Federal and State Domestic Abuse Laws – Texas

Violence perpetuated against the loved ones are often confusing, degrading and frightening. The federal government in realizing the overburden of the state and local criminal justice department has developed a number of laws to deal with domestic violence (Dempsey, 2011). This was done with the declaration of domestic abuse as a national crime.  In addition, the various states have enacted numerous legislations to complement the state laws in fighting against domestic abuse.

The Violence against Women Act

The 1994 Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted and passed by the Congress in 1996. The VAWA established the national domestic violence hotline and stipulated programs to help end violence against women. In addition, VAWA created a number of protections to the battered spouse, including confidentiality of new home address and changes in the immigration laws that allowed permanent residency to the affected spouse. Examples of cases that fall under the purview of the VAWA include stalking, sexual assault, dating and domestic violence.

According to (Sacco, 2015) the VAWA has two major provisions, the grants and the provisions on investigations and prosecutions. After its passage, the VAWA had an immediate impact on the investigations and prosecutions of violence against women. The act established penalties and new offenses for violation of stalking, the protection order, where an abuser crossed a state border to harass or abuse a victim or forced a victim to cross a state order under duress and proceeded to harm the victim. Moreover, the act issued orders for states and territories to enforce protection orders issued by other tribes, territories or states. It also allowed for enhanced sentences for repeat sex offenders, as well as the funding of the Attorney general to develop training programs to assist the parole and probation officers in helping released sex offenders.

Moreover, the VAWA allowed for pretrial detention of sex offenders, restitution to victims of federal sex offence and provision of civil remedy, which allows victims of sexual offence to seek penalties from their assailants and provisions that allowed the victims to demand that their assailants be tested for sexually transmitted infections (Sacco, 2015).

The VAWA created a number of grant programs for a number of activities related to domestic abuse crimes (Sacco, 2015). The programs developed include programs aimed at preventing domestic crimes, investigation and prosecution of domestic crimes, collaboration between the judicial, private and law enforcement and the programs that cater for needs of special population such as the old, disabled, minority communities and young. These grants are administered by the CDC, department of justice, Violence Against Women, Office of Justice programs and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Texas Domestic Abuse Laws

            Texas recognizes a number of crimes under its domestic abuse laws (Eigenberg & Moriarty, 1991). Under the Texas state domestic abuse laws, an crime is categorized as domestic violence if     the crime is committed against someone the offender has been dating or dated in the past and if it is committed against a household or family member. The domestic crimes in the state of Texas are categorized as continuous violence against the family, domestic assault and aggravated domestic assault. In addition, crimes that involve current or former spouse, someone who lives with the offender, family member by blood, marriage or adoption, foster parent/child, a person who is or had romantic relationship with the offender and a child of current or former spouse are categorized as domestic violence in the state.

Domestic Assault

Under the Texas domestic abuse law, an individual is guilty of domestic assault of one commits an assault against a family member, current or past dating partner or member of the household. According to (Nachtigall, 2014), domestic assault is treated with the utmost seriousness in the state than any other domestic offence. The Texas Domestic Violence Statute, Penal Code, Title Five, Chapter 22, Section 22.01 defines assault as intentional or reckless bodily injury to another person, intentional threats with bodily injury or intentional body contact that offender reasonably knows the victim will find offensive/provocative (“Offenses Against the Person,” 2018).

The assault can be categorized as Class A Misdemeanor is the offender has no prior domestic conviction, while the crime will be termed as third degree felony if the offender involved in assault has a prior conviction in domestic violence. However, domestic crimes in Texas attract varying penalties, third degree felony can attract 2-10 year prison sentence, while Class A misdemeanor attracts a prison term of up to one year. Examples of offences under the domestic assault include bodily harms to partner, child or household member, intimate strangulation, rape and wife battering.

The domestic assault laws in the Texas have profound impact on child custody decisions. The Texas laws prohibit parents from being joint conservators of the child if there has been a proven case of sexual abuse by one of the parent towards the other in the past two years.

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