Legal News / Law Offices of Frank E. Mann, P.C.

New Legislation Would Close Protective Order Loophole in Texas

Via: ReleaseWire

Updated 2:45 PM CDT, Wed, May 03,2017

Newly Introduced Bills in both the Texas Senate and House Aim to Provide Further Protections to Victims of Domestic Violence

Houston, TX -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/03/2017 -- Newly-introduced legislation, aimed at keeping protective orders involving the most serious and ongoing acts of domestic violence in place longer, passed the Texas Senate on Monday. Texas Senate Bill 712 was introduced by State Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) in order to resolve a loophole in the existing law that exposed alleged domestic violence victims to further danger. The Senate bill is mirrored by House Bill 2021, which was introduced in the House by State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) and is currently in committee. 

Under the current Texas law, "permanent" protective orders last for a maximum of two years. Texas courts do have the option of extending the term of a protective order up to the lifetime of the protected party in certain limited situations. The circumstances that currently justify longer-term protective orders include the existence of at least two prior orders covering the same persons, or a history that includes a conviction of serious bodily injury caused to the victim by the offender.

However, the current law does not allow the courts to extend a protective order when other serious family violence felony offenses have occurred. The intent of Texas S.B. 712 is to amend the current law to include enhanced assault family violence, strangulation, repeated violations of a protective order, and ongoing violence against the protected persons.

According to Houston family law attorney Frank Mann, "Victims of domestic violence often experience repeat offenses after their protective orders expire simply because the initial offense did not involve severe bodily harm, and thus did not merit an extended order. With this legislation, future victims of violence who are still in a dangerous situation will not have to wait to suffer a serious injury before getting the protection they need."

The new bill also intends to include other domestic violence felonies, involving either the applicant for the protective order or a member of their family or household, in the set of circumstances that a Texas court can consider when providing a longer-term protective order. Notably, the subject of the extended protective order does not need to have been convicted of or even charged with a felony involving family violence; the court considering extending the term of the protective order can make the determination on their own.

This newly-proposed legislation comes as Texas has experienced increasing attention to domestic violence and homicides involving family violence in particular. For example, half of all homicides in Corpus Christi in 2014 were linked to prior family violence. 

In regards to instances of domestic violence, Mr. Mann goes on to say, "Currently, victims of domestic violence have to file a police report before they are eligible to receive a much-needed extended protective order. Involving the police can sometimes escalate a domestic violence situation before a protective order has taken effect. This legislation will help protect victims in dangerous situations who are currently seeking such orders without forcing them to resort to a shorter-term protective order, which in many cases is not sufficient."

If passed by the Texas House and implemented into law, this new legislation would mean that alleged domestic violence victims seeking an extended-term protective order would not need to lodge a police report, an act that is often perceived to heighten the danger for such victims. However, evidence and documentation supporting the underlying abuse would still need to be presented in court. 

Currently, House Bill 2021 has been heard by the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issue Committee; further action by the committee is still pending. 

About Frank E. Mann
Frank Mann is the founder of the Law Offices of Frank E. Mann, P.C., and has been practicing Family Law in the state of Texas for over 30 years. He is dedicated to protecting the rights of his clients in the areas of divorce, child custody, adoption, and protective orders stemming from family violence.

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