Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Debtors-prison policies decried, DPS cuts license center hours, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused on preparing for a much-need break next week.

SCOTUS to consider warrants for cell-phone location data
The US Supreme Court will finally consider the constitutionality of accessing cell-phone location data from service providers without a Fourth Amendment search warrant. See a press release from the ACLU, a report from Ars Technica, NY Times coverage, and commentary from Mother Jones. This makes me wish Texas had succeeded in enacting a statutory warrant requirement - an effort with which your correspondent was involved for several years. Doing so would bolster the case for the courts requiring a warrant and provide belt-and-suspenders protection if SCOTUS rules the wrong way.

Budget cuts shorten DPS driver license center hours, but border security fully funded
Border security funding for DPS remained at pre-Trump levels in Texas' new state budget, despite the President's commitment to having the feds step up on border security. In the meantime, though, legislators cut DPS' budget resulting in shortening hours at state drivers license centers. Legislators say they didn't know that would be the result of the cuts, but it's hard to see how anyone believed that cutting the DPS budget while making border security spending sacrosanct could possibly result in anything else but reduced services. MORE: Following a predictable uproar, the governor ordered DPS to reinstate the old hours. Of course, he' can't reinstate the money to pay for it, which was cut in the budget he just signed, so DPS will have to cut services in other areas.

Discussing future dangerousness
A New York Times feature last week featured a discussion of Texas' Duane Buck case and the notion of proving "future dangerousness." The article brought to mind an old Texas Defender Service report from 2004 which found most predictions of future dangerousness by then-commonly used experts turned out to be demonstrably wrong. See also Judge Elsa Alcala's dissent from the Buck case, which was received more favorably by justices on SCOTUS than by her colleagues on the Court of Criminal Appeals. FWIW, Texas executions are down, the Dallas News reported recently, though Grits would expect them to rise again by the end of the year. The main reasons for the decline were a new 2015 law requiring prosecutors to give notice to the defense when they seek to have execution dates set, and Texas' new junk science writ, which has resulted in consideration of additional issues in several cases. Over time, though, most of those cases will end up with execution dates. Executions are slowing, but not by as much as last year's numbers would indicate.

What a screwup
Never convicted, he still spent 35 years locked up in TDCJ: Jerry Hartfield was released this week.

Documenting Texas forensic reforms
Nicole Casarez and Sandra Guerra Thompson have a new academic paper out posted on SSRN last month discussing Texas forensic reforms. Not all of those efforts have worked as well as one might like, but Texas has done more than most states on this front.

Debtors prison policies decried
See testimony from Texas A&M law prof Neil Sobol to the US Commission on Civil Rights related to debtors prison practices, and a pair of academic articles he wrote suggesting consumer credit protections be applied to nonpayment by criminal defendants. This year, the Texas Legislature passed important reforms to limit arrests for criminal-justice debt. See coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle. Then go here to ask Gov. Abbott to sign HB 351 limiting debtors-prison practices.


Anonymous said...

I was at Victoria TX DPS office on Navarro/77, Monday afternoon. No one to answer questions, though a few folks at the pay-up windows.
30 people waiting, some without chairs.
When you consider what a rip and ATM to gov it is, when non-State and non-Muni folks are not required to HAVE registrations, therefore: licenses, inspections, insurance, etc.; it's preposterous to hallucinate anyone in power is doing anything but trying to rob us, even more.
READ the Transportation Code. Then, also read parts of "Administration Code" they use to conveniently override/ignore the Transp.Code. When folks in charge do not go by the laws, do we really HAVE laws????? Don't forget they still jail us for non-jailable-offense Class C Misdemeanors. (Hey, that's why you have a "Class C" license, when you're not even commercial?) The Legislature is on offense.
{FYI: And the fed gov has been working outside the laws, for decades, too. Federal Reserve Notes? The IRS misapplies the F.I.T. to everyone, everywhere. CDC & FDA work for both gov AND vaccine makers. Special Vaccine Appeals Court and all gov workers get paid by "tax dollars." You PAY to be injured/dead.}
YOU Might Not KNOW, BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT "REPRESENTED." CONgressjacks are an offense. Our mind sets are TO SETTLE--we were settlers, once, and young. Submit, acquiesce & comply, peasant--and pay a fee/fine/tax/penalty. Serf's Up.

Anonymous said...

Before anyone "calls the governor to sign a bill" they should read the bill in its entirety along with any amendments.

I favor doing away with policies that effectuate jailing for inability to pay but that does not mean I favor this bill. Especially if it has a bunch of other crap packed into amendments.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Which amendment do you object to, 1:40? One applies property thresholds to forgery of a check. The other facilitates treatment for pretrial diversion programs. Those are small things compared to the central thrust of the legislation Definitely read the bill, but then ask the governor to sign it. It's got good stuff in it.

Anonymous said...

Dang Anon 12:16:0..can you perhaps be a little coherent and less rambling in your post? You sound like a lunatic. Methinks you live in your mom's basement scouring the internet all day for conspiracy theories. Ease up on the CAPS dude!!!

JJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dear Grits,

Again I want to say "thank you" for the work you do in providing coverage of criminal justice reform issues and especially for the impact that the 85th legislature is having on it.

I read that both HB 351 and SB 1913 were signed by the Gov. on 6/15/17 to become effective Sept1.

Hopely when you return from your well earned break you will please address the similarities/differences of these laws. I do think this is an important question. And yes I have read the final versions as well as much news media reguarding same I can't for the life of me understand why senator Zaffirini's (D) amendment to HB 351 is such a big deal maybe you can please?

Thank you in advance for your time and response.

PS Why is the way Bettencourt voted important???