SAN ANTONIO – Experts say communication failure is causing a safety crisis for domestic violence victims, so state lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would make it easier to arrest domestic violence offenders who violate their bond conditions.
During a three year marriage that became gradually abusive, Erica Lain said her husband was charged with family violence. He bonded out of jail under certain conditions, one of which was a no-contact order.
When Lain’s husband showed up at her house, she called the police and told them about the order.
“They didn’t see his bond conditions because it wasn’t in the system. So they left him on the premises. He tried to set the house on fire,” Lain said.
Still free, Lain said her husband continued the violence, eventually running her over with his car.
“I was in a wheelchair for six months. I had surgery, six surgeries on my leg,” she said.
Lain’s husband was sent to jail, but the situation left Lain angry with what she calls a faulty system.
Right now, when a family violence offender bonds out, their no-contact orders are not immediately put into the Texas Criminal Information Center, or TCIC. That is the system officers use when identifying suspects at a scene.
“There are things that are required to be in the Texas Criminal Information Center, but family violence is not one of them. Without information being entered into that database, the law enforcement officer is unaware the conditions of bond are being violated,” said Dr. Stacy Speedlin, a Public Policy Committee member for the Texas Council on Family Violence.
Speedlin worked on a team that helped draft state Senate Bill 343, which was recently filed.
Senate Bill 343 would give law enforcement officers the ability to quickly see the conditions of bond for family violence offenders immediately after being released on bond.
“This allows law enforcement to make an arrest, versus what has happened traditionally, where they essentially have to wait for the court system to catch up to these violations before they can intervene,” Speedlin said.
Speedlin says protective orders are different than bond conditions. A protective order, or emergency protective order, is requested by the victim or someone representing them. Those will show up for officers in TCIC, but they’re temporary and can expire anywhere between 31 and 90 days.
Speedlin said the bond conditions remain for the entire case but currently are not effective enough because they do not immediately show up in the system. She said if there is no protective order and officers can’t see the bond conditions in their database, the only way offenders can be arrested for breaking bond is if someone makes a report and the judge puts out a warrant for that offender’s arrest.
“It takes too much time. Victims are getting hurt. When you have anywhere from 56 to 93 cases being called per day -- and say someone violates the condition of bond today, that case may not go before that judge for a number of weeks before a judge can issue that warrant,” Speedlin said.
The bill also addresses other serious lapses in communication about bonds when it comes to victims.
“Once the person is bonded out of jail, the victim is never notified that there is a no-contact order,” Speedlin said.
SB 343 would also require victims to be notified of the conditions placed on their abuser, so they can call the police if the abuser violates them.
In the end, the bill would give victims the power of knowledge to call law enforcement.
Law enforcement officers would have the power to see if someone is violating their bond and immediately arrest them.
“If this is not in place, am I really going to be protected? Am I going to be safe?” Lain said.
Lain said her safety and the safety of other abuse victims now lie in state lawmakers’ hands.
The bill now goes to the state Senate committee and then to the Senate floor. If it passes in the Senate, it would have to pass the House before landing on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
You can call the National Domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or live chat with an expert on their website.