Does an Accuser or Prosecutor’s Financial Incentives Matter in a Domestic Violence Case?

By July 23, 2018Domestic Violence

There is understandably a high level of emotion surrounding a domestic violence allegation. But there are also legal and financial incentives at play. For example, under the Violence Against Women Act, the federal government administers a series of grant programs designed “to develop the nation’s capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable.” Along similar lines, federal immigration laws allow victims of crime to seek a special type of non-immigrant status known as a “U visa” to encourage them to report offenses like domestic violence.

Houston, Dallas Courts Reject Appeals of Family Violence Convictions

But if you are accused of a family violence crime in Texas, does the fact that the prosecutor–or the accuser–received such federal benefits matter? In other words, can you argue there is an inherent and unfair bias against you because of these federal incentives that the jury has a right to know about before pronouncing judgment on your guilt or innocence?

According to two recent Texas appeals court decisions, the answer is “no.” In the first case, Guzman v. State, a defendant in Fort Bend County was charged with “assault family violence.” At trial, he attempted to argue the local district attorney’s office should be “disqualified” because it received VAWA grants. He also wanted the jury to know the accuser received financial benefits under VAWA, which gave her “an incentive to testify falsely.”

The judge declined to disqualify the district attorney and did not instruct the jury on the accuser’s benefits eligibility. After the jury convicted the defendant, he appealed to the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals in Houston. That court found the trial judge did nothing wrong. The appeals court noted that nothing in VAWA “ties a grant (or the amount of the grant_ to the number of cases prosecuted.” Furthermore, the applicant failed to present sufficient evidence that the accuser was eligible for VAWA benefits, much less applied for them.

In the second case, Quiroz v. State, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas rejected the arguments of another man convicted of assault-family violence who alleged the trial judge improperly limited his cross-examination of his accuser. More specifically, he wanted the jury to know the accuser applied for a U-visa, which the defendant claimed gave her a motive to “testify falsely that she was a victim of family violence.”

Here, the Fifth District said criminal defendants do not have an automatic right to question a witness about their immigration status. There must be some “causal connection” between their status and the testimony offered. In this case, the appeals court said there was no such connection, since the accuser’s eligibility for a U-visa was not tied to whether or not she testified in court about her alleged abuse.

Speak with a Galveston Domestic Violence Lawyer Today

Both of these cases illustrate the uphill battle domestic violence defendants face when seeking a fair trial. This emphasizes the importance of working with a qualified Galveston domestic violence attorney. If you are facing accusations and need assistance, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 843-9776 today.