Two bills filed to combat domestic violence in Texas

AUSTIN - Texas State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) authored and filed two important bills addressing domestic violence in Texas.  The two pieces of legislation aim to inform the public of repeat offenders and to increase the punishment given to repeat offenders.

"Domestic violence is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences," said Rep. Villalba.  "We need to send a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated and that repeat offenses will be met with the harshest penalties available under the law.  Domestic abusers must understand that they cannot threaten, intimidate or harm those around them - and if they do - they better be prepared for Texas-sized consequences," Villalba continued.

"We applaud Representative Jason Villalba's efforts to hold accountable those persons who perpetrate family violence," added Jan Langbein, CEO of Genesis Women's Shelter and Support in Dallas.  "We know that abuse in the home will never stop until abusers stop abusing."

Rep. Villalba authored and filed House Bill 524, which will make the 3rd conviction involving domestic violence a second degree felony offense, requiring incarceration for at least two years.  Currently, a first offense for domestic (or family) violence is a Class A misdemeanor, a second offense is a third degree felony, and the third offense, and all offenses thereafter are also third degree felonies.  Under Rep. Villalba's proposed legislation, if an offender is convicted of domestic violence a third time, the offender will be sentenced to prison, where such offender shall be required to serve the longer of two years or the minimum of one half of the length of the sentence, prior to being eligible for consideration for parole.

Rep. Villalba also authored and filed House Bill 525, relating to a central database containing information about offenders who have committed certain offenses against children or offenses involving family or dating violence.  This bill requires that the Department of Public Safety maintain a computerized central database containing public information about offenders who have been convicted of three or more family violence crimes.  The bill establishes that the information contained in the database is public information with the exception of the person's social security number, driver's license number, telephone number or any information that would identify the victim of the offense with respect to which the affirmative finding was made.  This amendment to the Government Code is meant to aid in the safety of our families and community.

"The combination of these two bills sends a powerful message to repeat abusers - if they engage in domestic violence, there will be severe, long-term consequences," said Rep. Villalba.  "It's time to take action to put an end to domestic violence in Texas.  For far too long, we have talked about ways to combat this issue without taking real and tangible steps that will result in reducing these crimes.  Today, we are taking action and all abusers in Texas need to be on notice that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and that if they continue to abuse a spouse or a loved one they will go to jail."

Under Texas statute, domestic violence is referenced as family violence and defined as an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault or that is a threat placing the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault, not including self-defense measures.  It also includes abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household and dating violence.

Representative Jason Villalba represents Lake Highlands, Preston Hollow and North West Dallas in the Texas House of Representatives.  Rep. Villalba, a graduate of Baylor University and the University of Texas School of Law, was first elected to House District 114 in November of 2012.  He is a proud, fourth-generation Texan and the first in his family to attend college.  Prior to attending law school and becoming a partner in a major Texas law firm, Rep. Villalba held the positions of financial analyst and economist for a Fortune 500 Company located in Dallas.

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