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New Laws Extend Statute of Limitations for Family Violence Cases and Increase Penalties

Texas has lengthened the statute of limitations for certain domestic violence crimes, giving the state a longer period of time to bring charges. For misdemeanor domestic violence, the statute is extended from two years to three years. For felony domestic violence, the statute is extended from three years to five years. In addition, the penalties for domestic violence convictions have been enhanced.

The extended statutes of limitations increase the exposure of individuals to criminal prosecution. Accusers now have substantially more time to consider their options and to file a complaint with police authorities. Prosecutors also have additional time to build cases. Someone accused of domestic violence now may have to live under the cloud of an investigation for up to five years.

In addition, the penalties for domestic violence have been increased significantly. Assault causing bodily injury to a family member is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, an individual faces up to a year in prison plus a $4,000 fine. Defendants who have previously been convicted of domestic violence may have charges elevated to a third-degree felony. The same may apply to anyone found in violation of a bond or of a protective order. This could mean serving up to 10 years in prison and paying a $10,000 fine.

Though the laws are intended to create additional protections against domestic violence, not all claims by alleged victims are brought in good faith. It is common for a spouse or family member to report that they were assaulted during a domestic dispute. There are often motives for accusers to exaggerate or flat out lie to the police about a disagreement. One spouse can allege acts of violence by the other to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings, such as to justify the denial or limitation of child custody. Also, the alleged victim might gain leverage in obtaining a more favorable distribution of marital property. In view of the enhanced penalties for a conviction, anyone charged with a domestic violence crime should immediately consult a qualified domestic violence lawyer to mount a vigorous defense.

Kevin L. Collins, P.C. in San Antonio is a criminal defense law firm representing people accused of crimes throughout south-central Texas. If you are facing domestic violence charges, contact us online or call 210-598-8629 for a free initial consultation.

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