On August 24, 2016 TCCRI submitted written testimony before the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee regarding the feasibility of utilizing GPS monitoring in protective orders as a tool to help reduce family violence.
GPS Monitoring in Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic or family violence (DV) is statutorily defined as an act by a member of a family, household, or dating relationship against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, or a threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent physical harm. Family violence offenses fall into five main categories: assaults, homicides, kidnappings/abductions, robberies, and sex offenses. In 2014, Texas experienced 185,817 incidents of family violence; 38.5% of these incidents involved marital relationships, and assaults accounted for 97 percent of all family violence offenses. Major injuries were reported in nearly five percent of cases in 2014, and 132 Texas women lost their lives as a result of family violence.
Domestic violence cases can be difficult to prosecute, particularly in jurisdictions that still allow victims to drop charges. Even when arrests are routinely prosecuted, conviction rates average between one third and one half, according to one study. This may result from a number of factors, including witness tampering and a general misunderstanding of the psychology of domestic violence. The public often has difficulty understanding why victims don’t leave sooner if the situation at home is so dangerous. Furthermore, abusers typically do not come across as “angry” people—in large part because they reserve their anger and brutality for their victims. Perpetrators of domestic violence are often more charming and may appear more put together than their victims, who are often struggling with the aftermath of their trauma. This can make victims unreliable witnesses in the eyes of a judge or jury.
Finally, when defendants are able to contact their victims during the pretrial phase, they may coerce their victims into recanting their statements to law enforcement or refusing to cooperate in the prosecution.In cases where a restraining order has been issued and the victim fails to show up to renew it, judges may believe the situation has been resolved, when in fact the opposite may be true. More troubling still, according to research, the abused victim is at the highest risk when attempting to leave an abusive partner, making the pretrial period the most dangerous time for victims in the prosecution of a DV case.