Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2676
By: Truitt
Criminal Jurisprudence


In 1995, the 74th Legislature established child fatality review teams,
which have been influential in promoting positive systemic changes
responsible for a decrease in incidents of child death and an improvement
in the treatment of children by state and local agencies that provide
services and assistance to children.  The creation of a similar team to
review domestic violence deaths could help  to decrease the number of
deaths which result from domestic violence and provide improved services to
victims.  The Texas Department of Human Services (DHS) estimates that
857,745 women were victims of domestic violence during the fiscal year
2000, and yet only 41,203 women, or about five percent of those in need,
received family violence services from DHS that same year.  Determining how
a death may  have been prevented and identifying ways in which services to
victims are lacking may contribute to decreasing the incidence of  deaths
resulting from domestic violence in the future.  House Bill 2676 authorizes
the establishment of a domestic violence fatality review team in certain


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency, or institution. 


House Bill 2676 amends the Family Code to authorize a multidisciplinary and
multiagency domestic violence fatality review team (review team) to be
established in a county with a population of one million or more that
contains two or more municipalities, each of which has a population of
250,000 or more, to review domestic violence and unexpected deaths in the
county for the purpose of decreasing the incidence of preventable domestic
violence deaths.  To achieve its purpose, a review team is required to:  

_develop and implement protocols and procedures for handling each domestic
violence fatality case; 

_investigate ways to implement the recommendations made by the team;

_meet on a regular basis to review domestic violence fatality cases and
recommend methods to improve the coordination of services and
investigations between agencies that are represented on the team; 

_collect and maintain data; 

_submit to the bureau of vital statistics of the Texas Department of Health
reports on deaths reviewed by the team; and 

_initiate prevention measures as indicated by the review team's findings. 

The bill sets forth provisions relating to the establishment, composition,
and designation and duties of the  presiding officer of a review team.  The
bill requires the commissioners court for the county to determine the
method for funding the review team (Secs.  93.002-93.004).      

The bill requires a review team to review injuries, illnesses, or events
that were the cause of a death,  
as stated on the person's death certificate, that occurs in the county.  A
review team is authorized to request certain records and other information
regarding a deceased person as necessary to carry out the review team's
purpose and duties.  The bill authorizes information relating to the mental
health or medical condition of a member of the deceased person's family or
of any alleged or suspected perpetrator of abuse obtained as part of an
investigation by a state agency or an agency of a political subdivision of
the state (state agency) to be provided to the review team, but does not
authorize the release of records of such information already in the
possession of a state agency (Secs.  93.005 and 93.006).   

The bill provides that a meeting of the review team is closed to the public
and is not subject to provisions relating to open meetings.  The bill
prohibits a member of a review team and any other  person attending a
review team meeting from disclosing what occurred at the meeting, except as
necessary to carry out a review team's purpose and duties.  The bill
provides that a member of a review team participating in the review of a
domestic violence death is immune from civil or criminal liability arising
from information presented in or an opinion formed as a result of the
meeting (Sec. 93.007). 

The bill provides that records and other information acquired by a review
team are confidential and are not subject to subpoena or discovery.  The
bill prohibits records or other confidential information from being
introduced into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding and authorizes
disclosure of such records or information only as necessary to carry out
the review team's purpose or duties.  The bill prohibits a member of a
review team from disclosing any information that is confidential (Sec.

The bill provides that a review team is a governmental unit and a unit of
local government for the purposes of the Texas Tort Claims Act (Sec.


September 1, 2001.