Just about every married couple argues from time to time. In some cases, tensions can run high, and either party may say something they later regret. In other situations, an argument could get out of hand and prompt a neighbor or another person to contact the police.
Either party involved in the argument might even contact the police and file a domestic assault charge, only to decide down the road they don’t want to move forward with pursuing charges. When tempers calm down and parties reconcile, the spouse or partner who filed the complaint might ask the prosecutor to dismiss the case.
However, this doesn’t always mean that the charges are dropped. Under Texas law, the prosecutor might still decide to proceed with the assault prosecution. This prosecutor’s discretion is why it’s important to work with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer like Attorney John Helms.
How Assault Charges Work Under Texas Law
People are often surprised to learn that it’s the prosecutor who actually brings assault charges against someone under Texas law — not the party who contacted the police.
Under Texas law, a domestic assault or event that involves family violence could mean a husband and wife, parties who are dating, or current or former members of a household.
Although every case is different, a certain sequence of events often occurs in domestic assault cases. In many situations, the parties become involved in an argument which escalates, possibly causing property damage, with one party calling the police in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
When the police arrive, they may decide to arrest first and ask questions later. In some cases, this isn’t really what either party wanted. When the police arrest someone for a domestic assault charge, it adds a level of complication to the situation because the case is then entered into the court system and no longer under either party’s control.
Due to the volatile nature of domestic assault, the courts want to make sure the alleged victim is protected. As a result, the court might issue a protective order that prevents the alleged assailant from having any contact with the victim.
Once the protective order is in place, the defendant is typically subject to a number of restrictions. He or she might not be able to call or text the alleged victim, and they might even be barred from returning to the couple’s residence. The order might also prevent the defendant from seeing the couple’s children while the case is pending. This restriction can make it difficult for the parties to pay their bills or care for children.
However, when the filing party wants to drop domestic assault charges, they might find that the prosecutor refuses to dismiss the case. This can result in frustration and expense for both of the parties involved. For the defendant, it can mean a loss of reputation, trouble keeping a job, and the loss of their freedom if the case leads to jail time.
Why Do Prosecutors Continue with Charges If the Filing Party Wants Them Dropped?
If you’re frustrated because a prosecutor is refusing to drop domestic assault charges against you or a loved one, even after you have requested them to do so, it’s important to understand why prosecutors do this.
In the United States, over 20 people are abused by an intimate partner every minute. This adds up to more than 10 million people every year. Intimate partner violence makes up a staggering 15 percent of all violent crimes.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 72 percent of all murder-suicides in the U.S. involve an intimate partner, and 94 percent of the victims are women.
These statistics are grim and shocking, and they illustrate why prosecutors often decline to drop domestic assault charges even when a victim asks for the case to be dismissed. Prosecutors want to make sure that victims are protected and that any children in the home are safe.
Beware of Affidavits of Non-Prosecution
Very often, if a spouse wants charges dropped, a prosecutor will recommend that they sign an “affidavit of non-prosecution.” This is often an underhanded trick by the prosecutor. The prosecutor may lead you to believe that signing one of these affidavits means the charges will be dropped. That is not true at all. The prosecutor can still pursue the case, even if you sign one of these affidavits. The affidavit does not change that one bit.
Even worse, a non-prosecution affidavit is prepared by the prosecutor, and they often have you swear under oath that the crime occurred, and that though your spouse is completely guilty, but that you don’t want the prosecutor to pursue the case. If you sign it, you have now locked yourself in under oath and sworn that your spouse committed a crime, and the prosecutor has no obligation whatsoever to dismiss the case. From your perspective, as someone who wants the charges dropped, the affidavit you signed may have actually made the situation even worse. So do not sign one of these unless you have consulted with a lawyer first.
Getting Help for a Domestic Assault Case When the Prosecutor Won’t Drop Charges
If you are caught up in a domestic assault case that got out of hand and didn’t involve any kind of assault, you might feel like your case is hopeless.
This is why it’s in your best interest to work with a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense and domestic assault defense attorney. You most likely won’t be able to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges against you or your spouse on your own. Your criminal defense lawyer will explain your rights and help you identify the best course of action in your case.
Your lawyer can help you investigate the case and plan the best defense available to you. In some cases, it’s possible to work out a deal involving counseling or anger management training in exchange for dropped or reduced charges. Each case is different, and there may be other options available to help you resolve your case as quickly as possible. Call the Law Office of John M. Helms in Dallas at (214) 666-8010 to discuss the options available for your case.
Attorney John Helms