New Texas Law: Tougher Penalties for Assaulting a Pregnant Woman
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 300,000 pregnant women in the United States are victims of intimate partner violence each year.
Research has shown that domestic violence can have a negative impact on a developing baby. Additionally, pregnancy can make it more difficult for a woman to defend herself from abuse.
To learn more: What is the Definition of a Domestic Violence Crime in Texas?
Women who are expecting may also feel trapped in an abusive relationship or environment because they know they will soon give birth and have an infant to care for. This vulnerable position can make them financially dependent on an abuser and unable to leave a dangerous relationship.
In Texas in 2019, state lawmakers passed a new law that creates enhanced penalties for individuals convicted of domestic violence and intimate partner assault during a woman’s pregnancy.
How Domestic Violence Affects an Unborn Baby
Tragically, it’s often children who suffer in silence when domestic violence occurs in the home. Kids may witness abuse with no outlet for getting help. They may worry about a parent who is being abused. In some cases, the child may also suffer from abuse or neglect.
Research has shown that a child can experience the negative impact of domestic violence even before they’re born.
Studies have shown that a baby’s development can be adversely impacted when the mother is subjected to domestic violence. This abuse can result in a lack of bonding between the mother and child after birth.
It may also be more difficult for the mother to breastfeed her child. Some research has even shown that babies exposed to domestic violence in the womb are born premature at rates two times higher than babies that develop normally.
The World Health Organization reports that certain factors put a woman at higher risk of suffering domestic violence during pregnancy.
Some of the factors most closely associated with a higher risk of domestic violence during pregnancy are a mother’s age and education level. Specifically, younger women with less education have the highest risk.
Domestic Violence in Pregnancy Under Texas Law
Under Texas law, domestic violence that occurs in pregnancy can take a number of forms. Moreover, domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical to rise to the level of a crime. Unfortunately, in many situations, there is more than one type of abuse present.
An individual may face penalties for inflicting physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, stalking or harassment, cyber-stalking, financial abuse, or verbal harassment.
For the abuse to qualify a domestic violence, the perpetrator and the victim must be involved in an intimate relationship together.
Under the new Texas law, which went into effect in September 2019, it’s a felony to assault a pregnant woman. If convicted, defendants can face a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years in prison. A conviction can also mean fines totaling $10,000.
According to reports, the new law has already had an impact in Texas, with nearly 50 people throughout the state being charged with domestic violence against a pregnant woman per the new statute.
What is your defenses against domestic violence?
Being accused of domestic violence can impact an individual personally and professionally. In many cases, the accusation alone is enough to harm a person’s life or career. This is why it’s important to work with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of domestic violence.
There are many possible defenses to a domestic violence charge, including self-defense, a mistake, or an unintentional injury to the victim.
A person has the right to defend themselves against a physical assault. This means a man or any other individual doesn’t have to submit to abuse if a pregnant partner comes at them with a weapon or behaves in a way that could harm the person or makes them believe they’re in danger of being harmed.
At the same time, the best course of action when a situation like this arises is to remove yourself from the environment as quickly as safely as possible. As any couple knows, relationships can be challenging, and sometimes arguments can get heated. If your spouse or significant other shows signs of becoming violent or threatening, it’s usually a good idea to put some space between you so you can both cool off.
If you get caught up in a situation in which a pregnant spouse or intimate partner accuses you of domestic violence, it can lead to a felony charge under Texas law. This is a serious situation you should avoid whenever possible.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Case
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Texas against a pregnant woman under the new Texas law, it’s in your best interest to discuss your case with a Texas criminal defense lawyer. There may be several defense strategies available to you. Don’t hesitate to protect your future by talking to an experienced Dallas domestic violence defense lawyers.