Why Do People Falsely Report Domestic Violence?
False allegations of domestic assault and family violence aren’t common, but they do happen. Here are a few possible motivations…
Americans face false claims of family abuse or violence — and for a variety of reasons.
What are these reasons? Why do people falsely report cases of domestic violence?
We’ll get to the bottom of these questions and more in this article — starting with the most common factors underlying such false allegations.
Separations, divorce and child custody
A false claim of domestic abuse or violence may be made by one party in order to gain legal leverage over the other when it comes to divorce or child custody proceedings. In fact, this is perhaps the most common reason for such false claims.
As a couple nears separation or divorce, these false claims often arise — especially when children are involved and child custody becomes an issue.
False claims of domestic abuse or violence may be made to subvert the legal process in order for the accuser to gain the upper hand in legal proceedings leading to divorce and establishing child custody. Sadly, this is a common strategy to “game” or “work” the system.
Unless a false claim is disproved, the accused person may lose more financially in the divorce settlement, and he or she also may lose partial or total custody of a child or children.
A false claim of family violence may also be made by one parent in order to turn a child or children against the other parent. Even if the claim of domestic violence is later proven false, the damage may already have been done, casting a bad light on the accused parent that children may find hard to ignore.
Revenge-motivated domestic violence allegations
When a divorce or child custody battle is not involved, a false claim of domestic violence may be made when one party is vindictive toward the other and wants to exact revenge. Or maybe a heated argument occurs and is misconstrued as actual violence.
Perhaps only shouting was involved, and no physical abuse or violence happened. Or perhaps physical contact was limited to grabbing an arm or a hand, but without actual violence. A claim still could be made that violence occurred, and that claim would have to be disproved by the accused.
What is family violence or domestic assault?
As for who can be considered the victim of family violence or domestic assault, Texas law holds that it can be a spouse, a former spouse, foster parents, foster children, a child of a spouse or former spouse, a person with whom the defendant had offspring outside of marriage, or a member of a family by blood relation, adoption or marriage. Family violence can also involve a roommate, a nanny and a current or former dating partner.
Texas law considers domestic violence to occur under three categories:
- Domestic assault (a Class A misdemeanor for a first-time offense)
- Aggravated domestic assault (which can be a first degree felony when weapons are used or serious bodily injury occurs)
- Continuous violence against the family (a third degree felony when more than one domestic assault against a family occurs within one year)
As for what activity constitutes a domestic assault under Texas law, that includes a person deliberately, recklessly or knowingly causing bodily injury to another person, such as by hitting, punching or kicking, as well as by attacking with a weapon. Kidnapping and unlawful confinement can also be considered domestic assaults under Texas law.
Emotional abuse also counts in Texas
In addition to physical violence, threatening another person with imminent bodily injury can be considered an assault in itself, in the form of emotional abuse.
A domestic assault can involve knowingly or deliberately causing physical contact with someone when the person who causes the contact knows, or reasonably should believe, that it will be perceived as provocative or offensive.
For example, perhaps a woman is known to be sensitive to having any physical contact during a heated argument. If her spouse or partner touches her in any way at such a time, even in a non-violent manner, that could be considered domestic abuse or assault.
Further, under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a claim of abuse can go beyond physical abuse to include intimidation of a dependent, harassment and generally interfering with an individual’s personal liberty. Even temporarily blocking or shutting a door during a heated argument could constitute abuse.
Under VAWA, a spouse or family member who feels unsafe or threatened could claim domestic violence, even though no physical injury has occurred.
Consequences of false domestic violence claims
The long-term consequences of domestic violence claims — even if they are unfounded and false — can be debilitating and life-changing for the defendant. For starters, a restraining order may be issued against the accused, preventing him or her from returning home and seeing their children.
Millions of restraining orders are issued in the United States each year, and many of them are based on false claims and aren’t necessary. But law enforcement takes claims of domestic violence very seriously, and such orders may be issued quickly.
Get an experienced Houston domestic violence defense attorney
The speed at which things can get out of hand after a false claim of family assault or domestic violence is among the many reasons why it’s important to have an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer on your side.
Your domestic assault defense attorney can gather facts and negotiate with prosecutors, perhaps to avoid a charge being made in the first place. And if a domestic assault charge has already been made, your defense attorney can work to get the charge reduced or dismissed.
Keep in mind that only prosecutors can drop a charge. If someone falsely claims domestic violence and later asks that a charge be dropped, that doesn’t mean it will be dropped. Claimants cannot do that — only prosecutors. And prosecutors tend to err on the side of caution in order to protect claimants who may have been coerced or intimidated into asking that a charge be dropped.
However, a preponderance of evidence may be on your side, both in pre-trial situations and at trial.
You must take a false claim of domestic violence seriously. If charged and convicted, you could face extensive fines and years in prison. Even if not imprisoned, you could lose contact with your children and the right to bear arms. You might also have a permanent stain on your criminal record, possibly hurting your educational or employment opportunities.
Whatever the case, and whatever the reason why a false report of domestic violence was made, you need a skilled domestic assault defense attorney to protect your legal rights. Contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today for a confidential legal review of your case.