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HomeSpotlight Story | Bird’s Eye View | Budget & Taxes | Politics & Leadership | Governors | Hot Issues | Once Around the Statehouse Lightly
Citing the shooting death last year of a state trooper by a man with a long criminal history, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week proposed making access to bail more difficult for defendants charged with certain serious crimes.
Abbott’s proposal would require that bail for people accused of felonies and serious misdemeanors dealing with assault or sexual assault be set only by state district judges and their associate judges and require that any courts reviewing bail “consider technical issues of mental health and family violence.” It would also create a statewide case management system “so the judges and magistrates can have all the information they need before making a ruling on setting bail.” Judges would also be required to consider the safety of law enforcement when setting bail.
He noted the experience of state district judges, who have generally practiced law for several years in the Lone Star State before becoming a judge, developing the “expertise and the knowledge” to make good decisions when setting bail for violent offenders.
Abbott said Dabrett Black, the man who shot Trooper Damon Allen during a traffic stop on Thanksgiving Day last year, should never have been granted the bail that made him free to commit the act because he was already facing charges for assaulting a police officer in July 2017. Officials involved with the case have acknowledged that other information lapses had previously allowed Black to also post bail in a 2015 case in which he was also accused of assaulting an officer. The judge who granted bail last year said he had no knowledge of Black’s previous history.
In many Texas counties, bail can be set by a justice of the peace who might not have access to a defendant’s history, mental health status or other pending charges. Abbott said his proposed case management system could “close critical information gaps, especially in counties of less than 20,000 population.”
The governor did not include a call for an automatic “no-bail” status for some serious crimes, a highly controversial measure from this year’s legislative session that ultimately failed amid furious opposition from judges, defense attorneys and the bail bond industry.
The proposal must now go before lawmakers when they return to Austin next year. (TEXAS TRIBUNE, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, HOUSTON PUBLIC MEDIA)