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Domestic violence bill raises concerns over admission of prejudicial evidence

The issue of domestic violence is a lot like that of DUI in the sense that states are constantly seeking out ways to better protect the public and come up with tools for prosecutors to target offenders. Here in Texas, there are currently several domestic violence bills up for consideration in the House of Representatives.

One of the bills aims to widen the scope of what evidence can be presented to a jury in domestic violence cases. According to Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstwon, the measure would make it possible for juries to get a fuller understanding of the alleged offender and the specific actions he or she took prior to the incident. Many occurrences of domestic assault, for example, are preceded by verbal abuse and other forms of mistreatment. The bill would potentially allow these factors to be considered by juries. 

Herrero has said that one of the goals of the language of the bill is to circumscribe the type of information the jury is able to consider to make sure it is relevant to domestic violence charges. Still, defense attorneys are concerned that the bill is going to result in prejudicial information about a case being thrown into the mix.

Relevance and prejudice, as some readers are aware, are specific legal terms which relate to the quality of evidence. Relevance is one of the most fundamental rules of evidence, since the most basic requirement for admission of any evidence is that it speaks to the issue of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Evidence which does not have a connection to this consideration is considered irrelevant. Also important are whether the evidence is reliable for the purpose it is offered. 

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