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Under current law, people convicted of most crimes may remain free on bail while they appeal the conviction. However, the law prohibits people convicted of certain crimes, or given sentences of a certain length, from remaining free while their appeal is pending. However, not all defendants who do not qualify to post bail on appeal are handled the same.
Defendants "convicted of a felony and sentenced to death, life, or a term of more than ten years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ)" are immediately transferred to the custody of TDCJ to begin serving their sentence while the appeals process is ongoing.
Defendants convicted of certain crimes for which a judge is prohibited from ordering community supervision under Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12 are also disqualified from remaining free on bond during the appeals process. However, the statute does not specify what type of facility these defendants are required to be housed in pending appeal. In these situations defendants may remain in county facilities during an appeal rather than being immediately transferred to the custody of TDCJ.
This legislation would require that defendants for which a judge is prohibited from ordering community supervision be immediately transferred to TDCJ rather than possibly remain in county jail pending appeal.
Crimes for which a judge is prohibited from ordering community service include murder, capital murder, indecency with a child, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, human trafficking, compelled prostitution, and a raft of other violent and depraved acts. TDCJ is better equipped than counties to handle these types of offenders.
HB 904 would place people convicted of these crimes in the most suitable facilities, thus separating higher level offenders from lower level offenders traditionally housed in county jails. This would ostensibly make county jails safer and would make the punishment for the most violent criminals commensurate with their crimes. Therefore we support HB 904 based on personal responsibility and limited government.