Houston Matters

Ways Domestic Violence Laws Sometimes Backfire On The Victim

Houston Matters discusses how victims of domestic violence sometimes end up in trouble with the law themselves.

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In the midst of complicated divorce proceedings in Florida, Courtney Irby was arrested after giving her estranged husband's guns to police after he was charged with aggravated battery against her.

Since the guns were in his apartment — in which she did not live — Irby was originally brought in on charges of burglary. Irby claimed that she did this out of fear for her safety because she worried her husband, Joseph, would not turn in his firearms as was required by a restraining order.

Brian Haas, the state attorney prosecuting her case, pushed back against that narrative, suggesting Irby took the guns and a number of other items with the intent to pawn them, and that it was at the urging of a friend that she turned the guns in.

At this point, the burglary charges against her have been reduced to misdemeanor trespassing.

The exact nuances on this case aside, it does brings up some interesting questions about how domestic violence cases are handled and how victims sometimes can face legal issues that might seem counterintuitive to the general public, questions like:

  • Should a lesser crime be forgiven if a victim fears for their life?
  • Are there loopholes in Texas law that limit a victim's access to protection?
  • What resources are available to Houstonians when dealing with domestic violence?

In the audio above, Houston Matters considers those questions and more with three guests:

  • Local attorney Brett Podolsky offers his interpretation of the Florida case and its implications
  • HPD Commander James Bryant discusses how officers handle domestic violence incidents
  • Emilee Whitehurst of the Houston Area Women's Center outlines the resources her organization provides victims and explains ways domestic violence laws sometimes backfire

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