A bill filed by a state representative could create an online database of Texans who have had a protective order filed against them for domestic violence—even if they’ve never been arrested or convicted of a crime.
Filed by State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, House Bill 2315 would set up a statewide, searchable website that’s open to the public.
It would work like the sex offender registry, only protective orders are the result of civil action, not a criminal conviction.
Defense attorney Allen Place said personal information should not be publicized for civil rulings, where the burden of proof is lower than criminal courts.
“This order is then going to be in a database that arguably can be used against somebody forever,” Allen said.
Known as “Monica’s Law,’ Landgraf named the bill after an Odessa woman, Monica Deming, who was shot to death inside her home in Nov. 2015.
In what police ruled a murder-suicide, the 32-year-old single mom was shot several times by her ex-boyfriend who already had two protective orders filed against him by two different women.
“Do a quick background check on someone before you go on a date with them,” Landgraf said.
The Odessa Republican filed the bill to protect women like Monica and added the database is needed in the age of online dating.
“We’re really empowering people to be able to make decisions that are best for themselves and allow them to prevent themselves from getting into a relationship with someone who has a very violent past,” said Landgraf.
Monica Deming’s dad, a former Odessa police officer, said he believes his daughter would still be alive had a protective order database been available then.
“No doubt in my mind,” John Nielson said.
He ran a background check but no criminal charges relating to violence showed up and the protective orders were filed in different counties.
Nielson said, “Of course we can’t bring her back but maybe we can save somebody else and maybe this database is the answer.”
The Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Association opposes the proposed database because of the “unintentional consequences” it could bring.
A defense attorney, Place said in a divorce, attorneys can recommend a protective order out of an “abundance of caution.”
He added that if the person on the receiving end of that order are also ready and willing to cut off contact, some skip the court appearance and take the default ruling to avoid hiring a lawyer.
Allen also said the database could be misused out of spite.
“Candidly, there’s just always going to be two sides to a story but once you put it into a database you’re just going to have certain basic factual information that just says who it is and the final result and there’s not going to be any intent to define any sort of gray area,” said Allen.
Landgraf expects the Texas House will vote on “Monica’s Law” in the next two weeks.