Monday, April 06, 2015

TX Lege committee agendas packed with criminal justice reform bills

There's really kind of an amazing array of criminal-justice reform bills and a host of other legislation related to the topics covered on this blog up in committee this week at the Texas Legislature. I've no time to adumbrate them all (perhaps a few, as the week progresses), but for now just check out these agendas, especially CrimJur in the House which may well end up being an all-nighter:
  • Senate Criminal Justice - Tuesday. Highlights: expansion of hazing offense, post-conviction DNA testing, civil commitment of sex offenders, licensing of forensic analysts, plus repeats on body cameras and asset forfeiture.
  • House Homeland Security - Tuesday. Highlights: Dueling bills on DPS collection of driver fingerprints, data retention for automated license plate readers.
  • House Criminal Jurisprudence - Wednesday. Highlights: requiring warrants for cell-phone location data, penalty reductions for various nonviolent offenses (including civil penalties for pot), and for the attorneys in the crowd, there's a bill eliminating "the Rule" barring witnesses from hearing other witnesses testimony at trial, but only if they're detectives.
  • House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues - Wednesday.  Nothing earth shattering but an array of interesting topics.
  • House Corrections - Thursday. Probation, nondisclosure, and mental health diversion.
  • House Emerging Law Enforcement Issues - Thursday. Highlights: body cameras, recording custodial interrogations, regulating automated license plate readers.
There is lots more stuff on those packed agendas so give them a look. What a week!


Jordan said...

Great roundup here. It's amazing the kind of things going on in Texas right now, good to see someone's keeping track of them all.

Anonymous said...

Anyone reintroducing the bill/law that would have prevented cops from arresting and booking someone for an offense that is not otherwise jailable (max punishment is only a fine - except for a pissed off cop who decides to book a mother for not using a chid seat in a car)?

New governor so it actually might be signed off on. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

@6:32pm Remove the authority to arrest for public intoxication?

Anonymous said...

The FSC is a disfunctional organization. And Hinojosa's bill 1287 for requiring licensing of lab analysts (with oversight by the FSC) is yet another means of scapegoating the low level forensic analyst. If something goes wrong, it must be the analysts's incompetency, right? It couldn't possibly be that the analyst was poorly trained by their supervisors and peers, right? Sadly, Hinojosa's "Statement of Intent" suggests just that.

"...[Lab] accreditation is focused on the crime laboratory as an entity. It requires the laboratory to meet certain standards; it does not measure the competency of individual forensic analysts to perform their jobs..."

This assumes that forensic labs don't have the means of knowing if their analysts are competently trained. Ever heard of Training Manuals? Ever heard of Proficiency Tests? No? Well, they're accreditation standards. These documents are required for each forensic lab. Thus, arguably, if analysts aren't competent, then by extension the accreditation standards aren't up to snuff.

Beef up the accreditataion standards, hold them (ASCLD-LAB, DPS) partially accountable for not doing their jobs, and you'll see less mistakes in the labs. Get the FSC up off their lazy ass and perform more on-site (UNANNOUNCED!) visits to labs, and less mistakes will occur in the labs (and more problems will be found!)

Additionally, Hinojosa's bill fails to address root cause analysis. Instead, he would prefer that the career of the scapegoated analysts be destroyed. "...Currently, analysts who engage in misconduct only face discipline within their laboratories. There is no mechanism to prevent those analysts from moving to another laboratory within the state..."

Essentially, Hinojosa is suggesting that there are repeat offenders of forensic misconduct. If the analyst has made a mistake in one lab, no doubt he/she will do it again in another lab, right? Yet Hinojosa has forgotten that miscondut is typically found repeatedly within particular labs -- Houston PD, Austin PD, Tarrent County, Dallas County. All repeat offenders. This suggests a systemic problem within these labs, the environment of the lab is toxic. Moreover, has the FSC ever required the scapegoated analyst to defend their misconduct in front of the commission? (Why give them the analyst the opportunity to blame his/her supervisor or trainer...) Surely if you're going to crush someone's career, they should be able to defend their position, right?

If you wanna talk incompetency, let's require the FSC members to undergo certification. I doubt they could pass.

Phillip Burnette said...

How can you be contacted? I see an email address below but my emails are getting returned. Could you forward me a valid email contact please? Thanks!

Anonymous said...


To answer your question one has to ask what is the purpose of the arrest. To punish or to protect? More important, what was the intent of the legislature in not making its penalty a jailable offense? Did they intend the bureaucracy of the jail to be used for such purposes such as delaying a booking process until one is sober in the eyes of the booking officer?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Phillip, try

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Regarding - House Emerging Law Enforcement Issues (recording custodial interrogations)

Those with a few moments of spare time are asked to consider contacting the individuals in charge of conducting this event on Thursday along with your State and local Reps. Politely, urge them to sign on to the – ‘2015’: It’s-About-Damn-Time-To-Actually-Do-The-Right-Thing campaign. Call it in. Mail it in. Email it in. Fax it in. Send up a smoke signal. Shout from a roof top. Or, simply copy & paste the following two sentences and forward it with your signature of approval.

‘2015’: It’s-About-Damn-Time-To-Actually-Do-The-Right-Thing

“Record it ‘all’. Let the Jury & Clemency Section (Board of Pardons & Paroles) decide – who lied”.

Please consider telling them to include mandatory digital documentation for 'anyone' placed in handcuffs and taken to a room where a conversation is initiated by ‘anyone’ connected to Law Enforcement and/or Law in any way (including any showing of Photo Arrays, live Show-Ups & lawyer visits). Where the records are to be kept for no less than 5 years after the case is deposed of. CDLs can and will shred Firm’s client case files after 3 years, no matter what they tell you. Relying solely on Police Incident Reports to explain what happened fails to fully describe conversations, as they expect the reader to believe the notes they themselves took of the encounter(s), to be truthful.

When speaking up, on behalf of the public at large in an endeavor to prevent false arrests from morphing into wrongful convictions, you shouldn't have to be thanked, but I extend it just the same.


Anonymous said...

Since jail time is not a possible penalty for Public Intoxication I'd infer the purpose of an arrest is to detain a person who, because of intoxication, has become a temporary threat to themselves and/or others. So they hold him in the drunk tank until morning and then give him a citation with a notice to appear in muni court. Then, when you show up for your court date the state gives you three options: 1) pay a fine and walk away with a conviction but no future obligation, 2) do 10 hours community service and pay "court costs" (same amount as fine) in exchange for a dismissal, or 3) put the case on the trial docket.

Anonymous said...

House Bill 268 allows the trial court to order Nondisclosure at the time the defendant is discharged from Deferred Adjudication Probation.

This is great because it doesn't require the defendant to file a separate civil petition to seal the record. Between the court costs and attorney fees this can easily run $3000 or more and most people don't know that when they accept a plea offer for deferred adjudication. For some reason people tend to assume that deferred adjudication records just magically disappear.

So HB 268 is a really good idea except it doesn't address who is responsible for confirming that the defendant is eligible. The eligibility rules for Nondisclosure are pretty arcane and require a complete criminal history background report. The rules are too complicated and should be reformed... but that is for another bill. The simple approach would be to do nondisclosure on ALL successful Deferred terminations and leave it to DPS to raise any objections on the back end. If there are a bunch of objections then maybe allow DPS to bring them in a SOAH "court" like they do with ALR hearings.

If HB 268 passes the next logical step is to allow the trial court to enter expunction orders at the time of dismissal. The current law forces district courts to process expunctions on all cases, even class C misdemeanors*... so that is a poor allocation of judicial resources.

* some age-related alcohol misdemeanors may be expunged by the trial court when the defendant turns 21 years old.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Thanks 2:42PM.

Should you return.
Assuming you are a lawyer or simply know about all things relating to probation, are you aware, that as far back as 1984, here in Harris County, Texas, lawyers have been getting away with a form of gross ineffective assistance of counsel via: being allowed to advise clients on probation that plead Not Guilty to -

*Stop the jury trial, take the plea, despite a guilty or not verdict you are going to prison due to being on probation (deferred adjudication) at the time of arrest on a new unrelated charge, it was automatically revoked upon arrest, take the plea. Daniel R. Jackson – 1984

Years later (in the pursuit of an elusive Full Pardon - for/based on innocence & a Regular Full Pardon) I asked the Harris County Adult Probation Dept. to confirm this legal advice. You can imagine how it felt to hear - No, you were given incorrect legal advice, it's 'not' Revoked until the papers are signed. They had no records of me being Revoked prior to my half day in FAKE court.

As to why we aren't seeing any bills addressing the real main cause of wrongful convictions (Aggravated Ineffective Assistance of Counsel)that utilize falsified automatic Probation Revocation advice to obtain No Contest pleas is anyone's guess.