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Relating to protective orders; making conforming changes.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 39 would make a number of changes to protective orders. A protective order agreed upon by two parties would be civilly and criminally enforceable whether or not a court finds that family violence has occurred or is likely to occur. It would also require proof of service to be filed with the court before the court can hand down a default order to a respondent who did not attend their hearing. Individuals who are victims of trafficking and compelled prostitution would become eligible to apply for a protective order.
If enacted, an offender’s conviction would become automatic grounds for a court to approve an application for a protective order. If the offender has been convicted and an application has not yet been filed, the prosecuting attorney would be required to apply for a protective order on behalf of an eligible victim, unless the victim asks them not to. HB 39 would also require a court to make a protective order last for the lifetime of the offender and victim if the order is based on a conviction for various sexual offenses or stalking. The age of a victim eligible to ask the court to rescind a protective order would be raised from 17 to 18. The parent of a victim would not be allowed to ask a court to rescind a protective order if they are the alleged offender.
Texas Action supports HB 39 because it would strengthen the rights of victims of various offenses and bolster overall due process protections. HB 39 would allow the victim and offender to agree upon an enforceable protective order without certain requirements from the court. The requirement that proof of service be filed with the court before a default order can be handed down offers due process protections to those accused of an offense.
We do have some reservation about the life-long protective order required in some instances. This would appear to negate the ability of a person who was a victim as a child to choose as an adult whether they will associate with their former abuser. It is not uncommon for people who have been victims to later in life reach out to their abusers because forgiveness and closure are important parts of healing from the deep wounds of victimization. A lifelong protective order may prevent victims from making this choice.