Local News

Oct 10, 2013 6:14 PM by Janine Reyes

Lifesaving Law Not Being Used in Domestic Violence Cases

CORPUS CHRISTI - Leaving a domestic violent relationship is a very dangerous, even deadly time. That's why local leaders and victims advocates pushed for a life saving law back in 2009. It passed the Texas legislature in a unanimous vote.

So, why has it never been used here in Nueces County?

Cassandra Perez knows all too well just how dangerous leaving a domestic violent relationship can be. In December 2009, her ex-boyfriend attacked her, stabbed her several times with a box cutter and left her for dead.

Perez says that's not the first time she suffered abuse, Guadalupe Cervantes had been charged with violence before. But leaving is the most dangerous time for domestic violence.

"I would say 80% of the deaths we have seen in the last few years in our area, in the entire 12 counties that we serve have been the victim has wanted to leave," said Susan Holley-Lowe, Chief Operating Officer for the Women's Shelter of South Texas.

That's why Holley-Lowe along with other advocates at the Women's Shelter of South Texas reached out to our local leaders for a lifesaving law, called Mary's Law.

Rep. Abel Herrero (D) authored House Bill 1506 and it passed, unanimously.

It gives judges the option to order a GPS monitor for suspected abusers and gives victims a pager. If the accused abuser gets within specified zones, it sends out an alert.

"It gives them time to get out, simultaneously it alerts the police officers in the area," said Herrero.

Perez thinks if put to use, the law could have saved her from a brutal attack. "If I would have known about the law, maybe I could have said something at one of the hearings," she said.

It passed 6 months before her attack.

"In the ideal world every single offender would be on GPS monitoring and every victim would have that pager," said Holley-Lowe.

But, in Nueces County, its nowhere near ideal. The probation department tells us they've never seen an order to enforce Mary's Law.

In the entire state, its only been used 4 times since it passed. Once in April 2012 and April 2013, then twice in July 2013. That's for our entire state.

"Is it realistic to think that in the last 4 years there's not been one case where this could have been used," we asked Herrero. "Not in my opinion," he replied, "but it is left at the discretion of the judge."

While none of the district judges in Nueces County called us back to tell us why, the women who pushed for the legislation say it probably all boils down to money.

The law requires offenders to pay for the device, but oftentimes, they don't have the money.

"If an offender does not have the money to pay, is that a reason not to put this into play," we asked Wilson. "It probably shouldn't be, because obviously victims lives are much more important but we find that that happens," she said.

Perez says there's a simple answer to that. "You have to pay it, then if not, go back to jail, don't come out," she said.

While that does sound like a simple solution, the Women's Shelter serviced more that 2,000 people last year, and says there simply isn't space to lock up all domestic violence offenders.

The probation department tells us they don't have the pagers to enforce Mary's Law in stock, but, if a judge ordered it, they could get the tools needed to enforce it.

None of the district judges we reached out to returned our calls to see why they don't order it.

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