Defendants who are charged with violent or sexual crimes may find it more difficult to bond out of jail pretrial following legislation passed in the Texas legislature earlier this month.
A report on Houston Public Media noted House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 6 would prevent a defendant from being released on a personal recognizance bond if he or she is charged with committing a violent crime or a sexual offense. The prohibition would also apply to defendants who commit crimes while they are already out of jail on bond.
The authors of the bills claim some people charged with violent crimes and sexual offenses have reoffended while released on bond.
“SB 6 is legislation which is really a direct response to the increase in violent and habitual offenders being released on personal bonds along with low-cash bonds,” state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, chair of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, the author of SB 6, told the Senate hearing.
Huffman said legislators have failed communities. “We have failed our citizens, definitely we have failed the victims, and it’s time to do something about it.”
The Republican legislators are taking the cue of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who labeled bail reform an emergency item during his 2021 State of the State address. The Governor claimed violent crime has risen and the increase is partly fueled by people who were already out on bond.
Abbott has alluded to the case of State Trooper Damon Allen. The officer was killed four years ago in Texas by a man out on bail for a felony offense.
The main House bail reform bill during the regular session bore the name “the Damon Allen Act,” at Abbott’s request. The name also applies to the House and Senate bail reform bills in the special session.
Bail has been a hot-button issue in Texas over the last few years. Jurisdictions have come under pressure to limit cash bail following evidence the system discriminates against poorer defendants and keeps them locked up in jails even if they face charges for minor misdemeanors.
Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who leads the House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, has questioned how the ability to post a cash bond makes the system safer. “The bill pushes more people into the cash bail system by precluding their ability to have a personal bond in a laundry list of situations,” he said.
Both the Senate and House bills include language that restricts operations of charitable bail organizations, Houston Public Media reported. Critics argue this also discriminates against poor defendants, whom such organizations are meant to help, while benefiting the bail bond industry.
Although most states have had cash bail systems for years, we have seen a retreat from cash bail in recent years. States such as New Jersey have brought in radical reforms.
Contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible if you have been arrested for an offense in Texas. Call us at (214) 720-9552.