The Family Violence Unit of the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office exists to help victims of family violence and to hold abusers accountable for their behavior. The Unit is comprised of five prosecutors, two investigators, and four support staff. The Family Violence Unit prosecutes challenging cases, involving violence between family members.
In 1997, the Criminal District Attorney’s Office joined forces with the Commissioners Court and concerned citizens to create a misdemeanor court exclusively dedicated to hearing family violence cases. This focused approach allows for more effective and efficient prosecution of these cases. The caseload for this court – Tarrant County Criminal Court #5 – has steadily increased over the years. Experts believe the increase reflects an increase in the number of cases reported, not in the number of domestic violence incidents.
More than 20 years ago, the Criminal District Attorney’s Office implemented a “no drop” policy for domestic violence cases. The effects of family violence extend beyond the direct, physical injuries inflicted. The victims often suffer psychological harm, anxiety and shame. They need guidance and alternatives for change. Sadly, many victims request dismissal of a case due to emotional dependency or financial ties to the offender. This office remains committed to the no drop policy because we do not want our citizens to become repeat victims of domestic violence.
The Criminal District Attorney’s Office recognizes that sometimes the best solution is to address the underlying domestic problems. Once a police agency files a case with the Criminal District Attorney’s Office, there are several paths to disposition. For certain first time offenders, there is a “pre-trial diversion” program designed to stop the abusive behavior through intensive counseling. For first time youthful offenders, ages 17-25, there is the Youthful Offender Diversion Program (YODA). This program targets offenders who demonstrate aggressive behavior to non-intimate victims such as siblings and parents. The assessment and court-ordered programs are designed to stop the abuse.
Defendants who are unsuitable for the diversion programs are often placed on probation with strict conditions, including anger control counseling, parenting classes, alcohol and drug treatment, and completion of a Batterers Intervention Program. If a defendant does not comply with the terms of probation, the defendant can be sent to jail or prison.