What Is Considered A “Dating Relationship” Under Texas Domestic Violence Laws?
The severity of a criminal assault charge in Texas will depend on a number of factors. For example, if the defendant has a prior conviction for certain offenses, and the alleged victim was a family member or in a “dating relationship” with the defendant, prosecutors may charge what would otherwise be a Class A misdemeanor as a third-degree felony. This can substantially increase the amount of jail time that the defendant faces.
The phrase “dating relationship” is somewhat open to interpretation in the context of criminal domestic violence cases. Texas law defines the term to mean “a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” The jury must determine if a “dating relationship” exists based on the length and nature of the relationship, as well as the “frequency and type of interaction” between the individuals.
Court of Criminal Appeals Upholds Jury Verdict in Felony Assault Case
As the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) recently explained, these factors are “guideposts” for the jury as opposed to “standalone elements of the offense which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, the state does not need to prove the defendant and the alleged victim were together for a particular amount of time. Indeed, the alleged victim need not even testify in open court that the defendant was their dating partner. The jury can still infer the existence of a dating relationship from other circumstantial evidence.
Indeed, the case before the CCA, Edward v. State, addressed this issue. This case began with a 911 call reporting a “disturbance” in an apartment complex. Officers arrived and spoke with a woman named with the last name of Bolden. The officer later testified that Bolden said the defendant “had hit her and was inside the apartment in the bedroom.” Police arrested the defendant, and prosecutors subsequently charged him with third-degree felony bodily injury assault against a person with whom he was in a dating relationship.
At trial, Bolden did not appear or testify. But the arresting officer and emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene told the jury that Bolden had described the defendant to them as her “boyfriend.” The jury subsequently convicted the defendant on the felony charge.
Although an intermediate appellate court agreed with the defendant that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that a dating relationship existed, the CCA reversed and upheld the jury’s verdict. The CCA said that in addition to the officer’s testimony, the fact that Bolden and the defendant were found alone in the apartment together–and the defendant was sitting in the bedroom on the bed–at the time of the incident provided enough circumstantial evidence to infer the existence of a dating relationship.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
Texas prosecutors take assault cases involving possible domestic violence far more seriously than ordinary assault and battery arrests. That is why if you are facing any sort of potential felony charge it is crucial that you work with a qualified Pearland assault and battery lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of Keith B. French, PLLC, today to schedule a case evaluation.