A young boy who has witnessed family violence

What should you do if you have been arrested for assault-family violence?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Assault-family violence – commonly known as domestic violence – is a very common offense in Texas. Most people who are arrested for assault-family violence in the Greater Houston area have never been arrested for domestic violence in the past. In many cases, an assault-family violence case is charged after a fight gets out of hand and the police get involved. But what should you do if you are charged with assault-family violence? How can you maximize your chances of getting your case dismissed?

A first-time arrest for assault-family violence will be charged as a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine. Realistically, however, a person with no criminal history will not face jail time over a misdemeanor domestic violence case. Unless the facts of the case are particularly bad, the likely worst-case scenario for most people is ending up on probation with a conviction for assault-family violence. For most people, this would be a terrible outcome as a conviction for assault family-violence will stay on your record forever. 

After getting arrested for assault-family violence and bonding out in Houston, you will be given a court date relatively quickly (typically within a week). Nothing major will happen at your first court date after a domestic violence arrest and you should not be overly worried. Typically, at a first court date, the judge will review your bond conditions and likely issue a protective order (known as a MOEP or Magistrate’s Order of Emergency Protection), if one has not already been issued. You will typically not have to say or do anything, other than acknowledge your bond conditions. 

In an assault-family violence case, it is critical that you understand and abide by your bond conditions. By far, the most common reason defendants in assault-family violence cases have problems on bond is by not following their bond conditions. If there is a protective order or bond condition in place that prohibits you from contacting the alleged victim or going near their home or work, and it is alleged that you have violated the condition, you could be arrested, held without bond (this is one of the few instances that a person can be held without bond in Texas), or face a new charge for violation of a protective order. 

In many cases, the alleged victim will want to cooperate with the defense or wish to take back an allegation. In these cases, the defendant should not attempt to obtain a statement from the alleged victim or ask the alleged victim to provide a statement in the first place. This work should always be left to the criminal defense attorney for several reasons. First, a defendant can be accused of violating a bond condition by contacting the alleged victim or be accused of witness tampering (which is a separate criminal offense). Additionally, an experienced criminal defense attorney will almost always be able to obtain a much more effective truthful statement from the alleged victim. 

After your bond conditions have been set, your case will be reset and your attorney will begin the work of defending your case. In order to be able to evaluate your case, your criminal defense lawyer should obtain the evidence. In an assault-family violence case, the evidence typically consists of a 911 call, offense reports, witness statements, photographs, medical records and occasionally, other records, like therapy records. 

The goal of an assault-family violence case should always be to get the case dismissed and to get an acquittal at trial. Of course, the best defense in an assault-family violence case will depend on the facts of the case. But an effective criminal defense attorney should take a proactive approach to defending an assault-family violence case and do anything possible to get the case dismissed. 

Of course, one of the most important decisions you will make after being arrested for assault-family violence is who you will hire to handle your case. There is a lot to consider when hiring a criminal defense attorney. Assault-family violence cases can be specialized cases and an attorney should have a clear strategy to obtain the best possible result. In general, a criminal defense attorney should handle an assault-family violence case as if the case will one day go to trial (even though not every case will go to trial). 

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who regularly handles assault-family violence cases throughout the Greater Houston area. He regularly obtains dismissals and verdicts of “not guilty” in assault-family violence cases. If you have been charged with assault-family violence anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today. 

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.