- The number of traffic and parking cases fell 37 percent from its peak in 2006 and is at the lowest level in more than 30 years – traffic and parking cases make up over 80 percent of the fine-only misdemeanor cases in the state;
- The number of truancy cases fell 91 percent and parent contributing to nonattendance fell 71 percent on the heels of truancy reforms that went into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year;
- The number of capital murder convictions (3) and death sentences (3) dropped to an all-time low;
- Despite the fact that new misdemeanor cases have fallen 29 percent in the last ten years and is at the lowest rate since 1992, new misdemeanor drug cases increased 9 percent to a new peak;
- Felony drug possession cases increased 7 percent and is up 28 percent in the last five years;
- The number of misdemeanor and felony theft cases dropped 32 percent and 14 percent, respectively, with the misdemeanor thefts marking the lowest number in at least 30 years; (emphasis added)
Grits has discussed before how convictions continued to rise in Texas even as crime and arrests waned in recent years. These fact-bites demonstrate how. When crimes with victims aren't available to prosecute, you go after crimes without them, like drug possession. Job security, baby!
That's especially true for felony cases. "The number of new felony cases filed was 6 percent lower than the peak rate in 2007, but it has increased slightly each of the last four years." However, "Drug cases accounted for nearly a third of new felony cases filed in 2016." So the drug war is the principle source of growth in felony filings.
In related news, civil cases are dropping, but "civil related to criminal" - e.g., bond forfeitures, nondisclosure, occupational licenses, etc. - rose significantly over the last five years.
Another notable judicial trend mentioned in the introduction: "The number of opinions issued by the Court of Criminal Appeals increased 64 percent, pushing the time to process petitions for discretionary review slightly upward." This has a lot to do with Presiding Judge Sharon Keller. She was on the losing end of more decisions than usual in FY 2016 and typically had something to say about it in a slew of dissents. Judge Elsa Alcala also contributed to that number.