Saturday, June 08, 2013

By the numbers: 83rd TX Lege created 33 new crimes (6 of them felonies), passed 20 enhancements

After shifting their weekly legislative updates exclusively to email instead of posting them on their website during the final weeks of the session (perhaps Grits was quoting from and linking to them too frequently?), the Texas District and County Attorneys Association has posted a legislative recap that may interest Grits readers. Here's an interesting "by the numbers" summary of 2013 criminal-justice legislative action at the Texas Legislature:
The final tally.  The Legislature ultimately passed almost 1,300 bills and joint resolutions, of which we were tracking more than 300.  Here are some early numbers on the bills that passed (noting that some of these categories may overlap):
            Code of Criminal Procedure (# of bills): 76
            Penal Code: 45
            Traffic laws: 33
            Juveniles: 21
            Increasing punishments: 20
            Firearms: 19
            New Class As or Bs: 18
            Sex offense/offender: 17
            New duties for prosecutors: 12
            Human trafficking: 11
            Family violence: 11
            New Class Cs: 9
            Reducing punishments: 8
            New felonies: 6
            Controlled Substances Act: 3
            DWI: 2
These are rough numbers based on our tracking software.  We will nail down "official" numbers after we summarize these bills in our popular Legislative Update book, followed by our famous traveling road show this summer. 
So if those numbers hold, that's 33 total new crimes (6 new felonies, 18 Class A and B misdemeanors, and 9 new Class Cs), plus 20 bills increasing punishments for existing crimes and a remarkable 8 bills reducing punishments. Though it sounds like a lot, that's far fewer new crimes and enhancements than the Texas Lege has typically approved in past sessions. Heck, usually "reducing punishments" wouldn't even be a category!

It should be mentioned that TDCAA's count uses Shannon Edmonds' own nomenclature and the number of new crimes he estimates may not jibe precisely with, say, the number the parole board comes up with when they assign each new crime a risk factor for release purposes. Despite the occasional philistine suggestion that it's possible to come up with a hard and fast number, counting crimes is an inherently subjective task. Like federal law, Texas has reached the point where the number of criminal statutes is literally "countless"; nobody really knows for sure how many crimes there are anymore.

I'm looking forward to discovering what are the 12 new duties of prosecutors when TDCAA begins holding its legislative update seminars. (Grits has already signed up for one of the Austin events.) Go here for information if you'd like to attend one of TDCAA's legislative updates (worth 3 hours of CLE credit) for their take on the important changes made by the 83rd Texas Legislature that affect their members.


Anonymous said...

I would be interested in purchasing your book which summarizes the new laws. It is very interesting to me that the number of crimes increased and the number of jails will need to be decreased (Hooray) - maybe the punishments are monetary rather than prison. And maybe we will no longer be the nation with the largest number of our citizens incarcerated. Thank you for all you do for spreading the word about "justice".

Pam Lakatos said...

Reminds me of the book "Three Felonies A Day" a reflection on federal law. Guess Texas just has to keep up. Am glad I am getting old and will be gone soon. I do not like the way this world is going. Of course, I do have a reputation for being melodramatic. :)