminal offense can make the penalties for the offense more severe. For instance, under Tex. Pen. Code § 22.01, the general crime of assault is a Class A misdemeanor. Assault involving a family or household member, however, can become a third degree or even second degree felony in some situations, such as if the individual has a prior conviction or if the assault involves certain types of actions, such choking or strangling.

Another offense under Texas law that involves domestic violence is found in </uTex. Pen. Code § 25.11. This statute establishes the offense of continuous violence against the family, a third degree felony. In order to be guilty of this offense, a person must have committed an assault against a family or household member two or more times during a 12-month period. This is a separate charge from any underlying assault charge.

Additionally, it is a criminal offense to violate a protective order that is issued in a domestic violence situation. In many cases, if a person is accused of assaulting or committing another criminal offense against a family or household member, or if the family or household member files a petition for protective order, the court will issue what amounts to a no-contact order between the accused person and the alleged victim. If a person violates the terms of a protective order, he or she commits a Class A misdemeanor. However, the charge can increase to a third degree felony in some situations.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including domestic violence offenses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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The NFL’s Problem with Domestic Violence is Exposed

By Peek & Toland on May 18, 2017

Domestic violence is a major issue in Texas as well as across the United States. It’s also a problem among some of America’s highest paid stars in the National Football League.

Headlines linking leading football players to alleged acts of domestic violence are plentiful.

In 2015, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown was charged with assaulting Molly, his wife at the time.

The New York Times cited police reports that alleged Brown assaulted her nearly two dozen times, including at least once when she was pregnant.

Brown was arrested in May 2015. He was charged with fourth-degree domestic violence. The charge was later dismissed. Brown was suspended for the opening game the season, instead of the baseline six games the NFL usually levies for a first domestic violence offense.

NFL players are linked to domestic violence

The Brown allegations resurfaced in news stories in October 2016 when the player admitted domestic violence in letters, emails, and a journal, according to police documents.

The Giants said they were unaware of Brown’s writing and had not read or heard about them before their release.

The revelations again raised questions about how seriously the league takes domestic violence. The league said it investigated the matter for 10 months, sending in a crack investigative team.

Players who have been accused of domestic violence and sexual assault include:

Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer

On Sept. 17, 2014, Dwyer was reportedly arrested for domestic violence offenses and charged with aggravated assault against his wife and 18-month-old child.

Dallas Cowboys Receiver Dez Bryant

Bryant was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in Texas after he allegedly assaulting his mother. A judge later dropped the charges on condition he attend anger management counseling.

Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice

Rice was arrested in 2014 after a fight in Atlantic City with his fiancée. Video footage showed him dragging her out if an elevator while she was unconscious.

The player was indicted on third-degree aggravated assault charges, but he pleaded not guilty. He was sentenced under a pre-trial intervention initiative for first-time offenders. The NFL initially suspended him for two games but he received an indefinite suspension when more video evidence was obtained.

Former Dallas Cowboys Player C.J. Spillman

The former Cowboys special-teams player was sentenced to five years in prison last year over a sexual assault charge from a 2014 incident at a Dallas hotel.

Grapevine police said a woman reported that Spillman raped her in September 2014, at the Gaylord Texan Resort, where he was staying at the time.

Domestic violence offenses are taken very seriously in Texas. You can read more about the law in Texas here on our website. If you are charged with domestic violence in Texas, it’s important to hire an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.

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Texas Domestic Violence Claims Highest Number of Women’s Lives in 10 Years

By Peek & Toland on December 27, 2016

Domestic violence against women is spiking in Texas. A report released in the fall revealed it claimed its highest number of victims in more than a decade.

A report from the Round Rock-based Texas Council on Family Violence revealed 157 women were killed in the state in domestic violence scenarios last year. The figure was a 20 percent hike on 2014.

The figure marked the highest tally of domestic violence deaths in 25 years of annual reports from the council.

The rise in domestic violence in Texas has seen more women killed

Domestic violence is increasing in Texas

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the TV station KXAN published some warning signs that you may be a victim of domestic violence. They include:

  • The exertion of strict control over a partner. It could relate to social, financial or controlling another’s appearance.
  • Demanding constant contact including excessive phone calls and texts.
  • Emotional abuse including insulting your partner in public.
  • Demonstrating fear around a partner.
  • Extreme jealousy.
  • Isolating your partner from their friends and family.
  • Unexplained injuries and explanations for them that don’t make sense.

Texas Council on Family Violence released its report at an event in Round Rock to highlight the increase in domestic violence related deaths in the Austin area and further afield.

Counties that recorded an upsurge in deaths linked to family violence included Travis, Bastrop and Williamson.

The upsurge in violence among families came at the same time as a rise in gun crime.

The federal prohibition on gun ownership by people with a domestic violence conviction was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

Many states like Texas have passed their own legislation to supplement the federal prohibition.

An article in The Trace stated domestic assaults with firearms are more than 12 times more likely to be deadly than assaults with other weapons.

South Carolina has the highest number of women killed by men in the United States. It has finally enacted legislation limiting firearms access for domestic abusers.

You can read more about domestic assaults here on our website.

Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses in Texas

The punishment for domestic violence offense assaults in Texas ranges from a “Class C” misdemeanor, which carries a possible fine of up to $500, up to a second degree felony, with a penalty of two to 20 years in a prison and a fine up to $10,000.

There are also some defenses to domestic violence, including:

  • Mistake or a lack of intention
  • Lack of knowledge of the crime
  • No offense occurred
  • Self-defense.

If you have been charged with a family assault, the prosecution will take it very seriously. It’s important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney in Austin as soon as possible. Call us at (512) 474-4445.




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Outlining the Three Types of Domestic Violence Offenses in Texas

By Peek & Toland on November 7, 2016

There are three main kinds of domestic violence in Texas. The state has a wide range of domestic abuse laws. They apply to offenses against spouses, former spouses or other family members.

Domestic violence can be a misdemeanor or a felony. If the defendant has no prior convictions for assault it’s likely to be treated as a Class A misdemeanor.

There are three kinds of domestic violence in Texas

If there are previous convictions the crime becomes a third-degree felony.

If you are convicted of a domestic assault, you have intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily harm or injury to another individual. You can also be found guilty of domestic assault for threatening another party with imminent bodily injury.

Three Main Types of Domestic Violence Offense

Assault on a Family Member

A first time assault on a family member is charged as a Class A Misdemeanor. It carries a jail sentence of up to a year and a fine of $4,000. A conviction means you will have an affirmative finding of domestic violence that stays on your record even of you have a deferred adjudication and complete it. You will be barred from owning a firearm under federal law.

If you have a previous domestic violence conviction, the new indictment will be a third-degree felony. The punishment will range from two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Aggravated Domestic Assault

If you cause serious bodily injury or use a weapon in a domestic assault, you are likely to face an aggravated assault charge. It’s a second-degree felony. Punishment ranges from 2 to 20 years in prison and you may be fined as much as a $10,000.  If you cause serious bodily injury to the victim and use a weapon, you may face a first-degree felony.  You would face punishment ranging from 5 years to life in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.

What is Serious Bodily Injury in Domestic Violence Cases?

A broken bone, loss of a limb, disfigurement such as an acid injury, a serious head or brain injury, all constitute serious bodily injury.

However, any injury that requires hospital treatment or a type of surgery can be a serious body injury.

What is a Deadly Weapon in Domestic Violence Cases?

Firearms are the weapons most likely to fall into the deadly weapons category, but there are many others. Large knives, bats and brass knuckles are also considered deadly weapons. A motor vehicle can be a deadly weapon if it’s used to run someone down.

Continuous Domestic Violence Against Members of Your Family

When a defendant commits two domestic assaults within 12 months against a family member, it’s considered continuous domestic violence. It’s a third degree felony. You can be convicted of continuous violence against family without having two previous assaults resulting in an arrest.

However, there are a number of defenses to assault and domestic violence. An experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer can also make effective arguments about whether an assault even took place in a legal sense. If you are facing assault or domestic violence charges and you want an experienced and knowledgeable Austin attorney to defend you, please contact our office.

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Texas Sees Increase in Domestic Violence Crimes

By Peek & Toland on October 6, 2016

Domestic violence crimes are some of the most common offenses in Texas and gun crimes against family members in Texas appear to be increasing.

The claim was made before a debate on Texas Public Radio after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law that bans gun ownership against people with domestic violence convictions in the case of Voisine v. United States.

The decision means you cannot own a gun if you have been convicted of a domestic violence felony or a misdemeanor.

Domestic violence crimes increase in Texas

The radio report said Texas is experiencing a rise in the number of women being killed in domestic violence crimes.

Nailya Fuller, a spokeswoman for Family Violence Prevention Services in San Antonio, said the statewide numbers are alarming. She said in 2011, 102 women were killed in domestic violence incidents. That number rose to 114 the year after, to 119 in 2013 and to 132 in 2014.

Nationally, a woman is more likely to be killed by a male partner than any other individual and nearly 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence.

While most domestic violence crimes are committed by men, there have also been some well-documented attacks by women. In June a mother killed her two children in a shooting rampage in a Houston suburb, Fox News reported.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Crimes

Although the scale of domestic violence is alarming in Texas, every year we see cases that may not be as they first appear. When the family dynamic goes wrong, emotions run high and there is scope for false claims and exaggeration. A family member can commit an assault or an aggravated assault by merely threatening a family member.

To prove charges of aggravated assault, a prosecutor must not only prove that an assault occurred, but that a dangerous or deadly weapon was used to carry out the assault.

There are a number of defenses available. A threat may have been more ambiguous than the accuser alleges, you may have been acting in self-defense or the weapon involved may not have been of the deadly nature necessary to constitute an aggravated assault.

If you believe a spouse or other family members is seeking to bring domestic violence charges against you, it’s important to take action. Talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney, document your concerns and tell friends or family members. Gather evidence of erratic behavior and change all your login details to bank accounts and other important sites.

If you have been charged with any of the domestic violence crimes, call our experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys for a confidential consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Attorney Who Accidentally Revealed Plea Deal by Footballer Johnny Manziel Quits Case

By Peek & Toland on September 23, 2016

The new climate of text messages, smartphone apps and social media has transformed how information is sent and how quickly it’s received. It also presents new dangers as was recently illustrated by an attorney who accidentally revealed footballer Johnny Manziel was seeking a plea deal by text

Johnny Manziel is accused of kidnapping, attacking and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley.

Attorney who texted details of plea deal by Johnny Manziel quits

According to Sportsday, attorney Bob Hinton, who was handling Manziel’s domestic violence case, accidentally sent a message to The Associated Press that expressed doubts about his client’s ability to stay clean and said he was seeking a plea deal. The report said the attorney received a receipt that showed Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store a matter of hours after he was involved in a hit-and-run crash.

In July, Manziel’s spokeswoman Denise Michaels revealed that the attorney has withdrawn from the case. Hinton’s text message indicated that it might be difficult for Johnny Manziel to get a plea deal. He is just the latest football star to end up facing criminal charges.

Hinton said sending the text had left him with little choice but to withdraw. He said he did not want to be an interference.

Manziel was charged in January with kidnapping, hitting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Crowley at a hotel in Dallas during a fight over another woman.

They couple split up a month earlier after dating for two years. Crowley told investigators the alleged attack occurred after the footballer invited her to his hotel room to talk and that he slapped her head. She claims the alleged attack led to the rupturing of her eardrum and the loss of her hearing.

Crowley accused Johnny Manziel of then dragging her by her hair, forcing her into a car and driving her to her hometown of Fort Worth.

The footballer is charged with a misdemeanor and faces up to a year in a county jail if convicted. Reports said he plans to plead not guilty.

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we represent many people who are accused of crimes of assault and family violence. You can read more about the crime here.

Most people who are accused of crimes know their victims. These cases can be tricky because emotions run high when family relationships are strained and false claims can be made.

You can be charged with assault by merely causing another person to fear harm against them. You don’t have to make contact to be charged with assault.

If you are facing charges of family violence, which include assault as well as aggravated assault, it’s very important to hire an attorney who is well versed in these matters. If you have been charged with a crime, please don’t put anything about it on social media or text messages. This evidence could be used against you.

At our Austin-based law firm, Jeff Peek, Steve Toland and their team have worked with those who are charged with crimes for more than a decade. You can read our success stories, then contact Peek & Toland today at (512) 474-4445.

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