Statute of Limitations for Family Violence Extended

Shadows showing Family Violence in Texas

Every two years the Texas Legislature passes a number of new criminal laws. In this session, one of the changes made by the Legislature was to increase the statute of limitations for certain family violence offenses in House Bill 467. A statute of limitations is the period of time a prosecuting authority has to file a court case against an individual for a crime. The period of time is measured from the date of the alleged offense to the date the criminal charge is actually filed with a court as either an Information (misdemeanor charge) or an Indictment (felony charge). If the prosecution fails to get the charge filed within the appropriate time period, then the criminal charge is blocked from being filed in court later. The statute of limitations for misdemeanor family violence charges used to be 2 years. Two years is the standard length of time for misdemeanor offenses to be filed in Texas. The new law increases the length for family violence assaults to 3 years. That same legislative bill increased the statute of limitations for felony assault – family violence charges from 3 years to 5 years.

I am not sure what need there was for giving the police and prosecutors more time to file these types of cases. Typically, an assault allegation is investigated at the same time it occurred or relatively soon after. It is very rare for a delayed assault allegation to be investigated by police or pursued by the prosecution. And it is even rarer for an assault allegation to be so delayed that it cannot be filed in court due to the statute of limitations expiring. This new law seems to fix a problem that never existed.

How Does This Impact Me?

The real impact of this new law will be felt by people wrongly accused of assault. In the past, a person arrested for family violence assault could be held on bond conditions for 2 years waiting to see if the prosecutor filed charges. Now, that same person will have to wait an additional year. And in the case of a felony allegation of family violence, like assault two or more times in a 12 month period, the statute of limitations extends the waiting period to 5 years. The additional time will also increase the waiting period for an individual to request and receive and expunction. This means a person will have to deal with an assault allegation on their record for one to three years longer than previously depending on the family violence allegations. The arrest record could have an impact on job applicants as well as potential child custody disputes.

If you have been arrested or even accused of family violence, you need a serious criminal attorney with experience in protecting you from false allegations.