Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dutton files drug-reform bills, fix to law enforcement exception in Public Information Act

State Rep. Harold Dutton yesterday filed a series of bills I support, including one which must warm the cockles of Vikrant Reddy's heart at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, acting as it does on one of his suggestions at Tuesday's legislative briefing on indigent defense. Dutton 's HB 184 would reduce the penalty for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, which is a ticket-only offense. That would mean, among other things, that counties wouldn't have to hire those folks a lawyer. Another bill, HB 182, would lower the penalty class for possession of less than a gram of a controlled substance from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Combined, these two bills would save counties large sums in indigent defense costs and reduce pressure on TDCJ from warehousing low-level drug offenders.

Both Texas' experience with juvenile offenders and California's experience shifting low-level adult offenders to counties have demonstrated that less serious offenders can be adequately supervised at the local level and it's cheaper and more effective to do that whenever possible.

Dutton has another good bill, HB 183, which amends the official oppression statute to make it official oppression if a public servant acting under the color of their office or employment "intentionally subjects another to excessive physical force." This would be a third degree felony if the actor is a police officer; just a Class A if your city council member or other non-badged public servant decides to use excessive physical force.

Dutton's HB 188 would expand affirmative "Romeo and Juliet" defense to statutory rape clause to include youth up to five years apart only if they were in high-school together at the time the act occurred. A reasonable caveat.

Finally, perhaps most near and dear to my own heart, Rep. Dutton has filed legislation (HB 193) to re-establish the old rule regarding law enforcement records under the Public Information Act, making information about criminal investigations public once the investigation is complete (unless the material falls under another of a long list of possible exceptions, which is often the case). See this Grits' discussion of the topic from a prior session.


Anonymous said...

Wonder what Dutton's batting average is for bills passed vs. bills filed?

James said...

A five year age difference in high school is pretty substantial when you consider maturity levels. I know there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, but I don't think there are very many 11 and 12 year olds that are capable of making that kind of decision, and that is what this age spread is effectively allowing.

Anonymous said...

It will be "open season" on Freshman girls! Woo Hoo!

Anonymous said...

James, there aren't very many 11 and 12 year old kids going to high school with 16 and 17 year olds. Read the bill. There are plenty of 14/15 year old freshman girls going to the same high school with 18/19 year old boys.

And Anonymous @ 3:30 pm; you may not know this, but there are plenty of high school freshman girls out there who have been sexually active since their middle school days and they aren't being "groomed" or coerced into having sex by older teenaged boys. Girls are more mature than their same grade high school male classmates and typically like the older boys.

A statute will not dictate human development. Two teens having sex is exactly that, two teens having sex. Not saying its right, I'm saying its wrong to treat these cases the same as REAL sexual abuse cases. Ask the REAL victims of sexual abuse.

And, FYI,the ABSTINENCE ONLY sex ed classes aren't working. Last I heard, Texas leads the nation in teen pregnancy. Locking up the boys and labeling them as a sex offender isn't the answer, but that's what Texas has been doing for years. Brings up another issue. Texas has failed miserably at teaching statutory laws in our high schools and middle schools. Most kids are not aware of the devastating consequences of the existing statutory laws, including the 14 year old girls who will lie about their age to get an older boy.

Anonymous said...

Odds are higher than yours, 1:44.

Anonymous said...

Dear State Rep. Mr. Harold Dutton, (Yes, he reads GFB) on behalf of real Texans' (the taxpayers', voters', tourist & visitors’).

While it's a known fact that everyone eventually pays taxes in one form or another & with Texas having a long history of suffering from mass ailments' like the voters' voting just to be voting syndrome, we thank you just the same.

In closing, Sir, a hoe is a hoe, a weed is a weed, a bad cop(s) is a bad cop & it's about friggin time we dealt with it. Chastity Belts, Prohibition & Bad Cops, all being met head-on by one state rep., will obviously be opposed by the R’s, the police associations’ / unions’, prison stockholders’ & old farts’ alike.

Despite this anticipation, I'm still looking forward to the elusive Bill with a set of balls and sharp teeth addressing - Cherry Picking for Innocence regarding the historical and systematic exclusion of claims’ being: Non-DNA, Non-Death Row and Inactive / Closed Cases, including those that are un-appealable (the Plea Bargained). Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Dutton is a democrat in a republican-owned state. None of this will pass.

Chris H said...

Dutton's bills primarily hack at the leaves instead of striking at the root.

Want to decrease police brutality? Make gun ownership and proficiency a greater part of society. While California police were pepper spraying Occupy protesters, Arizona citizens were protecting the protesters right to protest. An armed society is a polite society

For lessening drug crime penalties, jury nullification is constrained by statute and by judicial rules/practice. Increase the ability to argue for jury nullification. Allow your community to actually apply the law to it's standards, not the standards of demagogues.

Anonymous said...

Can Dutton please file a bill to legalize marijuana while he is at??

Gritsforbreakfast said...

He only backed reducing the penalty for MJ, 4:27. I guess that makes him a moderate. :)