Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mug-shot media, tickets in school, and yet more discovery debate: Previewing Senate Criminal Justice highlights

Having gone through highlights from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee agenda on Tuesday, March 26, let's turn our attention to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee agenda on the same day. Regular readers know Grits will be paying special attention to SB 786 by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, the companion to HB1608 which would require law enforcement to secure a probable-cause based search warrant to obtain cell-phone location data. But here's a look at what else is on the list:

Regulating mug shot media
Sen. Tommy Williams has a bill up regulating media outlets that engage in the publication of mug shot and criminal history information, requiring them to publish accurate information and to correct errors or outdated information, giving them a "duty to disseminate complete and accurate criminal history information." Also, such entities could not charge a fee for removing someone from their website. Good bill.

Limiting Class C tickets for school discipline
Chairman John Whitmire's SB 1114 would create alternative, non-criminal sanctions for school misbehavior instead of writing Class C misdemeanor tickets, a topic the senate dean has been aiming to change for some time.

Gun bill trifecta
There are three minor gun bills including one by Sen. Hinojosa requiring Texas licensure for concealed carry permit holders from other states once they establish residency here, and another by Sen. Craig Estes clarifying the law on brandishing a firearm to require a proactive display of a weapon in a way calculated to cause alarm. A third, by Sen. Royce West, would expand the scope of the offense of "unlawful transfer" of a weapon.

Bailing out
A pair of bills related to easing requirements on bail bond companies made the list. SB 876 by Patrick would let surety bond companies get out from under old liabilities if a skip is not caught for five years after their last hearing, a requirement the bill analysis calls "improper government overreach." Another bill by the chairman would give defendants who don't show up for their hearing an extra 72 hours to show good cause before the bond company forfeits the money they put up.

Discovery reform, redux
As in the House, the debate over discovery reform may be among the most contentious of the day as the committee considers Rodney Ellis and Robert Duncan's SB 1611.  The defense bar has dug their heels in but these folks are arguing over tiny margins of trial turf for a profession that pleas out 97% of convicted criminal clients. Lots of folks will be scurrying back and forth between committees over this issue.


Anonymous said...

Hey I had a question for you. If the legislature approves expanded Medicare for the lower income folks with government subsides, should that decision have an impact on that ill-conceived DPS surcharge fees? I mean, wasn’t that surcharge being used to partially fund indigent care in hospitals or am I way off base here?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's indirectly connected, 10:51. Part of the reason the hospitals don't want to give up the surcharge money is that if Texas doesn't do the Medicaid expansion their indigent care costs would not get reimbursed. If Texas did the Medicaid expansion, it would generate enough money for hospitals to let them phase out the DRP without feeling like nothing existed to replace it. It's an indirect correlation, though, not directly contingent.

gravyrug said...

So, the bail bond lobby is out in force again. Seriously, how much more lenient can we be on them?

Chris H said...

Regarding SB1289 by Williams. Everything is fine until you get to injunctive relief.

You can fine him for the abuse of speech, but, injunctive relief is the curtailing of speech.

Article I Section 8 of the Texas Constitution:
Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that privilege; and no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press. In prosecutions for the publication of papers, investigating the conduct of officers, or men in public capacity, or when the matter published is proper for public information, the truth thereof may be given in evidence. And in all indictments for libels, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

Thomas Hobbes said...

Apparently Sen. Whitmire is going to take care of his buds in the bail industry. But did I miss something? I see that SB 669 offers bail industry types relief on the forfeited amount (government handout) through a special bill of review, but I can't find in the bill's language where it offers similar relief to personal bond defendants who - by definition - had no surety but are nonetheless responsible for the forfeited amount. Wonder why that is?

Thomas R.Griffith said...

Hey Grits, regarding SB 1611 - anyone happen to know

*Pre-SB 1611 world - we currently rely on the Defense to research the client's case and file timely pre-trial discovery motions with the clerk of court where he / she time stamps each motion received. The trial court judge responds to each motion by filing a copy of the Court's Orders' form(s) with the clerk of court, either; 'Agree' or 'Denied'.

Q. - If the Trial Judge refuses to respond via supplying a Court's Orders' to the Defense, Is it the duty of the Defense to simply let it go & file another Ready for Trial Notice?

Q. - If there are no weapons found / confiscated or listed in the arrest report and / or associated in any way to a defendant (on probation), and the defense's pre-trial motions are ignored prior to trial date, can the ADA simply bring one to trial (having no chain of custody) and introduce it as a State's Exhibits & it not have any effect on the probation? Thanks.

Note: if SB 1611 can prevent judges from Ignoring discovery motions & prevent ADAs from bringing in their own evidence having nothing to do with anyone other than the ADA, I'm all for it. If it leads to Anti-Dabbling measures - mandatory pre-trial legal credentials verification, I’ll do a back-flip.