A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY’S VIEW
OF THE FAMILY VIOLENCE INDUSTRY
© 2004 Paul G. Stuckle
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
I. THE SPECIAL NATURE OF FAMILY VIOLENCE ALLEGATIONS
1. TRUE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MUST STOP
2. INNOCENT FAMILY MEMBERS CAN BE FALSELY ACCUSED OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
II. EXAMPLES OF WHAT IS NOT FAMILY VIOLENCE
III. WHO IS THE REAL VICTIM ANYWAY?
IV. ZERO TOLERANCE AND NO-DROP POLICIES
V. THE FAMILY VIOLENCE INDUSTRY
1. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A POLITICAL CRIME
2. THE FAMILY ADVOCACY CENTER
3. FOLLOW THE MONEY
4. TEAM UNITY: TAKE OUT A FAMILY FOR THE TEAM
5. PSSST.... THEY ARE COMING....OR ARE THEY ALREADY HERE?
VI. CHANGING THE RULES TO CONVICT
1. LEGISLATIVE CHANGES
2. HEARSAY EVIDENCE
3. SYNDROME EVIDENCE MAY BE ADMISSIBLE AGAINST THE ACCUSED
4. CONVICTIONS WITHOUT PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
5. SUMMARY : RECIPE FOR CONVICTION
VII. FAMILY VIOLENCE LEGAL FACTS: A CHECKLIST
1. ISSUES UPON ARREST
2. CONSEQUENCES OF A CONVICTION
VIII. SELECTING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY
1. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ON YOUR OWN
2. RULES FOR THE ACCUSED
3. FINDING THE RIGHT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
A. LENGTH OF PRACTICE AND EXPERIENCE
B. REJECT PLEA BARGAINS
C. PREPARE A VIGOROUS PRE-CHARGE DEFENSE TO AVOID PROSECUTION
D. PREPARE A VIGOROUS DEFENSE FOR TRIAL.
“HUSBANDS AND WIVES HAVE ARGUMENTS. DOES THAT NOW MEAN A TRIP TO JAIL AND A CRIMINAL CONVICTION?”
“A CASE OF ALLEGED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NOW BELONGS TO ‘THE FAMILY VIOLENCE INDUSTRY.’”
“THE BELIEF SYSTEM IS ALSO ONE OF EXTREME ARROGANCE, THAT THE FAMILY VIOLENCE TEAM KNOWS BETTER THAN ANYONE, PARTICULARLY THE FAMILY ITSELF, OF WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM." Paul G. Stuckle, Attorney at Law
|I. THE SPECIAL NATURE OF FAMILY VIOLENCE ALLEGATIONS|
1. True Domestic Violence Must Stop
No rational person condones violence toward anyone, particularly a family member. In America there are many tragic domestic relationships, which involve battered wives, husbands, and members of a household. A true victim in a violent family relationship needs immediate support and protection. A true battering spouse needs to face the legal consequences of their actions.
2. Innocent Family Members Can Be Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence
The legislature has enacted laws to assist police and prosecutors convict the guilty and stop the abuse of spouses and family members. The intent behind these laws is well meaning and necessary. Problems arise when laws designed to protect a victim of domestic violence are used too broadly and are applied to normal families. A big difference exists between an abusive spouse repeatedly committing violent acts, and a nonviolent family in which a single argument went too far.
Unfortunately, the politicians and authorities do not see the difference!!! To the self-proclaimed saviors and protectors of abused “victims,” any allegation of domestic violence means the household must be one continuously engaged in abusive behavior.
‘The domestic violence entrepreneurs and state officials live in a different world from us. A sense of nameless vague threat is always in the background. To hear the pros talk, all the men they deal with are batterers, sexual abusers, or virtually time bombs of violence. Repeated clichés like “at risk” and “a safe place” and “maintaining safety” pepper their sentences . . .
John Maguire, Massachusetts News www.massnews.com, “The Booming Domestic Violence Industry”
If an argument between spouses was the benchmark for domestic violence, then almost every family in America would be defined as an abusive relationship. This governmental over-reaction and dragnet targeting of normal families and treating them as criminals has led us to massive injustice across the nation.
|II. EXAMPLES OF WHAT IS NOT FAMILY VIOLENCE|
Human beings make mistakes and act at immaturely at times. Everyone has past conduct they wish could be taken back. Part of being human is sometimes hurting those loved the most. The absurdity is to classify a single out of character nonviolent act as “criminal.”
For instance, it is not family violence to:
- Yell and scream at our spouse or another household member;
- Use profanity during an argument with a spouse or household member;
- Engage in minor pushing incidents with a spouse or household member;
- Hold the arm or hand of a spouse or household member while arguing;
- Momentarily block the path of a spouse or household member;
- Throw and break items during an argument;
- Say hurtful and mean things to a spouse or household member;
- Use self defense to stop the other spouse or household member from attacking you.
With “Zero Tolerance” arrest policies and “No Drop” prosecutions, the number of arrests for petty family arguments has skyrocketed. A former prosecuting attorney explains the phenomena:
Christopher Pagan, who was until recently a prosecutor in Hamilton County, Ohio, estimates that due to a 1994 state law requiring police on a domestic call either to make an arrest or to file a report explaining why a no arrest was made, “domestics” went from 10 percent to 40 percent of his docket. But, he suggests, that doesn’t mean actual abusers were coming to his attention more often. “ We started getting a lot of push-and-shoves,” says Pagan, “or even yelling matches.” In the past, police officers would intervene and separate the parties to let them cool off. Now those cases end up in criminal courts. It’s exacerbating tensions between the parties, and it’s turning law-abiding middle class citizens into criminals.
Cathy Young, Vice President, Women’s Freedom Network “Domestic Violations,” Reason On Line, April 1998
|III. WHO IS THE REAL VICTIM ANYWAY?|
In Texas, the legal definition of a crime “victim” is not what one might think. The word “victim” seems to mean the person who was assaulted, stabbed, murdered, or had their property stolen. Under the law, the “victim” of a crime is the “State.” All criminal cases are therefore styled: “ The State of Texas vs. The Defendant.”
Once the authorities become involved in a domestic disturbance, they will forever be intertwined with the eventual outcome of the incident. The State, meaning the government, police, and prosecutors, solely decide if a case will be prosecuted or dismissed. Even if the “real victim,” i.e. the person, who supposedly was assaulted, informs the authorities of their desire to have the case dismissed, the charging decision is still left up to the government.
The allegedly assaulted person can provide the government with an “affidavit of non-prosecution,” a document stating prosecution is not desired and requesting the case to be dropped. Until recently, such affidavits were given substantial consideration from the government. After all, why would the authorities want to prosecute when the actual victim did not desire it? The answer is simple:
A case of alleged domestic violence now belongs to “The Family Violence Industry.”
A constant complaint from those at the center of a family violence investigation is how irrelevant the family is to the investigative team. The team wants to win the case. It wants a criminal conviction. And will do anything to get it. The team, despite its public overtures, does not care about the individual family it is making life-altering decisions for. The family, alleged victim, defendant, and children alike are all mere pawns, literally at the mercy of this governmental machine.
The machine knows very well how to destroy families, yet it knows nothing of healing them.
‘The woman sitting across the table often breaks into tears and fits of trembling. She lives in fear. She says she has been threatened and emotionally battered by those who call themselves “front-line workers” in the war against violence against women.” Since the violence against women specialists invaded their lives a year ago, husband and wife have developed ulcers, been financially battered and say they survived many attempts to break up their marriage.
Now they’re angry . . . From the start the advice from support workers connected to the Domestic Violence Court was that she should break up her marriage. She should not risk living with a violent man. Her attempts to defend her husband were met with we- understand- and- we- know- better attitudes; she was afraid of him and was trying to protect him so he wouldn’t be angry. When it became clear she had no intention of separating from her husband, the threats from domestic violence specialists connected to the court moved to a new level that still terrifies her.
“They seemed to be threatening to take my child. They said if I wasn’t going to protect my child from his father, then the system would have to.”
“ I learned it’s a system that doesn’t listen.”
Dave Brown, The Ottawa Citizen, 2001 “Cult of The Domestic Violence Industry”
|IV. Zero Tolerance and No-Drop Policies|
‘In the Domestic Violence industry, when the accusation is made, the case is closed.’
John Maguire, Massachusetts News, www.massnews.com “The Booming Domestic Violence Industry”
In response to supply the necessary bodies to perpetuate the family violence industry, law enforcement has adopted a new tool: “Zero Tolerance.”
What does “Zero Tolerance” mean? Two police officers will be dispatched to a home regarding a domestic disturbance. They will not arrive empty handed. Patrol units, equipped with computers, enable officers to quickly determine if this household has had any prior domestic incidents. Officers will know the complete criminal history of each spouse before arrival.
The police will find a household in which spouses have argued and are emotionally upset. The officers will separate the parties and conduct a brief interview of each’s version of events. The police will look for physical signs of violence, such as bleeding, red marks, or scratches. Then the two officers will confer with each other and compare stories. A decision to arrest will then be made. This entire “investigative” process can be completed in mere minutes, with the arrest decision made in a split second.
‘What couple does not encounter stress, especially when they have children? But in the fever of emotion, a woman can call “911" and have three police cars there in minutes. After this fateful act, she loses all control. The state prosecutes her husband whether she likes it or not. He is jailed and prohibited from returning home . . . And all they wanted was the police to defuse a tense situation . . . This policy ( Zero Tolerance) is designed to accustom society (both police and victims) to the intrusion of the state into private lives. Couples are arrested just for having an argument. Neighbors phone the police. What’s next? Cameras in our homes just like George Orwell’s “1984"’?
Editorial, Winnipeg Free Press, “Zero Tolerance,” February 10, 2002
The Dallas County Texas Task Force on Domestic Violence was a federal grant award recipient in 1998 for $1,333,951.00. The title of the award, “Grants To Encourage Arrest Policies,” is a federal directive encouraging “Zero Tolerance.” The grant states:
‘Purpose: These funds will allow the Dallas County Task Force to continue ensuring arrests and prosecution of domestic violence offenders, provide counseling and support to victims, and ensure that victims have access to protective orders. Funds will support the addition of staff attorneys and prosecutors.’ www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo/map/arrest/1998/txgtea.htm
AND THEN THE CASE WILL NOT BE DROPPED.
“Zero Tolerance” by the police leads to a “No-Drop” policy by the prosecution. An arrest means the case will be prosecuted. Prosecution offices associated with Family Advocacy Centers will proceed with the case even if the family situation has been resolved. An “Affidavit of Non-Prosecution” is ineffective as this legal document merely reflects what the victim wants to do. The affidavit indicates the family is in healing and desires to work on repairing the marital relationship. The Family Violence Industry does not consider salvaging the marital relationship as an acceptable end result.
The “protectors” view their job entails ending the relationship. Prosecutors are not concerned with the wishes or needs of the real victim. The “No –Drop” policy requires the case to go to trial even if the real victim wants the charges dismissed. “No-Drop” means the government will push the case all the way regardless of hardship upon the family. To the entrepreneurs of the Family Violence Industry, “helping” the victim may necessitate separation of the family enforced through protective orders, followed by divorce. In addition, the helping agenda may include loss of employment for the accused spouse, financial hardship, and adding unnecessary emotional stress to a family.
“Zero Tolerance” means that the government, not you, the government knows what is best for your family.
If the government is so concerned about stopping family violence and helping families, why would they push prosecution when the family is asking them not to?
|V. THE FAMILY VIOLENCE INDUSTRY|
1. Domestic Violence Is a Political Crime
“Hello. I’m from the Government and here to help.” This old saying is satirically funny. Governmental intervention into anything usually creates nameless, faceless bureaucracies, solving nothing, complicating everything, and resulting in higher taxes.
The government has definitely made its way into family violence:
‘Like many crusades to stamp out social evils, the War on Domestic Violence is a mix of good intentions (who could be against stopping spousal abuse?), bad information, and worse theories. The result has been a host of unintended consequences that do little to empower victims while sanctioning interference in personal relationships.’
Cathy Young, Vice President, Women’s Freedom Network “Domestic Violations”, Reason On Line, April 1998
Ever few years a new “crime de jour “ (crime of the day) is created. This phenomenon begins with a legitimate social problem needing to be addressed. Examples in recent years of “crimes de jour” include “Driving While Intoxicated” and “Child Sexual Abuse.” The tragic consequences of isolated worst-case scenarios of these crimes are highly publicized. The nation is inundated with media coverage and informed the problem is not being adequately dealt with by the criminal justice system. Crime victims form support groups (such as M.A.D.D.- “Mothers Against Drunk Driving”), and these support groups in turn create lobby groups. The lobbyists influence the media, judges, and politicians. Political candidates sense community outrage and run campaigns with platforms designed to solve the “crime de jour.” After each campaign year and legislative session, new laws address perceived omissions, loopholes, and provide additional punishment for those convicted of the “crime de jour.”
The enactment of such special interest group legislation officially converts the “crime de jour” into a “political crime.”
‘Some crusaders openly argue that domestic violence should be taken more seriously than other crimes. In 1996, the sponsor of a New York bill toughening penalties for misdemeanor assault on a family member (including ex-spouses and unwed partners) vowed to oppose a version extending the measure to all assaults: “The whole purpose of my bill is to single out domestic violence,” Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said. “ I DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO THINK WE’RE TREATING STRANGER ASSAULTS THE SAME WAY AS DOMESTIC ASSAULTS.” Cathy Young, Women’s Freedom Network,” Domestic Violations” Reason On Line, April 1998
The new “crime de jour” is domestic violence.
2. The Family Advocacy Center
A strange conglomeration of individuals pushing varying agendas comprise the force behind the family violence movement. The movement combines legitimate victims and their advocate supporters with professional vendors who have much to gain through concentrated efforts to expand the industry:
‘These people, some idealistic and some merely pragmatic, have networked, talked with each other, served on various commissions, boosted each other’s careers, and helped to expand the definition of family violence, and the size of state and federal funding massively . . . Only ten years ago, the women’s safety-advocates were a small group of idealists, operating on pennies. Today the movement has grown large on state and federal tax monies. Every month, it seems spawns new sub-programs, clinics, shelters, research institutes, counseling centers, visitation centers, poster campaigns. Today, domestic violence is a big industry . . . Mapping the full extent of the domestic violence industry is not easy, because it’s a cottage industry, spread out in hundreds of places. State and federal money (in each state) goes to well over a hundred institutes, clinics, programs for counseling or outreach or coordination or training, computer databases, coalitions, shelters, PR agencies and other groups.’ John Maguire, “The Booming Domestic Violence Industry, ”Massachusetts News www.massnews.com
The media, pressured by women’s safety advocate groups has perpetuated public hysteria by over inflating the true incidence of domestic violence. While a legitimate social problem and cause for reasonable concern, the response to the force-fed hysteria has been legislative overkill. In order to facilitate the legislative demands, bureaucracies must be formed. The result is “The Family Advocacy Center.”
A typical family advocacy center combines many agencies and individuals into one facility. The center will house police, legal, medical, social service, substance abuse, housing, women’s advocacy, victim’s rights, and counselors in one facility. The Irving Texas “Family Advocacy Center” defines itself as “one stop shopping for victims.” www.irvingpd.com/IFAC.htm).
3. Follow the Money
Federal law provides funding to states for the creation, development, and utilization of Family Advocacy Centers through the “Family Violence Prevention and Services Act.” (Title III of the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984, Pub. L. 98-457, 42 U.S.C. 10401). The bottom line for the falsely accused is this: Domestic Violence is now an enormous financial industry. Each state receives millions of federal dollars in grant money by adopting provisions of federal law.
‘(Women’s Shelter Centers) provide DSS (Department of Social Services) with additional clients. The women’s groups get more money and DSS gets more state and federal money. They both are artificially inflating their numbers. They inflate domestic violence statistics this way and through the use of coerced restraining orders. By artificially inflating the domestic violence statistics they are able to create political hysteria– leading to more funding.’ Nev Moore, “Unhealthy Relationship between DSS and Domestic Violence Industry.”
In effect, the government has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Federal money is awarded to communities who can statistically justify the need for a family violence center. In so doing, the government itself perpetuates charges of domestic violence. It creates a “Family Violence Industry.” This circular reasoning mirrors the previous “crime de jour” of child sexual assault in the 1990's. A comparison of the governmental domestic violence movement with the prior special interest group-driven child sexual assault hysteria illustrates:
‘According to the late Dr. Richard Gardner, the reason for the alarming rise in child abuse allegations and specifically false allegations can be rationally explained. “ There’s a complex network of social workers, mental health professionals, and law enforcement officials that actually encourages charges of child abuse–- whether they are reasonable or not.” Dr. Gardner is referring to the fact that the Mondale Act (CAPTA) is responsible for the dramatic increase in child abuse charges. “ In effect, the Mondale Act, despite its good intentions, created and continued to fund a virtual child abuse industry, populated by people whose livelihoods depend on bringing more and more allegations into the system”’. Armin Brott, “A system out of Control: The Epidemic of False Allegations of Child Abuse”
The Federal Government will award $20 million in grants in 2004 to communities across the nation to plan and develop Family Advocacy Centers. (United States Department of Justice “Fact Sheet” on “The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative”; www.ojp.usdoj.gov). The DOJ’s “Fact Sheet” reveals hidden financial incentives in the formation of centers to promote domestic violence cases. Family violence “services” will create a large number of jobs and benefit center associated professionals. Dropping cases will not. According to the DOJ Fact Sheet, the Family Violence Centers may include the following “services”:
- Medical Care, Including On-site or Off-site Primary Physical Care, Mental Health Counseling for Victims and Dependents, Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Collection;
- Law Enforcement and Legal Assistance Services, Including On-site Help to Get Protective Orders Signed and Enforced, to Investigate and Prosecute Offenders, and Provide Witness Assistance and Court-based Victim Advocates;
- State-of-the-art Information Sharing and Case Management Systems;
- Social Services, Including Federal and State Welfare Assistance for Parents and Children;
- Employment Assistance, Including Employment and Career Counseling and Training Through Local One Stop Employment Centers or Other Local Services;
- Substance Abuse Treatment;
- Child-related Needs Such as Parenting Classes, Teen Pregnancy Services, Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Programs, Services for Child Witnesses of Domestic Violence, Assistance for Relocating Children into New Schools, Truancy Programs, and Youth Mentoring Programs;
- Housing and Transportation Assistance to Cover Immediate Needs and Help with Long-term Housing Solutions; and
- Chaplaincy or Faith-based Counseling Programs Providing Victims and Their Families with Non-sectarian Spiritual Guidance.
United States Department of Justice www.ojp.usdoj.gov
Fact Sheet: The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative
Which professionals directly benefit from a community-based Family Violence Center?
- Medical: Physicians, S.A.N.E (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners), and Nurses;
- Law Enforcement: Police Investigators, Patrol, Polygraph Operators; Supervisors, Staff;
- Legal: District Attorney’s Offices; Assistant District Attorneys, Investigators, Staff;
- Social Services: Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, Caseworkers, Investigators, Supervisors, and Support Staff;
- Employment Offices: Employment Agencies, Workers, and Staff;
- “Forensic Interviewers”; - Substance Abuse Centers: Substance Abuse Counselors;
- Child Related Vendors; Counselors and Therapists;
- Housing Authorities; Placement and Personnel
- Counseling Services: Mental Health, Rage and Anger, Battering Intervention Prevention Program Counselors, Marriage Counselors, Family Counselors;
- Women’s Advocacy Group Personnel - Women’s Shelter Placement Personnel and Shelter Personnel
- Victim Advocate Services Personnel (Advocates to Support Victims and Monitor the Individual Case from Arrest Through Trial).
Who on the above list benefits if no arrest and charge are made?
Ultimately, this begs the big question:
Is the government interested in the quality or the quantity of domestic abuse cases?
Silverstorn, “The Truth About Child Protective Services”, www.home.attbi.com/-silverstorm/cps.htm
A critic of the Family Violence Industry, John Flaherty, co-chairman of the Fatherhood Coalition states:
‘This industry is an octopus. It’s got its tentacles in more and more parts of everyday life. It’s a political movement . . . This industry doesn’t answer to anybody. They’re in it mainly for the money . . . The industry’s problems may be about to increase, because it is becoming clear through scientific research that the whole premise of the movement and the industry it spawned - - that “domestic violence” means bad men hitting helpless, innocent women - - is just plain wrong.’
John Maguire, Massachusetts News www.massnews.com, “The Booming Domestic Violence Industry”
The Family Advocacy Centers will operate with the group mindset of most bureaucracies.
“ The agencies’ main objective is self preservation: to perpetuate the bureaucracy and to expand the bureaucracy.”
(Silverstorn,“The Truth About Child Protective Services,” www.home.attbi.com/-silverstorm/cps.htm).
The method for doing this is by seeking and making cases.
How will the advocacy centers get the number of cases they need? A philosophical change at the most basic level was needed. In order to make the numbers work, the definition of family violence had to be expanded to extend beyond battering spouses and include normal family arguments. In essence, the system adapted by accepting each family violence “911" call as a potential customer.
‘A call to 911 is generally mutually assured destruction of a relationship, marriage, family, and the lives of all involved. It doesn’t matter that you’re innocent. Or that she attacked you first. Or that you both went over the line and that both of you want to put it behind you and work it out. The system will prosecute you and persecute you until you’ve confessed your sins– even if you’ve none to confess. And you’re not cured until they say you’re cured– even if you were never sick to begin with.’
Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., quoting Glenn Sacks,
“What Happens When 911 is Dialed Under Current Colorado Law”
“Zero Tolerance” and “No- Drop” policies create a constant stream of what the advocacy centers need most: bodies. More arrests result in more persons charged. The assembly line then takes over, and the unwitting family becomes passed on from one self-interested protector to another. Post arrest the victim is ”assisted” by the police detective, “forensic interviewer,” and the prosecutor. Incriminatory statements secured, the prosecution team will temporarily lose interest until trial.
At this point, the victim support groups take over, advocates are appointed, and shelters are called, counselors engaged. The list goes on until the family is emotionally, psychologically, and financially drained. And if it all goes perfectly for the team: conviction.
In essence, a great food chain is created, in which many professionals, counselors, physicians, and vendors, are feeding off persons arrested and charged under “Zero Tolerance” programs. Family advocacy salesmen freely admit the concept is a direct springboard from the child advocacy centers. An Allen Texas Police Investigator states: “The children’s advocacy center works very well in Collin County . . . crime victims groups in Collin County work well together. So having a family justice center would encourage that more.” (Dallas Morning News, Collin County Edition, March 14, 2004, “Groups Unite To End Domestic Violence”).
The financial rewards for Family Advocacy Centers will not be dependent upon criminal convictions. The funding will be given to the centers regardless of the outcome of the case, or truth of the allegations. With absolute immunity from liability, the Family Advocacy Center team members have no fear of any repercussions for their actions.
4. Team Unity: Take Out A Family For the Team
The majority of District Attorney’s Offices in North Texas follow the national model of having specialized family violence units, where assigned prosecutors and investigators handle only domestic violence cases. Many North Texas law enforcement agencies have specialty family violence teams. All of the law enforcement agencies affiliated with an advocacy center assign officers to the center as part of a domestic violence task force.
The creation of specialized domestic violence prosecution teams has but one goal: conviction of a suspected perpetrator. The advocacy team collaboration of prosecutors, police, social workers, medical professionals, counselors and others are a team in every sense of the word. They share more than a central location. They share belief systems, ideologies, strategies, and a game plan. That game plan is to convict any person charged with domestic violence. The belief system is one that every person charged with domestic violence is a batterer. The belief system also finds every victim of domestic violence to be a battered spouse.
The belief system incorporates extreme arrogance. The family violence team knows better than anyone, particularly the family itself, of what is best for them. The team works together in secret, planning and mapping out strategy to forge the future of the family, whether it is in their best interests or not.
‘Unfortunately, it won’t really matter what happened that night or how capable she (alleged victim) is of deciding for herself whether or not she needs protection– the court and the prosecutors can still say no. They can stand by and tell that victim that she doesn’t really know what’s best for her and her family. She is a victim– how can she possibly know what’s after what she’s been through?
Many of these people know exactly what is best for them and their families, and yet are revictimized by the powerlessness imposed upon them by a system of people who know better.’
Janeice T. Martin, Attorney at Law,Naples (Florida) Daily News,
November 3, 2002, “Domestic Violence- The Other Side of Zero Tolerance”
The above statement is not an aberration. It is common to find family service plans forced upon alleged victims by advocacy center social workers to include conditions, which require:
1. The alleged perpetrator to reside out of the household while the case is pending;
2. The alleged perpetrator to have no contact with the family while the case is pending;
3. The alleged victim to “assist” in the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator.
Assisting in prosecution means the victim must testify against the defendant. It also often means the victim must pursue divorce proceedings against the defendant. If the victim does not want to divorce or testify, advocates for failing to protect her children will eventually threaten her. Then the protectors will threaten removal of the children unless the victim pledges allegiance to the team and assists in convicting the defendant.
‘Women are coerced into accepting their cultish indoctrination via the use of threats, intimidation, and the fear of losing their children . . . Women are ordered to leave their husbands, even in the absence of real domestic violence or abuse. They are ordered to never let the fathers see their children, or DSS will charge the women with neglect.’ Nev Moore, “Unhealthy Relationship between DSS and Domestic Violence Industry.”
5. Pssst . . . They Are Coming . . . Or Are They Already Here?
Family Advocacy Centers are a relatively new innovation in the “War on Domestic Violence.” They are quickly following in the footsteps of Child Advocacy Centers. Many communities are combining the two into one super center. The City of Phoenix Arizona may have been the first to create a strictly domestic violence center upon opening the “Family Advocacy Center” in August 1999. The Phoenix model is a good indicator of the self fulfilling prophecy behind Family Advocacy Centers, “Build It - They Will Come.” Statistics of cases from the Phoenix Center show:
Since August 1999, Phoenix has had 16,439 domestic violence “contacts” in which 59% have received “services.” Translated, this figure means roughly 9700 domestic violence cases in five years since the opening of the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center. (www.phoenix.gov/CITZASST/fac.html).
How many of those cases resulted in criminal convictions could not be ascertained.
The first known Family Advocacy Center in Texas opened its doors in January of 2002. The City of Irving “Family Advocacy Center” describes its goal to “bring together those police units and outside agencies that provide support, prosecution, and therapy for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault.” (www.irvingpd.com/IFAC.htm). To no one’s surprise, the Irving Police Department adopted a “Zero Tolerance” stance on domestic violence. Again, not surprisingly, Irving boasts of rising statistical increases in the number of domestic violence cases received since the creation of its Family Advocacy Center. Consistent with Phoenix, the Irving police department website does not cite statistics regarding actual criminal convictions.
Rest assured, the Family Advocacy Center is coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
According to the Department of Justice, the federal government will award $20 million in grants in 2004 to communities across the nation to plan and develop Family Advocacy Centers. (United States Department of Justice Fact Sheet on The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative; www.ojp.usdoj.gov).
Collin County, Texas is one of the communities applying for the federal grant money. However, a spokesman for the Collin County District Attorney’s office indicated the county “ would pursue the center even if it did not win the grant. But without financial backing, the project would take longer.” (Dallas Morning News, Collin County Edition, March 14, 2004, “Groups Unite To End Domestic Violence”).
North Texas is an active participant in the domestic violence industry. Dallas and Denton Counties have instituted specialty family violence courts, in which domestic violence cases are primarily the only cases on the docket. Specialized courts allow prosecutors and judges to create a uniform method to streamline cases. The accused faces a tremendous obstacle in a family violence court. The court’s very existence is silently predicated upon convicting as many defendants as possible. Only convictions can feed the system, as with convictions come fines, community supervision fees, battering intervention program costs, and other methods of pouring money back into the industry. Rising numbers of convictions mean the need for more prosecutors, judges, probation officers, domestic violence counselors, domestic violence programs and more specialized domestic violence courts. Convictions also support the propaganda generating the movement: “family violence is prevalent in your community at an unconscionable rate.”
The government substantiates its national cry of a plethora of domestic violence through statistical data. Since there is not a nationwide plethora of domestic violence, the protectors needed assistance in the form of fuzzy math. The fuzzy math was easily solved. Simply cite statistics that show the number of domestic violence “contacts” or “services provided” rather than domestic violence convictions. By using “contacts” as the statistical benchmark, family violence crusaders are able to point to every police dispatch to a family argument as a “case.” These “cases” then secure the numbers needed for federal and state grant money.
Another problem facing the protectors was dealing with the end result of minuscule criminal activity. How would prosecutors secure criminal convictions in court after arresting family members for arguments and trivial push-shove matches? For this, the protectors and politicians needed to change the law.
The legislature responded with open arms.
|VI. CHANGING THE RULES TO CONVICT|
1. Legislative Changes
Pro football star, Warren Moon, former quarterback of the Houston Oilers and Minnesota
Vikings was charged with domestic violence assault in July 1995. The case captured national attention as his wife, the alleged victim, Felicia Moon did not want to testify or pursue charges.
The prosecution forced Felicia Moon to testify after the Texas Legislature amended and limited the “Husband - Wife” privilege. Prior to the change in the law, a spouse could elect not to be a witness for the state to testify against the other spouse.
‘The couple said they scuffled at their home July 18 after an argument over credit cards provoked Mrs. Moon to throw a 2-pound candleholder at Moon's back. Mrs. Moon ended up with scratches and bruises around her neck and shoulders. Moon said that he was probably responsible for the injuries but that he was trying to calm his wife, not harm her.
Mrs. Moon likewise insisted her husband never intended o hurt her. She had pleaded with prosecutors to not press charges but was forced to take the stand under a 1995 law eliminating the right to refuse to testify against one's spouse. More than 40 states have eliminated the spousal privilege.’ Terri Langford, Associated Press, February 23, 1996.
It took the jury merely 27 minutes yesterday to acquit Warren Moon of the assault.
The 1995 amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Evidence authorize the prosecution to mandate a spouse to testify against the other spouse. The provisions read:
ART. 38.10 EXCEPTIONS TO THE SPOUSAL ADVERSE TESTIMONY PRIVILEGE
The privilege of a person’s spouse not to be called as a witness for the state does not apply in any proceeding in which the person is charged with a crime committed against the person’s spouse, a minor child, or a member of the household of either spouse. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 38.10
(b) Privilege Not to Testify in Criminal Case
(4) Exceptions: The privilege of a person’s spouse not to be called as a witness for the state does not apply:
(A) Certain criminal proceedings.
In any proceeding in which the person is charged with a crime against the person’s spouse, a member of the household of either spouse, or any minor.
Texas Rules of Evidence 504 : Husband - Wife Privileges
In addition to the legislative changes, Texas Appellate Courts have broadened hearsay exceptions, authorizing the prosecution to introduce supposed prior statements of an alleged victim.
2. Hearsay Evidence
Hearsay is defined as “ a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” (Tex. Rules. Evid. 803 (2)). In layman’s terms, hearsay occurs when a witness testifies regarding what they heard someone else say. Hearsay is inadmissible at trial; however, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule.
In domestic violence cases hearsay evidence is often admitted as substantive evidence of guilt. It is typical for courts to allow a police officer to testify to the officer’s memory of what the victim supposedly said at the time of the incident. This testimony is admitted even though the victim’s alleged statements were not recorded by the officer. Rather, the officer is testifying from notes in the police report made several hours or even days after the arrest. This testimony is admitted as an “excited utterance.”
An excited utterance is defined as “A statement relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition.” (Tex. Rules. Evid. 803 (2)). It is common for a statement to be admitted at trial as an excited utterance even if the incident occurred several hours prior to the officer obtaining the statement from the victim. The hearsay exception of excited utterances also allows the state to play the recorded “911" call from the victim to the jury. Whether an “excited utterance” is admissible is within the discretion of the trial court judge.
A criminal defense attorney will object to hearsay testimony as a violation of the defendant’s right to confront their accuser at trial. When a witness at trial is reciting hearsay testimony, the defendant cannot cross-examine or confront the person who actually made the statement. The person who made the statement, called the declarant, is not the witness on the stand. The United States Constitution and state constitutions guarantee the defense the right to confront the accuser at trial. Generally speaking, an objection on the grounds the confrontation clause was violated is overruled by the trial court judge if the state can prove a hearsay exception.
On March 8, 2004, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Crawford v. Washington, 2004 U.S. Lexis 1838, 72 U.S.L.W. 4229. The court interpreted the Sixth Amendment “Confrontation Clause” of the United State's Constitution. In Crawford, the Court found the confrontation clause was violated when a recorded statement by Crawford’s spouse was played for the jury. Crawford’s wife did not testify at trial under Washington’s “Husband-Wife” privilege.
The case may not impact traditional hearsay rule exceptions. The Court made a distinction between “testimonial” and “non-testimonial” hearsay. The spouse in Crawford, had also been arrested and gave her statement while in police custody. The Court found those circumstances to be testimonial hearsay, inadmissible as a violation of the confrontation clause when the recording was played at trial and she did not testify.
Crawford does not cover “non-testimonial” statements such as when a spouse makes incriminating statements against the alleged battering spouse on a “911" call. Additionally, Crawford‘s ruling may not apply to "excited utterance" hearsay statements made by the victim when police first arrive on the scene. That question will be addressed by state appellate courts. With anticipated pressure from the Family Violence Industry, state appellate courts may take a very narrow view of Crawford’s holding and allow hearsay statements into evidence.
3. Syndrome Evidence May Be Admissible Against the Accused
A new strategy is being urged by the state in domestic violence cases, particularly when the alleged victim has recanted or changed her story. The prosecutors are borrowing concepts from child sexual assault cases and attempting to expand them to family violence cases. In many states, prosecutors in child abuse cases can offer expert testimony that a child is suffering from the “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome”(C.S.A.A.S.). This syndrome is based on the theory that abused children will exhibit certain character traits indicative of abuse.
Prosecutors in adult assault cases are now attempting to show a victim who recants or changes the original story is suffering from “Battered Woman’s Syndrome.” The new prosecutorial trend is to use the syndrome to explain why a victim of domestic violence would recant. The state wants the jury to hear expert testimony explaining that a victim is likely to recant, not due to the absence of violence, but because she is a battered woman.
"Battered Woman Syndrome describes a pattern of psychological and behavioral symptoms found in women living in battering relationships." People v. Romero, 13 Cal Rptr 2d 332, 336 (Cal App 2d Dist. 1992).
The nation’s leading expert on the syndrome, Dr. Lenore Walker, states:
There are four general characteristics of the syndrome:
1. The woman believes that the violence was her fault.
2. The woman has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
3. The woman fears for her life and/or her children's lives.
4. The woman has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.
Walker, found nine typical characteristics of the battered wife:
(1) has low self-esteem;
(2) believes all the myths about battering relationships;
(3) is a traditionalist about the home, strongly believes in family unity and the prescribed feminine sex-role stereotype;
(4) accepts responsibility for the batterer's actions;
(5) suffers from guilt, yet denies the terror and anger she feels;
(6) presents a passive face to the world but has the strength to manipulate her environment enough to prevent further violence and being killed;
(7) has severe stress reactions, with psychophysiological complaints;
(8) uses sex as a way to establish intimacy; and
(9) believes that no one will be able to help her resolve her predicament except herself.
Dr. Lenore Walker, ‘The Battered Woman Syndrome’ (1984)
Slowly the syndrome is appearing in domestic violence courts throughout the country as a means to strengthen the state’s case against the accused. The majority of courts are disallowing expert testimony without specific proof the victim in that case suffers from the syndrome. However, it is anticipated this syndrome will soon gain the same status as C.S.A.A.S. and become a routine prosecutorial tactic against defendants in domestic violence cases.
With syndrome evidence, the state replaces its lack of real proof with speculation. Expert testimony stating the wife is a battered woman is fatal to the falsely accused. A wife testifying for the defendant describing the incident may tell the jury she exaggerated or was the instigator herself. The prosecution in rebuttal will call an expert witness to inform the jury that she is testifying in a manner consistent with being a battered spouse and merely protecting her husband.
A variety of state law cases indicate this prosecutorial trend seeking to introduce evidence the victim belongs to the class of persons known as “Battered Woman’s Syndrome”:
1. Russell v. State, Court of Appeals of Alaska, 2002 Alas. App. LEXIS 237, ( 2002) (Memorandum decision, not legal precedent);
2. People v. Williams, Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Four, 78 Cal. App. 4th 1118; 93 Cal. Rptr. 2d 356;
3. State v. Yusuf, Appellate Court of Connecticut, 70 Conn. App. 594; 800 A.2d 590; 2002 Conn. App. LEXIS 349 (2002);
4. State v. Niemeyer, Appellate Court of Connecticut, 55 Conn. App. 447; 740 A.2d 416; 1999 Conn. App. LEXIS 408 (1999);
5. Michigan v. Christel, 449 Mich. 578, 537 N.W.2d 194, 1995 Mich. LEXIS 1477;
6. State v. Cummings, Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth Appellate District, 2002 Ohio 4178; 2002 Ohio App. LEXIS 4353 (2002);
7. Garcia v. State, NO. 01-99-01068-CR, Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston, 2000 Tex. App. LEXIS 3774, (2000)(Unpublished, not legal precedent).
4. Convictions Without Physical Evidence
Defendants have been convicted of domestic violence without any physical evidence introduced against them at trial. In many cases, the argument resulting in the arrest was so slight the alleged victim does not need or seek medical treatment. Frequently, the accused is convicted for intentionally causing “bodily injury” without any testimony from a qualified medical expert. The victim’s testimony alone that she felt pain or suffered bodily injury is sufficient for a conviction.
This testimony can be supported by police officer testimony of having observed red marks, scratches, or bleeding, to substantiate the decision to arrest. These claimed injuries may or may not be photographed and preserved for trial. Commonly, a defendant is convicted of causing bodily injury without medical or photographic evidence.
The creation of the Family Advocacy Center is anticipated to follow their Child Advocacy Center predecessors. Medical nurses and employees, whose livelihoods depend upon their contracts with the centers, will give opinions that a victim was abused. Failure to give the right opinion will mean the contract is not renewed. These opinions from medical “experts” will say the findings are “consistent with” abuse. Of course, “consistent with abuse” is not a true medical diagnosis. This testimony, when attacked by the defense attorney will reveal the findings given, as “consistent with abuse” are just as “inconsistent with abuse”.
Instead of physical and medical evidence, the falsely accused are now and will continue to be convicted upon theories, inferences, and speculation. Prosecutors secure convictions by manipulating the juries’ fear of releasing a battering spouse back into the home. This fear will be combined with hearsay, expert witness “syndrome evidence”, misleading medical testimony, and the biased opinions of family advocacy investigators. Immediately after arrest the alleged victim will be hustled to the Family Advocacy Center to be interviewed. At the center, a “forensic interviewer” with the help of state agents will orchestrate a video taped interview. The prosecutor and police detective will be monitoring the process through a two-way mirror in the adjacent room. The interviewer will be in communication and fed questions from the agents through a wireless microphone earpiece. The interviewer will question the alleged victim when she is still highly emotional and upset, prone to exaggeration and motivated to hurt the accused. Many cases have shown investigators to require an alleged victim to add the phrase “ I felt pain” to any written or verbal description of the incident. The alleged victim is unaware that “pain” is the legal buzzword authorities must have to prosecute.
5. Summary: Recipe for conviction:
1. “911” call from the alleged victim claiming assault and injury;
2. Recorded preservation of the “911" call for trial;
3. A biased police investigation;
4. A Zero Tolerance policy requiring the police to make an arrest;
5. A biased interviewer requiring the alleged victim to state or write that she felt “pain”;
6. A biased medical report by a “nurse” contracted by the domestic violence industry;
7. Syndrome evidence from an “expert” witness if the victim recants or changes her story;
8. Trial testimony through “excited utterance” hearsay and denial of the husband - wife privilege not to testify against their spouse;
9. Conviction on little or no physical evidence.
|VII. FAMILY VIOLENCE LEGAL FACTS: A CHECKLIST|
1. Issues Upon Arrest
- What Is Family Violence?
Family violence is defined as “an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.” Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004 (2004)
- What Is An Assault Family Violence Offense?
There is not a Texas penal code statute entitled “Assault - Family Violence.” Despite what offense may have been written on the magistrate’s warning or bail bond, the actual offense is for “Assault”. In Texas, an assault offense can range from a Class C misdemeanor (similar to traffic citation) to a felony. The charge is a Class C misdemeanor if the physical contact is merely regarded as “ offensive “ or “provocative”. In those situations, the suspect usually receives a citation and promises to appear later in a Municipal Court where the maximum punishment is by fine up to $500.00.
The vast majority of family violence cases are charged as Class A misdemeanors in which it is alleged the defendant caused ”bodily injury” to the victim. In cases in which “serious bodily injury “ is alleged, the offense is characterized as a felony. It also will be a felony if “the defendant has been previously convicted of an offense against a member of the defendant's family or household”.
- What Evidence Do The Police Need To Make An Arrest?
An officer must arrest if probable cause exists to believe that bodily injury has occurred.
- Do the Police Need A Warrant To Arrest Me?
Texas state law authorizes the police to make an arrest without a warrant of:
“ persons who the peace officer has probable cause to believe have committed an assault resulting in bodily injury to a member of the person’s family or household.” Tex. Code. Crim. Proc. Art. 14.03 (a) (4).
This legal authorization leads to an automatic arrest or “zero tolerance” policy by many police departments. Once a call for assistance was made to a “911" operator regarding a domestic disturbance, someone is going to jail if there is any evidence, credible or not, of bodily injury.
- What is Bodily Injury?
“Bodily Injury means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition”. Tex. Pen. Code § 1.07 (8)
It does not take much to make an allegation of “bodily injury”. Bodily injury does not require a trip to the doctor, any medication, or even any sign of injury such as a bruise or red mark. The alleged victims’ statement they felt pain is sufficient for an arrest to be made. This is why the police officer will ask the alleged victim if she was “hurt” or felt “pain”. If the victim says yes, then the officer has been provided with probable cause the bodily injury provision has been met.
- What Happens If the Alleged Victim Decides She Does Not Want to Prosecute?
The State will prosecute the case anyway.
- What Is Zero Tolerance?
Zero Tolerance means the police will make an arrest without exception after a family argument if they have probable cause to believe any bodily injury has occurred.
- What Is A No Drop Policy
A “No Drop Policy” means the State will prosecute all domestic violence cases without exception, even if the victim wants the case dismissed and has filed an affidavit of non-prosecution.
- Can I Be Held in Jail Even after I Make Bail?
The magistrate (judge) can hold the arrested person in jail for four (4) hours after making bail, if there is probable cause to believe any violence would continue if the person were immediately released.
This period can be extended up to forty -eight hours if authorized in writing by a magistrate. If the extended time period exceeds twenty four (24) hours, the magistrate must make a finding the violence would be continued if the person were released and the person has previously been arrested within ten (10) years on more than one occasion for family violence or for any other offense involving the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 17.291 (2004)
- What Is the Arraignment?
After an arrest the accused will be brought before the magistrate for the arraignment. At this hearing, the magistrate will read the accused their legal rights, set bail, and usually issue an emergency protective order.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 15.17
- What Is an Emergency Protective Order?
An emergency protective order is issued against the accused by the magistrate at the arraignment hearing. The protective order may:
– evict the accused from their residence for sixty (60) days;
– prohibit the accused from possessing a firearm;
– prohibit the accused from communicating directly with a person protected by the order or a member of the family or household in a threatening or harassing manner;
– going to or near the residence, place of employment, or business of a member of the family or household or of the person protected under the order; or the residence, child care facility, or school where a child protected under the order resides or attends.
Art. 17.292. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
- What Happens If I Violate The Emergency Protective Order?
Violation of the emergency protective order results in a separate criminal offense punishable by a fine of as much as $ 4,000 or by confinement in jail for as long as one year or by both. An act that results in family violence or a stalking offense may be prosecuted as a separate misdemeanor or felony offense. If the act is prosecuted as a separate felony offense, it is punishable by confinement in prison for at least two years.
Art. 17.292. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
- Can the Judge Kick Me out of My Own House?
The protective order may evict the accused from their residence for sixty (60) days.
Art. 17.292. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
- Can I Be Ordered Not to Have Any Contact with My Wife or Children?
An emergency protective order by itself cannot prohibit the arrested person from making non-threatening communication or contact with the protected person. However, nothing prohibits the magistrate from making an additional “no - contact” condition of bail. Art. 17.40. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Conditions Related to Victim or Community Safety
- Can I Get the Protective Order Modified, Changed or Dismissed?
The court, which issued the emergency protective order, can modify all or part of the order after each party has received notice and a hearing has been held. In order to change or modify the order, the court must find:
(1) the order as originally issued is unworkable;
(2) the modification will not place the victim of the offense at greater risk than did the original order; and
(3) the modification will not in any way endanger a person protected under the order.
Art. 17.292. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
- What If My Spouse Says She Will Not Enforce The Protective Order?
Only the Judge who issued the emergency order can change it or set it aside. No other person can give permission to anyone to ignore or violate the order.
Art. 17.292. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
- How Long Is The Protective Order In Effect?
An emergency protective order is in effect for not less than thirty-one (31) days and not more than sixty-one (61) days. Art. 17.292. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
A final protective order issued by a District Court may be in effect for up to two (2) years.
Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025 (2004)
- Can I Own or Possess a Firearm While out on Bail?
After arrest a magistrate will usually issue an emergency protective order, which can prohibit the arrested person from possessing a firearm, unless the person is a peace officer.
Art. 17.292. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
The magistrate or judge assigned the case can make additional bond conditions, which prohibit the accused from possessing a firearm while the case is pending.
- What Happens If I Have Right To Carry Handgun License?
The magistrate can suspend a license to carry a concealed handgun.
Art. 17.292. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Magistrate's Order for Emergency Protection
- What Kind of Conditions Will I Be under While out on Bail?
A magistrate can require any condition to bail that he / she finds to be reasonable as long as it is related to the safety of the victim or the community.
Art. 17.40. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Conditions Related to Victim or Community Safety
In some cases this may mean there is to be no contact between the alleged victim and the defendant. Once the case has been assigned to a court, that judge may order additional conditions of bond. A judge in Collin County, Texas, has made it a practice to require the accused to attend a weekly batterer intervention counseling program for eighteen (18) weeks even though there has been no conviction.
- The Prosecutor Must Notify Family Law Court Of An Arrest For Domestic Violence If Temporary Orders Regarding Custody or Possession of a Child Are In Effect.
The prosecutor must notify a family law court of an arrest for family violence if the family law court had previously entered temporary orders.
Art. 42.23. Notification of Court of Family Violence Conviction
- What Is An Affidavit of Non-Prosecution?
This affidavit is a legal document from the victim informing the authorities prosecution is not desired and requesting the case to be dropped.
- What Happens If My Spouse Executes an Affidavit of Non-prosecution?
The charging decision belongs to the government. In all likelihood, the State will prosecute the case anyway.
- Should We Meet With The Prosecutor To Get The Case Dismissed?
Sometimes the alleged victim wants to meet with the prosecutor to change her story and get the charge dismissed.
This procedure needs to be skillfully handled by an attorney. If your spouse meets with either the prosecutor or police investigator alone, she will be threatened with arrest and prosecution if she wants to change the original story. The prosecutor will threaten to charge her with making a false statement to a police officer and / or perjury.
- Can The Case Ever Be Dismissed?
Yes, even with a “no-drop” or “zero tolerance” policy, a good attorney can eventually influence the prosecutor to drop the case. Prosecutors, despite great overtures about caring for the victim and similar altruistic posturing, care very much about winning. The only thing that matters to a prosecutor is winning the case and advancing their career. The alleged victims are just numbers whose faces and situations will be forgotten by the prosecutor with the start of the next case.
The defense motivates the prosecutor to dismiss. Prosecutors hate to lose cases. If confronted with a case that cannot be won they will try to deviate from office policy to dismiss, “just this one time”.
- What If There Is No Physical Evidence of Bodily Injury ?
In many cases evidence of injury is slight, or no physical evidence of injury may exist at all. The State will prosecute the case anyway.
- How Could I Be Found Guilty If There Is No Physical Evidence?
The State can get a conviction solely on the testimony of the alleged victim without any physical evidence of bodily injury.
- What If The Victim Does Not Show Up For Trial?
The State will subpoena her for trial. If she does not appear the judge will issue a writ of attachment (arrest warrant). The Sheriff will arrest your spouse and bring her to the courthouse. If she cannot be located, the judge will grant the State’s motion for a continuance. If she cannot be found, even after a continuance, the State will prosecute the case and present hearsay evidence of what your spouse said:
1. On the 911 dispatch tape;
2. To the investigating police officers;
3. By introducing any written or recorded statements of your spouse. (Written or recorded statements may now be inadmissible after the United States Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Washington, 2004 U.S. Lexis 1838, 72 U.S.L.W. 4229.)
- Can the Case Be Won At Trial?
These cases are frequently won at trial by skilled criminal defense attorneys. In many situations, the argument involved both parties and any physical assault was actually mutual combat. Self-defense is a defense to prosecution under Texas and all states law.
2. Consequences Of A Conviction
- Will An Arrest Or Conviction Be on My Record?
A conviction, probated sentence, or deferred adjudication will result in a permanent criminal record. In Texas there are only two ways to remove a domestic violence arrest record. An attorney can have the records of arrest expunged (destroyed) if the state never files a case or if the case is won at trial.
A plea of guilty or no contest to the charge or a finding of guilt, will result in a criminal record even if the defendant is placed on probation or deferred adjudication and successfully completes the community supervision period.
There is no method by law to expunge, destroy, or seal domestic violence convictions, probations, or deferred adjudications.
Tex. Govt. Code § 411.081
- What Happens If I Am Not a U.S. Citizen?
A person charged with domestic violence who is not a United States citizen can face serious penalties.
Deportation is possible even if the case ends in probation or deferred adjudication.
A re-entry into the United States may be denied after arrest, even if the case has not gone to trial.
- Who Would Have Access to My Record?
The records will be available for anyone with access at the courthouse or over the internet. Even a deferred adjudication case will be discoverable to any person. Present or future employers will have access to domestic violence records.
- If I Successfully Complete Deferred Adjudication, Can I Get the Records Sealed?
Deferred adjudication for family violence cannot be expunged or have the records sealed. It will be a permanent record, even though a formal conviction is not entered.
Tex. Govt. Code § 411.081
- Can I Own or Possess a Firearm?
If the person enters a plea of guilty or no contest or is found guilty at trial they will not be able to possess a firearm for (5) years under Texas law, and not possess a firearm or ammunition at all under federal law. The federal law has no time limitation to it. The loss of the right to possess a firearm applies whether the case ends in a conviction, probation, or deferred adjudication.
Tex. Penal Code § 46.04 (2004); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g) (9)
- If Placed On Community Supervision, Will I Have to Attend Counseling?
A person on community supervision for domestic violence will be required to attend a year long Battering Intervention Prevention Program counseling course. The average defendant is required to attend once a week for a fifty - two (52) week period. Failure to attend, or missing too many meetings will result in revocation of the community supervision and placement in jail.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.141 (2004)
- Can I Attend Counseling of My Own Choosing?
The defendant does not get to select a counseling program. This program will be set up in advance and the defendant will be required to attend.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.141 (2004)
- What Are Typical Probation / Deferred Conditions for Domestic Violence Cases?
The defendant is responsible for all costs of counseling and probation. Typical conditions of Community Supervision include:
– Court Costs;
– Victim Impact Panels;
– Counseling for Victim;
– Contributions to Women’s Domestic Violence Shelters;
– Weekly Batterers Intervention Prevention Program Counseling;
– Anger Management Counseling;
– Monthly Probation Fees of $50.00 per Month;
– No Contact With Victim;
– Random Urinalysis Testing;
– Monthly Reporting To Probation Officer;
– Community Service;
– Other Conditions the Judge Finds to Be Reasonable.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.14
- A Domestic Violence Conviction Will Result in a Finding of Family Violence.
If the defendant enters a plea or is found guilty, the trial court must make an affirmative finding of family violence and enter the affirmative finding in the judgment.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.013 (2004)
- What Does it Mean to Have a Family Violence Finding?
A plea of either guilty or no contest will result in a family violence finding even if the sentence is deferred.
A finding of family violence can have drastic consequences for a parent facing a child custody or modification case. There may be a presumption that the accused is not a fit parent.
- The Trial Court Judge Must Notify Family Court Of A Family Violence Finding.
The trial court judge must notify the family court judge if the defendant was found guilty or pled guilty or no contest to a family violence offense. This must be done even if the defendant is placed on deferred adjudication.
Art. 42.23. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Notification of Court of Family Violence Conviction
- A Final Protective Order Can Be Entered Against a Person Found to Have Committed Family Violence.
A family court judge may enter a final protective order against a person found guilty or pled guilty or no contest to a family violence offense. This can be done even if the defendant is placed on deferred adjudication
Tex. Fam. Code § 85.022 Requirements of Order Applying to Person Who Committed Family Violence
- What Are the Possible Penalties for a Conviction?
In Texas, the accused faces up to a $4,000.00 fine for a conviction, whether by a plea or a finding of guilt at trial. The accused may be incarcerated for up to one year in the county jail upon conviction, whether by a plea or a finding of guilt at trial.
If the accused has a prior conviction for family violence, a second charge will be prosecuted as a third degree felony offense, carrying a range of punishment of not less than two (2) years or more than ten (10) years in the penitentiary and a fine up to $10,000.00.
Tex. Pen. Code. § 12.21; § 12.34
|VIII. SELECTING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY|
1. Do Not Attempt This On Your Own
If informed that surgery is needed to remove a tumor, the patient would not go home and start rummaging through kitchen knives to commence a self-service operation. Obviously this procedure is best left to the skilled hands of a professional physician. The same principle exists when a family desires to have a criminal case dismissed. This is not the time to do it yourself.
The criminal justice system is a great mystery to those who are not familiar with its inner sanctum. There is a right way and wrong way to get things accomplished. The family finding itself facing an accusation does not understand how to approach the system. Common sense and justice, thought to be inherent in the system, does not exist. Rather the criminal justice system is more concerned with power, perpetuation of the appearance of justice, and statistics.
Media and political attention concerning domestic violence may tend to have the naive think the system is concerned with the well being of families. This is incorrect. The system does not care one iota about the families it captures in its web. A family in recovery, healing from domestic conflicts presumes the protectors would be pleased to discover prosecution is no longer desired. This is certainly the public persona exemplified by the protectors. Referring to the Smith County, Texas Family Advocacy Center, Executive Director Carol Langston said: “ I would love for the center not to have to be here 20 or 40 years from now.” (Laura Krantz, Staff Writer, March 20, 2004, Tyler Morning Telegraph). Baloney.
In fact the exact opposite is true. The protectors want as many cases as possible and are not concerned with what’s best for the family. The system is concerned with what’s best for itself, growth and expansion. Those goals are not met by dropping cases.
“This is crazy. We had an argument that got out of control. Everything is fine now. My spouse does not want to prosecute. If I talk to them and explain it will go away." This is the initial feeling of a family who does not want any additional complications, such as a frivolous prosecution in their lives. The family may be experiencing problems and difficulties, but it is not a matter that requires governmental intervention. Husband and Wife desire to work out their issues on their own, their way. All that is needed now is to make an appointment to speak to the prosecutor and have the State to drop the case. The State Will Not Drop the Case.
2. Rules For The Accused
Rule No. 1: There is nothing you can say to these people to make them go away.
Nothing an accused or alleged victim can say or do will convince the protectors (Family Advocacy Prosecutor, Family Advocacy Center Caseworker, Police Detective) that the abuse did not occur. NOTHING!
Rule No. 2: The case will not be dismissed until the government finds a dismissal is in their best interests, not the best interests of the family.
The individual effected family means nothing to these people. The family is a mere meal ticket, another in a long line of families the system will victimize. Informing the protectors that the family is fine, has made up, is working out their problems, and does not need prosecution will be met on deaf ears. The system does not care. The protectors need bodies to meet necessary quotas to continue receiving grant money and expand.
It is only when the protectors recognize they will lose the case, possibly in an embarrassing fashion, that a dismissal will be considered. The state must be motivated through its own fear of losing face with a jury before it will consider the needs of the family.
Rule No. 3: Talking to the protectors without an attorney present is the single worst thing a wrongfully accused person can do.
In most cases an experienced attorney will not allow you to talk to the prosecutor or the police or give a statement. The attorney knows whatever you say will be used against you.
The violation of these rules by unaware family members is commonplace. A family desiring to put the incident behind them believes sanity will intervene at some point, and decide to contact the police and prosecution. The alleged victim and suspect will give written and videotaped statements. In addition, they will talk on the phone or offices of detectives and prosecutors without knowing they are being recorded.
The protectors are not interested in conducting a fair and thorough investigation. The accused and alleged victim who walk into a Family Advocacy Center without an experienced attorney to “tell their side of things” or “clear this all up” is doing exactly what the authorities want. The protectors know what they are doing. At this meeting they will obtain real or implied admissions and circumstances presenting opportunity for battering coming from the accused's own mouth.
An attorney can place you in a position so that you are “cooperating” with the investigation without incriminating yourself. The attorney can assist you in making the decision of whether to meet with the authorities. In most situations, the attorney knows the charge decision has already been made and that a meeting will not change the forthcoming prosecution.
3. Finding the Right Criminal Defense Attorney
Very few attorneys specialize in fighting domestic violence allegations. Many lawyers represent clients with assault charges. These lawyers will handle such cases in addition to a general criminal defense practice. Domestic cases are different from the typical criminal charge and must be handled differently!
Consider the following in hiring the right attorney:
A. Length of Practice and Experience.
A family violence allegation can only be defended successfully by an attorney with significant trial experience and specifically with assault cases. The accused is not in a position to have inexperienced counsel.
Unfortunately, the police, Family Advocacy Center personnel, and the public will consider you to be guilty. For one charged with family violence, it is important to act immediately. The accused must prove their innocence! An attorney who does not begin an all out defense at the very beginning is wasting valuable time and compromising your future.
There is no “home field advantage” in a domestic violence case. Do not shy away from a good attorney who is located in a different county from where you are being charged. Judges are elected politicians. Judges do not get re-elected if the public views them as soft on family violence. It makes no difference how well a local attorney knows the judge; it will not be of any assistance with this type of charge. An “outsider” who does not care about making the judge or prosecutor happy, but just wants to defend you and win, is much better than a local name.
B. Reject Plea Bargains.
A false allegation of domestic violence must be beaten through either a dismissal or an acquittal (not guilty finding) at trial. There is no victory in a plea bargain with these cases. The innocent persons life will be significantly affected by pleading guilty. At no time in dealing with a false allegation should there ever be an admission of guilt. A plea bargain may seem an easy way out, but it will ruin the life of the falsely accused forever.
Deferred Adjudication, successfully served will not result in a conviction for the defendant. However, the lack of a formal conviction is meaningless. Whether the accused receives deferred, straight probation, or is released from jail, he will still have a criminal record and a finding of family violence. These records are public and the nature of the charges can be made known to anyone. Family violence findings may result in the loss of employment and the inability to secure future meaningful employment.
Community Supervision for the defendant will require battering intervention program counseling. In this setting, the offender is required to admit that not only the actual charge is true, but also any extraneous charges or allegations made in police or advocacy center reports are true. It matters not that the charge is exaggerated, untrue, or only partially true. It matters not that the extraneous other charges did not occur. Failure to admit that everything alleged is true will result in a revocation of community supervision and incarceration.
The prosecution will tempt the inexperienced defense attorney with offers of deferred adjudication and “counseling” instead of incarceration. Do not fall for this guise. It can be difficult to complete probation as the rules keep changing. Making community supervision more difficult for family violence offenders is a legislative reality. Politicians enact new laws, which offer the appearance of fighting domestic violence. No lobby group exists for persons charged with domestic abuse and the legislature can make the community supervision process intolerable without opposition.
A finding of family violence can mean that you will lose your children.
C. Prepare a vigorous pre - charge defense to avoid prosecution.
If an attorney says to wait and see if you are formally charged; walk away immediately; the best time to get a dismissal is before a formal charge.
Many times the best method of winning a false allegation case is to defeat it before it officially starts. Evidence can be collected pre-charge by the defense that does not have to meet the standards of admissible evidence at trial. The defense can produce typically inadmissible evidence such as polygraph examination results, character letters, and other forms of hearsay. The defense can also offer expert witness reports and affidavits explaining the unreliability and tainted evidence procured by the prosecution. Here are some common examples of evidence that can be assessed for a charge dismissal packet:
A. Your Criminal History
B. Honorable Discharge
C. Education Records
D. Polygraph Results
E. Polygraph Report
F. Psychological and Personality Testing of Client
G. A Factual Summary of the Defense Version of the Case
H. Sworn Statements That the Alleged Victim Has Made False Accusations in the past
I. Legal Research and Case-law to Show Reason to Not Indict
J. Good Character Letters
K. Availability of Defendant and Others to Testify If Requested.
L. Recantations from Alleged Victims When Available.
M. Expert Witness Testimony and Affidavits Regarding Tainted Evidence Comprising the States’ case. Test Results Showing the Accused Does Not Have the Psychological Characteristics of a Batterer.
If your attorney insists that pursuing a pre-charge defense is a waste of time, fire him.
D. Prepare a vigorous defense for trial.
If the prosecutor accepts the charge, then the case must be prepared for trial. It is rare for the state to dismiss a case once they have formally filed an assault charge. Your attorney must be prepared to try these specialized types of cases.
Selection of the jury is critical for domestic violence cases. The potential jurors come into the case with heavy emotional attachments regarding allegations of abuse to a spouse. Strong emotions held by jurors about domestic violence must be overcome and their attention placed on being fair and acknowledging that false allegations are made. The jury panel must understand the serious potential for injustice a false allegation can cause.
In addition, the attorney must educate the jury panel on how false allegations could be made. The panel needs to understand how an alleged victim can make false and exaggerated statements and what motivation exists to do so.
The attorney must be well skilled in cross-examination to show deficiencies in the states investigation through a preconceived assumption of guilt shared amongst the advocacy team. Cross-examination is a skill obtainable only through years of trial practice itself.
The attorney must also be prepared to offer strong defensive witnesses. Contrary to many criminal cases, the accused must testify in a domestic violence case if the defense wants an acquittal. Until the jury hears it straight from the accused’s mouth that the abuse did not occur, it will convict.
True domestic violence is criminal and has resulted in tragic consequences. However, the cure may be as abhorrent as the disease. Governmental overkill has created the Family Violence Industry. The future is here as “Family Advocacy Centers “ are springing up across the nation with hands held out competing for federal funding. A needless bureaucratic machine defining innocent family members as batterers is the inevitable outcome of “zero tolerance” and “no - drop” policies.
Further, the protectors have assimilated into a system of arrogance and self-righteousness believing it and it alone knows what is best for the family. The protectors protect only themselves and seek not to do justice, but to expand and grow at the expense of those truly victimized, the individual family they claim to assist. A nation of Americans face a well funded and driven system intent upon finding family violence for every minor and insignificant transgression.
Instead of tackling real and legitimate domestic violence, the industry is content, fat, and happy with prosecution of the minutia.
1. Irving Family Advocacy Center www.irvingpd.com/IFAC.htm
2. “Fact Sheet: The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative” ‘United States Department of Justice’, www.ojp.usdoj.gov
3. “Cult of The Domestic Violence Industry” Dave Brown, ‘The Ottawa Citizen’, 2001
4. “Groups Unite To End Domestic Violence”‘ Dallas Morning News- Collin County Edition’, March 14, 2004
5. “Zero Tolerance Sucks” Editorial, ‘Winnipeg Free Press’, February 10, 2002
6. “Domestic Violence the Other Side of Zero Tolerance” Janice T. Martin, Esq., Naples (Florida) Daily News, November 3, 2002
7. “Domestic Violations,” Reason on Line, April 1998Cathy Young, Vice President, Women’s Freedom Network
8. “The Booming Domestic Violence Industry” John Maguire, Massachusetts News, August 2, 1999, www.massnews.com
9. “What Happens When 911 is Dialed Under Current Colorado Law” Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., Equal Justice Foundation
10. “Mandatory Restraining Order Pursuant to Section 18-1-1001", C.R.S. Charles E. Corry, Ph.D. 2002 Equal Justice Foundation
11. “Money and Politics Corrupting Domestic Violence Laws and Enforcement” Charles E. Corry, Ph.D, 2002 Equal Justice Foundation
12. “Family Violence, A Report from: Family Resources & Research” Sam & Bunny Sewell, www.landwave.com/family/
13. “Mandatory Arrest And Restraining Orders” From ‘Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies’ Richard L. Davis, A.L.M.
14. “Specialized Criminal Domestic Violence Courts” Julie A. Helling, ‘Violence Against Women Online Resources’ www.vaw.umn.edu
15. “Advocacy In a Coordinated Community Response” Rose Thelen, Gender Violence Institute, ‘Violence Against Women Online Resources’ www.vaw.umn.edu
16. “Criminal Prosecution of Domestic Violence” Linda A. McGuire, Esq., ‘Violence Against Women Online Resources’ www.vaw.umn.edu
17. “Assessing Justice System Response to Violence Against Women: A Tool for Law Enforcement, Prosecution, and the Courts to Use in Developing Effective Responses” Kristen Littel, M.A., ‘Violence Against Women Online Resources’ www.vaw.umn.edu
18. “Building Bridges Between Domestic Violence Organizations and Child Protective Services” Linda Spears, ‘Violence Against Women Online Resources’ www.vaw.umn.edu
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20. “Litigating Domestic Violence Cases: Effective Use of the Rules of Evidence” American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Civil Law Institute, 2000.
21. “Domestic Violence” NAA Text 2000, Chapter 9. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice
22. “Domestic Violence Protocol for Law Enforcement” Police Chief’s Association of Santa Clara County, 2002
23. “Family Violence Prevention - Best Practice Guide” Santa Clara County Social Services Agency, Department of Family and Children’s Services
24. “Domestic Violence: A Model Protocol for Police Response” B.J. Hart, Esq., Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse
25. “ A Process Evaluation of the Clark County Domestic Violence Court” Randall Kleinhesselink, Clayton Mosher, Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse March 2003.
26. “Creating a Domestic Violence Court: Combat in the Trenches” Randall Fizzier; Leonore M.J. Simon, ‘Court Review’, Spring 200
27. “Specialized Courts and Domestic Violence” Kristin Littel, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, May 2003
28. “Domestic Violence Court Opens” Amy Wallace, ‘Seacoast Online’, 2002
29. “Domestic Violence Court” www.utcourts.gov/domviolence/domov.htm
30. “Misandry Is No Solution” John Sample, ‘The Backlash’, August 1996
31. “A Tool Kit To Destroy Families” ‘Washington Times’, Commentary Section, December 9, 2001
32. “Irving Police Extend Hand To Crime’s Victims” Robert Miller, ‘Dallas Morning News’, March 28, 2004
33. “ Chandler (Kentucky Attorney General) Declares Zero Tolerance Policy On Violence Against Women,” Jennifer Schaaf, March 12, 1998, www.kyattorneygeneral.com/news/releases/006
34. “Garrett County To Crack Down On Domestic Violence” Garrett County State’s Attorney’s Office, Press Release, June 12, 1998
35. “Knocked for Six: The Myth of a Nation of Wife-batterers” Neil Lyndon, Paul Ashton, ‘The Sunday Times of London’, January 29, 1995
36. “Zero Tolerance For Domestic Violence” www.co.contra-costa.ca.us./depart/cao/DomViol
37. “Family Advocacy Center, A Safe Place To Get Help” City of Phoenix, Family Advocacy Center General Information, www.ci.phoenix.az.us./CITZASST/facbroch
38. “Baseball Player’s Domestic Violence Arrest Demonstrates How Men Are Presumed Guilty In Domestic Disputes,” Glenn Sacks, March 26, 2004, www.glennsacks.com
39. “Advocacy Center Unites Agencies To Battle Abuse” Laura Jett Krantz, March 20, 2004, Tyler Morning Telegraph
40. “Domestic Violence Information and Referral Handbook” Santa Clara County Probation Department www.growing.com/nonviolent/victim/vict_res.htm
41. “Advocacy Center Offers Refuge for Battered” A.E. Araiza, ‘The Arizona Daily Star’, March 14, 2004