DALLAS — Four men and one woman — all accused of felony family violence offenses — recently walked free from the Dallas County jail.
None of them had posted bond.
They were let go under a county policy that gives police agencies three business days to file misdemeanors and most felonies with prosecutors. In each of their cases, the Dallas Police Department did not file their cases in time — so they were released.
Now, under a proposed change, detectives would have up to 10 business days to file family violence-related felonies. Judges will consider the proposal at their next meeting on July 10.
“It’s not a good thing if they get out because of a technicality,” said District Judge Rick Magnis, the presiding judge. “That’s never good. If they do get out because of the writ, they could be potentially more lethal than your average defendant.”
Magnis said the district attorney’s office contacted him last week about changing the rules, one day after News 8’s story raised concerns about the release of felony family violence offenders under the three-day rule. He said prosecutors brought him a formal proposal on the rule changes Monday.
As it currently stands, only the most serious felonies — including aggravated assault and murder — fall under the 10-day rule.
The three-day rule became an issue after dozens of offenders were released because of problems associated with DPD's records management system, which went live on June 1. At one point, there was a backlog of thousands of unprocessed reports, which resulted in detectives not being assigned to cases in time to file cases with prosecutors.
Dallas police Chief David Brown told members of the Dallas City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Monday that the department had long had difficulty meeting the three-day deadline.
"We’re on the clock when we make an arrest,” Brown said. “We have had struggles meeting that ... unrelated to this new records management system, and the challenge is, we have to be perfect or near perfect with how we prepare our case filings.”
In cases where detectives didn’t meet the deadline, the department would file on the person at large, or wait until a grand jury indictment to pick the person up again, the chief said.
Paige Flink, head of The Family Place shelter for women and children, welcomes the proposed change to county policy.
“So often a batterer says, 'No one one’s going to do anything to me if I hurt you; you don’t matter.' And so if they get out and there’s not even a slap on the wrist, it proves his point,” Flink said.
She also said that the change will give detectives plenty of time to “prepare the case, contact the victim and it will also give the victim more time to figure out and get herself safe and get her children safe.”