FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 06/21/2017
Governor Abbott Signs Chairman White’s Legislation Enhancing Victims’ Rights in Texas
(Austin, TX) State Representative James White is appreciative of Governor Greg Abbott’s support in signing legislation that enhances the rights of victims in the State of Texas. Public safety is the paramount function of government that ensures that law-abiding Texans can enjoy liberty and grow their local prosperity. Therefore, our criminal justice system has a four-fold purpose: restrain evil; punish the wrongdoer; restore the victim; and rehabilitate and reintegrate the offender into civil society. House Bill (HB) 104 is a great step forward in restoring the victims who have been traumatized by violent acts.
“This legislation has been a priority of mine for the past two legislative sessions. Some victims of serious crimes (and their guardians or family members) have expressed a reasonable personal interest in becoming aware of subsequent felonies by defendants held responsible for traumatic crimes that irreparably damaged their lives. Some of those persons with interest in this recidivism are my constituents, and no doubt this also concerns many individuals on a statewide basis. With her permission, I relate to you confidentially the personal experience of one of my constituents. A drunk driver hit her family's vehicle at a red traffic light, causing fatal head injuries to their 2-year old son. The driver was sentenced to 12 years in prison and was paroled after 11 1/2 years. Later, my constituent saw in the headlines of the local newspaper the startling news that this same offender had been arrested again for DWI while driving with his child in the vehicle. She eventually learned that it was his third DWI offense, after having been penalized by a fine for the second offense,” said Rep. White.
Currently, no Texas law requires notice to victims who are interested in being informed about a defendant being indicted on certain new felony offenses, once the Board of Pardons & Paroles releases a defendant on parole or to mandatory supervision after being imprisoned at a facility operated by or under contract with the Texas Department of Criminal justice (TDCJ). While TDCJ is currently required to notify the clerk of the court that adjudicated the guilt of a defendant after release from a TDCJ facility, that notice will now extend to those individuals affected by the crime. For those who do not wish to be notified, TDCJ would not notify them unless they “opt-in” to receive the information.
“I originally filed this bill in 2013 as HB 362 and since then have worked with TDCJ staff and all stakeholders to shape a bill that respects the rights of victims. I thank Governor Abbott for being supportive of HB 104 and signing it into law. I am also thankful to my state senator, Robert Nichols, for sponsoring this legislation in the Texas Senate,” said Rep. White.
All documents pertaining to HB 104 as well as any other legislation from this session can be found on the Texas Legislature online website: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=HB104.
Please do not hesitate to contact either Saul Mendoza, Chief of Staff, or Shawn Dunn, District Director, with questions at 512-463-0490 or 409-283-3700.