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No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
The bill would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding the payment of restitution as a condition of community supervision for offenses involving family violence committed in the presence of a child under the age of 15. The bill would require the court to make findings regarding the existence of a child witness; order restitution for the payment of medical, psychiatric, and psychological care for the child witness, and specify manner of payment. The bill would consider the restitution order as a civil action for purposes of enforcement and would permit the court to modify the restitution order in a subsequent hearing. Based on the analysis of the Office of Court Administration, duties and responsibilities associated with implementing the provisions of the bill could be accomplished by utilizing existing resources.
The fiscal note above provides a sufficient explanation of what this bill would do.
By requiring people convicted of family violence to pay restitution directly to children who witnessed the violence, HB 2159 links an important aspect of the penalty directly to the crime for the benefit of children who indirectly become victims due to witnessing such a traumatic event. Too often victims of a crime are left with little to no assistance which leaves justice not fully served; this is especially the case for children who may not have been subject to family violence but witnessed it which can be just as traumatic. Requiring a person convicted of family violence to financially assist these children in receiving psychological or psychiatric care furthers personal responsibility on behalf of the convict and individual liberty on behalf of the child. For these reasons we support HB 2159.
As a word of caution we note that provisions such as this that tend to be somewhat open-ended can tend to become overly punitive with time. The original intent can get distorted and the amount that convicts are required to pay can become burdensome enough that payment is impossible which leads to further unintended consequences that neither serve the interests of justice nor benefit the victims. For this reason we recommend the legislature amend HB 2159 to define the maximum amount that a defendant may be required to pay and the maximum length of time for which payments are required.
The Senate chamber sponsor is Senator Huffman.