85(R) - 2017
Relating to the establishment, operation, and funding of
victim-offender mediation programs; authorizing fees.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
This bill would modify the Code of Criminal Procedure pertaining to pretrial hearings by allowing a defendant’s attorney, or the defendant, to request a motion to enter a pretrial victim-offender mediation program. This program is for individuals who have been arrested for, or charged with, a misdemeanor offense against property.
To qualify the individual may not have previously been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor, except for a traffic misdemeanor punishable by fine. The state and the victim must consent to the defendant entering into the program; in addition the defendant must agree to enter a binding mediation contract that requires the defendant to take responsibility for their own actions, and to address the specific circumstances of their actions. Depending on the agreement, it may require an apology and/or require the defendant to pay restitution to the victim and/or perform community service. If the defendant successfully completes the program the court may dismiss the criminal action. If the defendant has not been arrested or convicted of another crime on or before one year after successfully completing the program, the court shall enter an order of nondisclosure of criminal history record information.
This bill authorizes a fee not to exceed $500, plus the costs associated with alcohol
or controlled substance testing, counseling, and treatment, if it is required
by the mediation agreement. The defendant would be responsible for paying the fees of the program, however they judge or magistrate may authorize a payment schedule based on the individual's ability to pay.
Additionally, this bill amends the family code and enables the Texas Juvenile Justice Board to establish guidelines for a victim-offender program to be administered by the juvenile boards. Juveniles who successfully complete the program may automatically have their records sealed, or the court may hold a hearing to determine whether their records should be sealed.
Vote Recommendation Notes
This bill satisfies our liberty principle of personal responsibility by having a criminal make the victim whole and take responsibility for their misdeed. In addition, this bill protects private property rights by ensuring that those who have had their property rights violated are compensated to a degree of their choosing. Finally, expediting the resolution of the case, and offering the offender an opportunity to avoid a criminal record if they successfully complete the mediation program satisfies our liberty principle of limited government. For these reasons we support this bill.