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Family Criminal Law

 

FAMILY CRIMINAL LAW

The Family Criminal Law Division

 

The Family Criminal Law Division (FCLD) is a professional multi-disciplinary team working together to increase the safety of victims and accountability of offenders.  Our mission is to end the cycle of violence by educating and empowering families.  The FCLD staff includes prosecutors, a social service staff, investigators and administrative staff.  FCLD prosecutors handle domestic violence criminal cases with an emphasis on non-participating complainants, violation of protective order cases, bigamy, and interference with child custody cases.

 

Where are you located and what are your hours?

  • We are located in the Criminal Justice Center (Criminal Courthouse), 1201 Franklin, 2nd floor, Suite 2160.
  • We are open Monday – Friday from 7 AM – 6:30 PM.  Office hours have been EXTENDED to better serve the citizens of Harris County.  Interviews are on a first-come, first-served basis.  Limited evening appointments are available.  Call 713-274-0212 for more information.

     

I am coming to your office to speak with a caseworker about a criminal case and/or applying for a protective order. What information do I need to bring with me?

Here are some things you can bring with you, if they are available:

  • Your picture I.D.
  • Names and contact information for any witnesses.
  • Address (work or home) for the Respondent (if applying for a protective order).
  • Pictures.
  • Recordings.
  • Any other evidence (medical records, etc.) that you may think is important for us to know.

 

What is a protective order and how can the District Attorney’s Office help me obtain one?

  • A protective order is a lawsuit that is filed in family court (like a divorce).
  • A protective order can tell the Respondent to stay away from your home, workplace, and your children’s school/daycare. It can protect pets. It can tell the Respondent not to harass, stalk, or threaten you. If the Respondent does these things in violation of the order, the Respondent can be charged with a criminal offense and arrested.
  • Generally, once granted, a protective order is valid for two years.
  • If you have already filed for a divorce or custody, you can ask your attorney to file one on your behalf.
  • When you come to our office to apply for a protective order, you can meet with a specially trained family violence caseworker or social worker who will assist you.
  • If you initially qualify for the order, the caseworker will type your statement and a file will be prepared for review by a prosecutor.
  • After the prosecutor approves the filing of the order, the application is filed in family court.
  • You will then receive a letter about your court date.
  • There are several things that must be proved to obtain a protective order:
    • The District Attorney’s Office must have jurisdiction. That means that either you or the Respondent (abuser) lives in Harris County OR the violence occurred in Harris County.
    • You must have had a dating, family, or household relationship with the Respondent. That includes current spouses, former spouses, blood relatives, people related by marriage, parents of the same child, household members, or people who dated.
    • We have to personally serve (give him or her papers in PERSON) the Respondent. This is why we must have a physical address for Respondent. The Respondent can be served at home, at work, at a probation or parole appointment, or during a court date.
    • We must be able to prove that family violence occurred. Family violence means that you were assaulted (includes hitting, kicking, punching, hair pulling, slapping, punching, strangulation, shooting, stabbing, forcing to have sex, etc.) and/or that you were threatened with violence (the Respondent said they would kill you, hit you, pointed a gun at you, etc.).
    • We have to show that family violence is likely to continue in the future. This means that based on the Respondent’s behavior, we can show that he won’t stop (follows you, constantly calls or texts you, etc.).
    • A divorce or custody cannot be pending for the District Attorney’s Officer to represent you. That means that no divorce or custody is actually filed. This does not mean you cannot apply for a protective order at all. You can ask your attorney on the divorce/custody case to file a protective order for you.

 

What is the difference between a restraining order and a protective order?

A protective order is available for people who have experienced dating or family violence. If violated, it can lead to criminal penalties (the Respondent/violator can be arrested). A restraining order can be ordered by a court for many different types of situations and has civil penalties if violated.

 

I dated someone for six months and ended the relationship. Now the person keeps calling me and begging me to come back; can I get a protective order to make her stop?

  • Unless there has been family violence, you would not qualify for a protective order.
  • You can make a police report about the harassment and your ex-partner can be investigated for harassing you.

 

If I apply for a protective order, will I leave your office with one?

No. A protective order is a lawsuit that is filed in family court and must be reviewed and issued by a judge. However, we will give you safety information and work on other options to increase you and your family’s safety.

 

What is a temporary protective (ex-parte) order?

If approved, a judge issues a temporary (ex-parte) protective order when a request for a final protective order is filed in court. It goes into effect when the Respondent is served and expires after a certain amount of time. Police can arrest after the Respondent has been served with a temporary protective order.

 

How can I file charges for a family violence criminal offense?

  • If you need help right away, call 911.
  • If you want to report a crime that has already occurred, or if you want to follow-up on filing charges, you must contact the law enforcement agency that responds to where the incident occurred. For instance, if you were assaulted in the City of Houston, contact the Houston Police Department.
  • Contact the appropriate law enforcement agency case investigation:
    • Baytown Police Department 281-425-1050 or 281-425-1051
    • Harris County Constable 713-755-5000 (main Harris County Number – can refer you to appropriate constable precinct)
    • Harris County Sheriff’s Office – 713-967-5743
    • Houston Police Department – 713-308-1100
    • Humble Police Department – 281-446-7127
    • Pasadena Police Department – 713-477-1221
    • Other – There are many other police agencies in Harris County. Call the District Attorney’s Office if you need help determining which agency responds to your incident – 713-274-0212.

 

Does your office provide interpreters?

  • We can use a special language line to communicate in almost any language.
  • We have caseworkers who speak Spanish and Vietnamese.
  • We have written information available in several other languages.

 

I have an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodation request. What can be done and who can assist me?

  • The office is ADA accessible.
  • For deaf or hearing impaired who sign, we use a video interpretation service (much like skype).
  • For other accommodations, contact us for information

 

Safety Considerations if Living in a Home Where Violence May Occur:

  • Decide and plan where you will go if you leave home.
  • Practice how to get out of your home safely by identifying which escape route is best.
  • Have a packed bag ready and keep it at the home of a close relative or friend.
  •  Identify one or more neighbors who you can ask to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home.
  • Devise a code word or signal to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors when you need the police.
  • If you believe an argument/incident is going to occur, leave if possible.  If not, try to move to a room where you have access to an exit and/or a phone.  Stay away from any room without an outside door or window or a room with items that could be used as weapons such as a kitchen or garage.
  • Use your own instincts and judgment.  If the situation is very dangerous, do whatever is necessary to be safe.  This may mean giving the abuser what he/she wants to calm him/her down.
  • Keep your cell phone with you at all times.
  • If necessary, call “911” for help.

 

24 Hour Domestic Violence Hotline

(713) 528-2121

 

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