Extended Statute of Limitations for Domestic Violence Cases in Texas

Extended Statute of Limitations for Domestic Violence Cases in Texas

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On May 23, 2023, House Bill (HB) 467 was signed into law. It went into effect on September 1, 2023. This seemingly minor change to the legislation can have a major impact on the way they prosecute domestic violence crimes. The new bill extends the statute of limitations for prosecuting family violence cases. While this may be beneficial for domestic violence victims, the change can have drawbacks for the defense.

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, you need to speak to an experienced criminal attorney. They can explain how the recent changes may affect your particular case. Understanding the new adjustments to the statute of limitations can help you make educated decisions about your next steps.

Man holding a pen while writing on a document.

What Has Changed?

Before September 2023, prosecutors had two years to file misdemeanor domestic violence cases and three years to file felony cases. Starting September 1, 2023, they have:

  • 3 years to file a misdemeanor case from the date of the commission of the offense
  • 5 years to file a felony case from the date of the commission of the offense

While a couple of years doesn’t seem like a long time, the legal landscape of defending against domestic violence charges has changed.

What It Means for the Defense

The extended statute of limitations makes building a strong defense harder. Since evidence loses quality and witness memories fade over time, gathering proof of innocence could become challenging.

If the State of Texas decides to wait 5 years before filing a case, the defendant can have a tough time defending themselves based on the available evidence. That’s why it’s imperative to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney, who knows how to build a defense when several years have passed.

While the defense may have issues with gathering witness statements and securing an alibi, the offense can face similar problems. In some cases, this may mean that dropping or reducing the charges becomes easier.

A gavel and a piece of paper written with Penalty.

Penalties for Domestic Violence in Texas

The penalty for domestic violence in Texas can depend on several factors, including the injuries suffered by the victim and the criminal history of the defendant.

Class A Misdemeanor 

If the victim sustains physical harm during the domestic assault, the defendant can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. This conviction can lead to up to a year in a county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

3rd Degree Felony

If a person has been convicted of domestic violence in the past or violated a bond or a protective order, they could be charged with a 3rd-degree felony. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

2nd Degree Felony

If a person inflicts serious harm on the victim, simple assault turns into aggravated assault and the charge goes up to the 2nd-degree felony. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Depending on the circumstances, the aggravated assault charge could also turn into a 1st-degree felony. A conviction could mean incarceration between 5 and 99 years and a fine of $10,000.

Besides prison term and sizable fines, a person who is convicted of domestic abuse can face other unfavorable consequences, including:

  • Paying restitution to the victim
  • Going through domestic violence counseling
  • Losing the right to own a firearm

When convicted of a felony, a person could have a harder time finding a job, renting an apartment, or receiving certain benefits. This conviction could also hurt the child custody case in a separation or divorce.

Whether you are convicted of domestic violence, the case leads to a plea bargain, or you get probation, it remains a permanent part of your criminal background.  That’s why you must hire an experienced criminal attorney who can fight for your innocence and work hard to help you avoid a permanent record. 

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Building a Strong Defense in a Domestic Violence Case

Since the statute of limitations for domestic violence cases increased substantially, defense attorneys have to work harder to build a robust defense. Meanwhile, the defendant has to understand the importance of close collaboration with the lawyer.

As circumstances change, evidence becomes harder to find and witnesses may leave the state, the attorney has to conduct a more complex investigation. Straightforward collaboration from the client can make this job easier.

The common defenses in domestic violence cases filed many years after the date of the alleged offense are:

Lack of Evidence

The defense attorney may challenge the prosecution’s evidence. They can argue that there is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This could involve:

  • Questioning the credibility of witnesses
  • Challenging the admissibility of certain evidence
  • Presenting evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s case

Since witnesses’ memories fade over time, the defense has the opportunity to find loopholes in their testimony.

Ulterior Motives

Since a lot of time has passed, the defense may have an easier time arguing that the alleged victim had ulterior motives for filing a case. Unless there is an obvious reason why it took the alleged victim so long to press charges, this defense could carry significant value.

For example, if the alleged victim recently filed for divorce and wants to win a child custody case, it may be possible to prove that they had an ulterior motive.

The key to building a strong defense in the new circumstances is working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even if the charge is a misdemeanor, it can still result in a prison sentence and negative consequences for your quality of life.

An experienced legal team knows the nuances of building a strong defense according to all the changes in Texas law. They can help you avoid unfortunate mistakes and unfair punishment.

Speak to an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney Today

As the law in Texas changes, so do defense tactics for domestic violence charges. If you’ve been arrested and accused of domestic violence, you need to have a strong legal team by your side.

Kent Starr is an experienced criminal defense attorney with a true passion for justice. He fights hard to help you get the justice you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, please call (214) 982-1408

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