A bill known as “Rachel’s Law” recently passed the Texas House of Representatives, followed by the Texas Senate, and it now needs only Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature to become law. This law expressly targets domestic violence.
The proposed law would enable district attorneys (DAs) to pursue a charge of “continuous violence against the family” for defendants, even if more than one alleged domestic violence incidents occurred in different counties.
Why Domestic Violence Charges in Texas Are Serious
Under Texas Penal Code (Section 25.11), continuous violence against the family is a serious charge which can be made against someone who commits more than one act of family violence within a 12-month period.
Under Rachel’s Law, such incidents could count together even if they occurred in different counties and jurisdictions.
“To further assist survivors escape their abusive relationships, prosecutors must have the tools to end the cycle of violence,” State Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) said in a statement. “Abusers should not be allowed to escape the full extent of the law merely by crossing county lines. Rachel’s Law will ensure justice is served.”
According to the Corpus Christi Caller Times, Nueces County First Assistant DA Matt Manning said Rachel’s Law stems from a case where there were instances of family violence in and out of Nueces County.
Under Rachel’s Law, prosecutors in either county could file a charge of “continuous violence against the family” even if two incidents occurred in two separate counties. By making the crime “continuous violence against the family,” this also would elevate the domestic violence charge to a third degree felony.
State Rep. Herrero filed the bill as House Bill 1661. In addition, he has filed four other bills aimed at curtailing family violence. They include House Bill 1660, which would ensure that law enforcement officers receive training to help them recognize early signs of strangulation.
Similar to “continuous violence against the family,” choking a victim is also a third degree felony under Texas domestic violence law. The penalties for each are prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $10,000.
Without Rachel’s Law, a victim of family violence in two different counties could expect only a domestic assault charge, which is a Class A misdemeanor — or an aggravated domestic assault charge, which is a second degree felony.
Many Are Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence
As you can see, Texas domestic abuse or family violence laws are severe — and they are becoming even more so.
While such laws can be a worthy way to help victims and protect potential sufferers, they also make the legal system even more hazardous for the many persons who have been falsely accused of domestic violence, perhaps only in the heat of an argument.
Indeed, it’s estimated that 10 percent of people facing domestic violence charges have been falsely accused of the crime.
If you or a loved one face a false accusation of domestic violence, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Texas immediately. The Neal Davis Law Firm can fight for your legal rights and work to get a family assault charge reduced or even dropped entirely.