San Antonio, Texas, October 12, 2016: Bexar County Criminal District Attorney Nico LaHood announced today a legislative proposal that will give prosecutors across the state the added tools to prevent initial and continuous crimes committed against our children, seniors and disabled individuals. District Attorney LaHood formally announced the proposed legislation alongside County Judge Nelson Wolff, 225th District Court Judge Peter Sakai, state representatives, senators, local law enforcement officials and area children, senior and disabled individual’s advocacy groups.
“Over the past year and a half, cases have come across my desk that have brought pain to my heart as a father, son, and public servant,” said District Attorney LaHood. “These cases have emboldened my passion to protect our loved ones.”
The proposed legislation targets the chronic serial abuser of the most vulnerable victims – children, elderly, and the disabled. Currently, there is a gap where we are unable to appropriately punish the most serious abusers of children, the elderly and the disabled. The legislation proposed today, fills the gaps and gives a judge or jury the opportunity to assess the appropriate punishment in some of the most horrific abuse cases we have.
DA LaHood is proposing four changes to the Penal Code that will address the following:
1. Long term abuse – this relates to multiple alleged incidents (over time or multiple victims). The punishment would now be a first degree felony (5-99 years or life), versus a third degree felony (2-10 years).
2. Long term abuse with serious injury – this relates to multiple injuries with serious bodily injury. This would enhance the punishment from first degree felony (5-99 years or life) to 15 years to life.
3. Prior conviction with new abuse allegations – this relates to a prior injury adjudication followed by a new abuse allegation. Additionally, this would enhance this from a third degree offense to a first degree offense.
4. Child under 6 years old – this relates to Injury to a Child offense, without serious bodily injury. This would enhance the offense from a third degree to a first degree offense because of the victim’s age (under 6 years old).
Recently, Bexar County was rocked by the horrific abuse allegations earlier this year, involving two young children, ages 3 and 4, who were found chained up in the backyard of a northeast side home. This gave the DA’s Office reason to re-examine State laws on abuse and prosecutors identified a need to fill gaps in existing statutes. On this one case, prosecutors were able to present new medical expert evidence to a Grand Jury and they in turn upgraded the charges from 3rd degree felonies to 1st degree felonies.
“As our office seeks to reduce backlog in our criminal justice system and overcrowding in our prisons, it is important to remember we have a duty to hold the most violent and heinous criminal offenders accountable,” said DA LaHood. “This is especially true for those who target the most vulnerable, unable to defend themselves.”
The 85th Legislative Session convenes Tuesday, January 10, 2017. Bill Pre-filing begins on Monday, November 14, 2016. DA LaHood is hopeful that our Bexar County Legislative Delegation, comprised of State Representatives & Senators, will make this a bi-partisan priority.