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Relating to certain waivers by a defendant regarding a community supervision revocation hearing.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
Under current law a judge "may revoke the community supervision of a defendant who is imprisoned in a penal institution without a hearing if the defendant in writing before a court of record in the jurisdiction where imprisoned waives his right to a hearing and to counsel, affirms that he has nothing to say as to why sentence should not be pronounced against him, and requests the judge to revoke community supervision and to pronounce sentence."
HB 518 would permit a criminal defendant in this circumstance the option of doing that in writing before a notary public rather than before a court.
This legislation applies narrowly to a circumstance in which a defendant on community supervision in one jurisdiction is later prosecuted and convicted for a felony crime in another jurisdiction. In this event there would be an outstanding case in the first jurisdiction because the defendant is technically an absconder in violation of the terms of probation.
While the court in the jurisdiction where the defendant is incarcerated can bring the defendant in for a hearing to revoke community supervision and pronounce sentence, they often don't bother because their dockets are already full and it's not a priority for them to go through the administrative process to close a parole violation case on behalf of another jurisdiction.
This leaves the first jurisdiction two options. Either bring the defendant back for a hearing to revoke community supervision and close the case or leave the case open indefinitely pending the defendant's eventual release from wherever they are incarcerated. In the case of the bill author's district, this might mean bringing a defendant from East Texas all the way to El Paso simply to hold a hearing to pronounce what is already a foregone conclusion and then send them back to East Texas.
Transporting prisoners over long distances for this purpose is expensive, especially for the purpose of fulfilling what at that point is a clerical obligation in order to close a case.
HB 518 would allow the defendant, who is already serving a prison sentence for a felony and has no chance of actually being released on probation in the original jurisdiction, to take care of his part of the necessary paperwork in front of a notary public rather than wasting everyone's time on expensive transportation and pro forma court hearings. This would be a permissive option rather than a requirement.
We would not support allowing defendant to waive the right to counsel or a hearing for a general probation violation. However, this legislation is narrowly tailored to a specific set of circumstances in which the waiver of those rights is clerical in nature and does not diminish due process. This legislation could lead to reduced costs to local courts and help to clear a backlog of parole violation cases that are no longer relevant and remain open purely as a matter of legal procedure. This supports our limited government principle, therefore we support HB 518.