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Relating to failure to report assault, neglect, or omission of care in certain group homes; creating a criminal offense.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
SB 1629 would establish a new state jail felony offense for failure to report assault, neglect, or omission of care in a group home. A person would commit an offense if they have reasonable cause to believe that a resident of a group home has suffered bodily injury due to assault, neglect or an omission in care and fails to report that fact to law enforcement or the Department of Family and Protective Services.
The bill would define a group home for the purposes of this section as a facility that provides lodging to three or more residents who are unrelated by blood or marriage to the owner; and provides those residents with community meals, light housework, meal preparation, transportation, grocery shopping, money management, laundry services, or assistance with self-administration of medication but does not provide them with personal care services.
SB 1629 is overly broad by triggering an offense based on failure to report by a person who merely has reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred but has no intent to conceal the abuse or has not acted in furtherance of the abuse. This is insufficient mens rea protection.
The bill is also overly punitive by creating a state jail felony penalty for failure to report suspected abuse. This level of penalty is disproportionate to the offense.
Texas Action recommends voting no on SB 1629 unless an intent element is added to trigger an offense by a person with reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred, and a less punitive first time offense for the failure to report is substituted for the state jail felony.
The intent component could be resolved by stating that an offense is committed if a person has reasonable cause to believe and intended to conceal abuse and neglect, or has reasonable cause to believe and acted in furtherance of abuse and neglect.
Failure to report suspected child abuse in Texas is a Class A misdemeanor; this would be a more proportional criminal penalty for the offense this bill would create.
With the adoption of one or more amendments to address these issues, we would withdraw our objection to the bill.