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New Texas Law Expands Penalties for Assaulting Pregnant Women

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

New Texas Law Expands Penalties for Assaulting Pregnant Women

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Social predators and abusers are patient and devious. Often, pregnancy can trigger these types of individuals to commit violence or escalate their current abuse. These actions put the vulnerable woman and the forming baby in incredible danger. 

Recent research suggests that abuse, even when it’s not physical, greatly impacts the development of a baby in the womb. Pregnancy also puts a woman in a much more vulnerable position. 

After considering these facts, lawmakers and Texas have decided to take actionable steps to protect pregnant women and their fetuses from abusive predators. That’s why they’ve passed a law that expands the penalties associated with assaulting a pregnant woman. Learn everything you need to know about this new law below. 

Concerns about Abuse During Pregnancy

It’s obvious – any type of abuse is unhealthy. That rings true no matter how old you are. Lawmakers have known this fact for a long time, but recent scientific studies have uncovered how abuse affects the development of a child in the womb. Here are a few things that have come to light over the last few years:

  • Abuse adversely affects the child’s health
  • Babies exposed to domestic violence are twice as likely to be born prematurely.
  • Mothers exposed to domestic violence have lower attachment levels to their child.
  • Domestic violence hinders breastfeeding.
  • Domestic violence during pregnancy is more widespread than previously believed.

On top of these concerns about the baby, lawmakers in Texas also have come to recognize how truly vulnerable pregnant women are. The World Health Organization reports that this issue isn’t confined to Texas. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, which affects women everywhere. According to their report, women who are uneducated, unmarried, or younger were at the highest risk for experiencing verbal and physical abuse during pregnancy and labor. 

The United Nations pinpointed the U.S. as one of the nations with the highest level of domestic violence resulting in death during pregnancy. The same report also concluded that babies who survive this type of violence go on to suffer future health problems. 

Have you been charged with assault against a pregnant woman?
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Defining Domestic Abuse During Pregnancy

How does the state of Texas define domestic violence? This type of crime is often associated with brutal physical attacks, but the state’s definition is actually much broader than that. The crime is defined as any form of:

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Economic or financial abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Verbal harassment
  • Stalking

This type of action must occur between two people in an intimate relationship to be considered domestic violence. During pregnancy, the perpetrator is often a boyfriend, but domestic violence includes these actions between siblings, parents, and other intimate partners. 

Domestic violence may occur during pregnancy, labor, or postpartum. An incident that occurs during any of these phases has a significant impact on the woman and child. 

What You Need to Know About the New Texas Law Regarding Abuse During Pregnancy

Lawmakers in Texas have not disregarded these important findings. Instead, they’ve decided to take action.

One way of protecting the vulnerable woman and child during the pregnancy is to remove the abuser. That’s why lawmakers have now elevated assaulting a pregnant woman to a felony. That means offenders will be subject to some serious penalties. These include jail time (two to ten years) and fines up to $10,000.

The bill that increased these penalties went into effect in September of 2019. Since then, there have been at least 46 people arrested and charged under the new rules. From September to mid-October, at least one person was arrested each day for domestic violence against a pregnant woman. 

Defenses to Domestic Abuse Charges in Texas

Prior to the implementation of these new penalties, assault against a pregnant woman was considered a Class A misdemeanor. The crime carried less severe penalties and only meant the person would be in jail for up to a year. In most situations, the person would get out of jail before the pregnant woman even gave birth. 

These new penalties are much more severe, and false accusations can wreak havoc on your life. If you’ve been accused of this serious crime, then it’s important to seek out legal representation as soon as possible. You and your attorney should begin strategizing over the best possible defense strategy for your situation. Here are some of the most common defenses against domestic violence charges in Texas:

  • The victim’s injury was caused unintentionally
  • Mistake of fact (the alleged assault didn’t happen)
  • Self-defense
  • Lack of knowledge

Due to the severity of domestic violence accusations, responding police officers will often make an arrest based on very little evidence. The reason for this is that police want to ensure the safety of the alleged victim who is allegedly being threatened.

If you were arrested based only on another person’s statement, then there’s a good chance that you can get your charges dismissed entirely. 

In order to be charged with domestic assault, you must have intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused the injury to a pregnant person. If the injury arose due to an accident that wasn’t reckless, then you could avoid charges. 

You’ll also avoid getting charged if you committed the assault out of self-defense. If your pregnant partner was attacking you, then you may use that as your defense.

Not every defense strategy will work in your situation. That’s why it’s important to discuss the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest with an attorney. 

Schedule a free consultation with attorney Greg Tsioros »

Justice for All in Texas

Lawmakers believe that these new penalties will help protect pregnant women and developing babies from abusive partners. It’s expected that more women experiencing this type of violence will come forward and feel more protected by the law. 

Perpetrators of domestic violence against pregnant women will now be charged with a felony crime. A jail sentence of two to ten years is severe, and that’s not the only penalty you could potentially face if you’re convicted of this crime. 

If you or a loved one has been accused of committing domestic violence against a pregnant woman, reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. It’s crucial that you and an attorney discuss your options and prepare a defense strategy in a timely manner.

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