If you live in Texas, you are probably aware that you can look up registered sex offenders in your area through an online database managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Now, another database – for repeat family violence offenders – is now accessible to the public.
Last summer, Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 5202, which mandates that the Texas Department of Public Safety create and maintain a database of people with two or more intimate partner violence convictions.
In this article, the criminal defense attorneys at Varghese Summersett will explain the new law, what information will be contained in the family violence offender database, and what it means for people who have been convicted of repeat family violence in Texas.
HB 5202: History of the Texas Family Violence Offender Database
The idea to create a Texas family violence offender database that contains information about repeat domestic abusers stemmed from a 2015 murder case in San Jose., California, where Dallas Police Eddie Garica served before coming to Texas.
In 2015, Alessandra Barlas, 27, was killed by an ex-boyfriend in San Jose. After her death, her parents learned her ex-boyfriend had served time in prison for attempting to murder another former girlfriend. The family believed that if Barlas knew his history of domestic violence, she would have gotten out before it was too late.
They started the Allesandra Foundation and worked with Chief Garcia to get a law passed to establish an offender database to identify convicted abusers. Chief Garcia and the family couldn’t get the intimate partner violence database law passed in California, but Garcia pursued the legislation when he moved to Texas. He took the idea to State Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (D-Dallas), who authored HB 5202 during the 88th Texas Legislature. Gov. Gregg Abbott signed it into law on June 11, 2023.
The New Law: Central Database of Offenders Who Have Committed Certain Offenses
The new law, which can be found in Section 411.1355 of the Texas Penal Code, creates a central database of offenders who have committed certain violent offenses. It specifies that DPS must maintain a computerized central database containing information about people who, on two or more occasions, have been convicted of any of the following offenses:
The database contains the following information, to the extent it is available:
- The person’s full name, each alias used by the person, and the person’s date of birth;
- A physical description and a recent photograph of the person;
- A list of the applicable offenses of which the person was convicted, the date of conviction of each offense, and the punishment for each offense; and
- An indication as to whether the person was discharged, placed on community supervision, or released on parole or to mandatory supervision following conviction of each offense
What Constitutes Family Violence in Texas?
To be added to the database, the judge must make an affirmative finding that the offense involved family violence. Under Texas law, family violence means:
1) an act committed by a family or household member against another, intending to cause physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, or creating a threat that reasonably instills fear of imminent physical harm;
2) abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or
3) dating violence.
It’s important to note that the law recognizes dating relationships as part of the family definition. That means violence against someone with whom you are or were in a dating relationship could be eligible for registration to the intimate partner violence database if other criteria or met.
Accessing the Texas Family Violence Offender Database
The new database, which is formally called the “Violent Offender Database – Family Violence and Stalking – went live in December. You can find it here at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website.
Petition for Removal from The Texas Family Violence Offender Database
The new law states that a person may petition DPS to remove their names from the Texas family violence database if one of the following is met:
- An expunction was ordered for his or her offense that required registration in the database (unless he or she has been convicted more than three times of an applicable offense.)
- The person has not been convicted of another applicable offense in seven years.
Accused of Repeat Domestic Violence? Contact Us.
If you have been accused of repeated family violence, it’s imperative to have an experienced, skilled attorney representing you. Not only are you facing possible jail time, but now your name can be included in a public database, easily accessible by anyone, including potential employers. This can cause damage to your reputation and future opportunities.
The criminal defense team at Varghese Summersett has extensive experience handling cases alleging domestic violence or intimate partner violence. We have handled hundreds of felony family violence cases in North Texas – first as prosecutors and now as highly sought-after defense attorneys. The best defense lawyers understand the prosecution’s playbook. Call us at 817-203-2220 today to speak with a lawyer who knows the system and will work tirelessly for the best possible outcome.