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This bill would require the judges of county courts, statutory county courts,
and district courts that try criminal cases to adopt an instrument to be used
in conducting a pretrial risk assessment for defendants charged with an offense
in that county. The instrument would
have to be objective, validated, and standardized, and would analyze empirical data
and risk factors to determine the risk of a defendant failing to appear in court
as required, and the safety of the community or the victim if the defendant were
to be released. A magistrate would be required to consider the results of the
assessment before making a bail decision for an offense punishable as a Class B
misdemeanor or higher. In addition, the Office of Court Administration of the
Texas Judicial System would develop an automated pretrial risk assessment
system, and make it available at no cost to a county municipality or magistrate.
If this bill passes, after a magistrate has considered the result of the assessment, but without unnecessary delay and, not later than 48 hours after a defendant has been arrested the defendant would be either released on personal bond or monetary bond, with or without conditions. The magistrate would be required to impose the least restrictive conditions and the minimum amount necessary to reasonable ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. In addition, magistrates would be prohibited from requiring a defendant to provide a monetary bail bond for the sole purpose of preventing the defendant’s release on bail.
This bill also specifies that when a defendant appears in response to a citation, they may not be temporarily detained for the purpose of conducting a risk assessment. In addition, if a person was released on personal bond and then arrested for failure to appear, a magistrate would be required to release a person on personal bond if the defendant shows good cause for the failure to appear.
Under current law, a person may not be rearrested or required to give a bond in a higher amount because they waived right to counsel or requested assistance of counsel. If this bill passes, they may not be rearrested or ordered to pay a higher bond if the accused is formally charged with the same offense for which they were initially arrested, unless the judge or magistrate provides notice to each party to the action, and provides an opportunity for a hearing.
This bill would require a magistrate authorizing a defendant’s release to provide written notice to the defendant that identifies the conditions of release and the penalties for violating those conditions.
Additionally, this bill would authorize a magistrate to require a defendant submit to home curfew and electronic monitoring as a condition of release. It would authorize a magistrate to reduce or waive a cost for electronic or drug monitoring if the defendant demonstrates inability to pay. Finally, this bill would authorize funds for any fiscal year to be used to provide continuing legal education regarding bail practices to any master, magistrate, referee, or associate judge.