I believe that persons being held on misdemeanor charges are quite often willing to enter guilty pleas in order to gain their release from jail. That dynamic will now change as bail requirements are relaxed under the decision in ODonnell, Civil Action No. H-16-1414 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 28, 2017). While this decision will have a significant effect on the professional bail-bond business, the effect on misdemeanor court dockets may be more profound. May affect how defense counsel become involved, and of course, jail populations also. Stay tuned. OpinionThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Martin Peterson,
O'Donnell has generated a great deal of interest, so it appears the Fifth Circuit will be providing some answers. Amici
How much and how quickly things will change remains to be seen.
The bail system used in Kentucky (where there are no professional bail bonds men), is being touted.
No mechanical application of pre-set amounts for bail and more leniency in use of personal bonds and more-detailed hearings are the new norm. O'Donnell
Harris County is set to approve a settlement of O'Donnell.
The legislature sought to provide a statewide solution in several bills. But, only one even passed one house (HB 2020). Of the two most comprehensive (game-changing) of the bills, HB 1323 made it out of committee but no farther and SB 628 never even got that far. The other bills were HB 3282, HB 3925, and SB 2241. Among the proposals were use of risk assessment tools and limits on a requirement of monetary bail. The bail bond lobby seems to have delayed the onslaught to some extent. The war, however, continues. Scott Henson's conclusion was that the inaction came "because the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to define the questions the Lege must answer. In two years, the 5th Circuit will have ruled in either the Dallas or Galveston litigation and we'll know what constitutional baseline the Lege must meet. Until then, this entire endeavor is premature . . . ."
So, each jurisdiction is left to its own devices. But the times, they are a-changin'.
Sometimes I feel that I am the only one interested in this topic (as the only person posting anything). But, with more than 7600 views recorded, I guess everyone is just hesitant to comment.
For an update on the Harris County settlement and a good description of its effects, see Seven-Year Ache.
One significant observation was: "Critics included Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who filed an amicus brief in which she noted the number of open misdemeanor cases in Harris County increased by 59% from Jan. 1, 2018, to late October 2019, which she attributed to misdemeanor defendants not showing up to court."
This foreseeable side effect makes me wonder how often separate offenses under PC §38.10 are now being filed, as those charges would only further burden the court docket. My guess is the defense never agrees to that charge and that prosecutors fear preparing for trials under that provision due to lack of warning of what will be claimed under subsection (c).
For another potential side effect of bail reform see Crime While on Bail. Short summary: "The Utah study found that both the number of crimes and the number of violent crimes committed by released defendants appear to have substantially increased after bail reform."
Many of the proposals that are lumped under the term "Criminal Justice Reform" are at heart based on the belief that the protection of society from the criminal element is no longer the first purpose of government--a notion that long predates Roman Empire times.
For many who have a more nuanced view, protecting society from criminals is just another thing government does, and is subject to the same cost analysis that any other government function has, such as how often the pot holes should be repaired, or whether we should have government provided day-care.
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