Many people in Bexar County know someone who has been affected by domestic violence or even by accusations of it. Sadly, CBS Dallas-Fort Worth reported earlier this year that there were more than 175,000 domestic violence incidents reported in Texas in 2011. Legislative changes that have been made to Texas family violence law in the last year promise to better protect victims, but they will also raise the stakes for anyone who is accused of domestic violence.
Recent legislative changes
According to the Killeen Daily Herald, legislation introduced this year may make it easier for domestic violence cases to be prosecuted, among other things. Some of the changes introduced in the legislation are:
- Hearsay evidence, including email messages and texts, may be allowed in family violence cases.
- To use this evidence, a prosecutor must first prove that the alleged victim is refusing to testify because of intimidation from the defendant.
- Repeatedly violating protective orders is now a felony offense.
- Accusations of stalking can now be prosecuted more easily.
The allowance of hearsay evidence may make it easier for prosecutors to go forward with cases in which victims refuse to testify out of fear for personal safety. However, when people refuse to testify in domestic violence cases for other reasons, such as wanting to drop the charges, hearsay evidence will still not be permitted.
These changes may protect some future victims from domestic violence while allowing more effective prosecution of offenders. At the same time, inappropriate accusations of domestic violence may now come with even steeper consequences.
Handling domestic incidents or charges
According to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, domestic violence is any act or threat against a household member with the intention of physical harm or sexual assault. A number of behaviors fall under this category, and while sometimes the intent to cause harm is clear, some people accused of domestic violence may not realize that their behavior actually constituted domestic violence.
Domestic violence or accusations of it can have a significant impact in certain situations, such as divorce proceedings. Important decisions like child custody and visitation will be impacted by allegations of domestic violence. Reports of violence against children or spouses accounted for more than half of the domestic violence incidents reported in Texas in 2011, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, so it is clear that many families may be affected by this kind of problem.
With the legal changes that were made this year, it will be easier for victims to receive help and protection. However, it will also be extremely important for people accused of domestic violence in the future to take the situation seriously and seek appropriate legal help.
Anyone who has been affected by domestic violence or charges of it should speak with an attorney. An attorney can ensure that an individual’s interests and rights are protected while the charges are being investigated or pursued.