Articles Posted in Family Violence

Criminal, statutes in Texas and nationwide have long included specific provisions to address domestic violence offenses. Early statutes were only able to protect spouses from the alleged abuse, but the laws have developed in a way that now includes cohabitating parents, and even dating partners who do not live together and share no children. The recent expansion of the definition of domestic violence under federal law to include “dating violence” may affect the civil rights of Texans who have been accused of domestic violence offenses. More specifically, a conviction may mean that you are prevented from legally owning a gun, despite your Second Amendment rights.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. The Constitution protects the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. Although many challenges to the Second Amendment have failed over the years, the U.S. The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can restrict people who have been convicted of a domestic violence offense from owning firearms. Congress passed such a law in 1968, and it has been used to keep firearms out of the hands of those who have committed domestic violence. Over the years, courts have upheld this restriction on gun ownership, finding that it is a reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment.

As the definition of domestic violence has expanded under both Texas and Federal law, the application of the federal law restricting gun ownership has become broader. Cases that in the past would not have qualified for a firearm restriction are now serving as the basis of a restriction. The federal law that restricts gun ownership is applied automatically to any person convicted of a state-level domestic violence offense or who is subject to a domestic violence-related protective order.

Recently, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas issued an important decision holding the state’s stalking statute unconstitutional. While lawmakers are responsible for writing and passing laws, courts must interpret the laws as they are written. However, courts are also the final arbiter in determining whether a law is constitutional. While most laws pass constitutional muster, some do not, as evidenced by the court’s recent decision.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant in the case was arrested and charged with felony stalking for conduct taking place between January 1, 2007, and April 24, 2018. More specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendant engaged in conduct that caused the complaining witness “to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended” and “would cause a reasonable person to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.” Evidently, the defendant posted comments on social media and made other public statements that the complaining witness considered threatening.

At the time, the Texas stalking statute made it a crime to commit more than one act of “electronic-communications harassment” under § 42.07. That statute provides that a person repeatedly sends “electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another.” Thus, the stalking statute directly references the harassment statute, making it a stalking offense to engage in a continued course of harassment.

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What happens if you are facing a criminal charge for assault family violence, while you are getting divorced? Our law firm handles both criminal defense, and family law matters. We have seen cases in which one party, let’s say the Husband, is charged with family violence against his Wife, and a divorce is pending.

The first issue that’s going to come up is usually a protective order. If Husband was arrested for assault family violence, then often the judge (magistrate) who sets his bond will issue an emergency order of protection. This order will often forbid the defendant (in our case, Husband) from many things including returning to the residence, threatening the Victim (complaining witness), or possessing a firearm. If you are getting divorced this will essentially ban a defendant from accessing the marital residence.

If you have been arrested and are facing a divorce with a protective order you will want to see understand what options you have to challenge the protective order and to challenge a finding of family violence being entered.

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