Records: Misdemeanor family violence dismissals reach 80% in Bexar County

DA Joe Gonzales ‘not satisfied with being average,’ announces changes to reduce premature dismissals

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales has announced changes to how his office will prosecute misdemeanor family violence cases. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales this week announced changes to how his office will prosecute misdemeanor family violence matters after internal records obtained by KSAT Investigates showed the dismissal rate for these types of cases had reached 80%.

Gonzales in a written statement said these types of cases are complex and difficult to prosecute but that he is “not satisfied with being average,” when comparing Bexar County’s dismissal rate to other Texas counties.

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During a meeting earlier this month, officials with the DA’s Family Violence Division informed staff that the agency’s intake process was being modified for misdemeanor family violence cases.

The changes include adding two felony assistant district attorneys to misdemeanor intake, conducting a more thorough review of cases and waiting for outstanding evidence, a copy of the presentation released to KSAT following a public records request shows.

Staff were also advised to reduce premature dismissals and to obtain approval from the division’s chief or deputy chief prior to dismissing a case.

“You cannot dismiss or seek approval to dismiss without having done the work,” the presentation states.

The Bexar County dismissal rate for misdemeanor family violence cases last year was 79%, records released by the DA’s office to KSAT confirm.

Only 11% of cases last year resulted in a conviction; defendants were given deferred adjudication in the other 10% of cases, records show.

Only Travis, El Paso and Harris Counties had higher dismissal rates in 2023, when comparing Bexar County to the other large Texas counties.

The dismissal rate for misdemeanor family violence cases in Bexar County dipped slightly to 75% in the first two months of this year, the records show.

After the DA’s office released the records, Gonzales provided the following statement to KSAT before we had reached out for comment:

“The Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office prosecutes a wide variety of cases. We have had many successes: the highest murder conviction rate since at least 2011; a felony DWI conviction rate over 90%, and a series of stiff sentences for violent crimes (including family violence and crimes against children) which have taken dangerous criminals off of our streets. Misdemeanor family violence misdemeanor cases, however, are among the most difficult to prosecute. They present unique hurdles in comparison to other crimes. For that reason, many District Attorney’s offices have dismissal numbers similar to ours. Some higher. Some lower. The statistics reflect the complexities inherent in these cases. Family violence cases involve multiple factors beyond the collection of evidence. Victims are often trapped in a difficult and dangerous cycle of domestic violence. The admissibility of evidence, a victim’s relationship with the defendant, the level of cooperation from victims and witnesses, and an evolving model of combating family violence add to the intricacies of these cases. These factors are not usually present in other types of cases. Our office is within the median range of dismissal rates in comparison to other counties, but I am not satisfied with being average. We have proactively taken measures to increase our effectiveness by adding additional crime victims’ advocates and crime victim liaisons to ensure that victims receive the support they need throughout the legal process. We have also provided online accessibility to protective orders and other resources through the Family Justice Center. I am committed to pursuing justice for victims of family violence in our community and will continue working to make our office even more successful in holding domestic abusers accountable for their actions.”

During a presentation to commissioners court late last month, the county’s office of Managed Assigned Counsel stated that it had gotten a “positive case result” in more than 86% of misdemeanor family violence cases during the 2022-23 fiscal year, county records show.

MAC provides local attorneys to defendants who cannot otherwise afford one.

A positive case result includes dismissals, acquittals and pleas to a lesser offense or a diversion program.

If you or someone you know is in a dangerous relationship, there is a long list of resources on KSAT’s Domestic Violence page.

If you are in crisis you can:

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

About the Author

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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