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Relating to the creation of a pretrial intervention program for certain youth offenders; authorizing a fee.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 3315 would require each county to create a pretrial intervention program for minors without a criminal history who are arrested for or charged with an offense that is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor or any higher category, other than certain violent offenses. Two or more counties would be able to create a shared regional program. These programs would be required to provide individualized and carefully monitored services to the minor. If an eligible minor completes such a program, the court before which their criminal case is pending would have to dismiss the case and would be permitted to expunge its records, if given approval by the prosecuting attorney.
HB 3315 lays out the stipulations of each program as well as the maximum lengths of punishment for participating minors, depending on the severity of the offense. The program would also be permitted to collect fees from a participant for the program testing, counseling, and treatment reimbursement. These fees could only be used for purposes specific to the program and be issued based on the participant's ability to pay.
Texas Action supports HB 3315 as it stands because it would increase individual liberty and reduce severe penalties for first-time juvenile offenders. Pretrial intervention programs allow offenders of less serious crimes to avoid criminal prosecution upon completion of rehabilitative programs, reducing public spending on incarceration in the process. HB 3315 would protect first-time juvenile offenders from unreasonable losses of liberty proportional to their actions.
In the interest of personal responsibility, however, HB 3315 should be amended to permit a judge to deny a juvenile's participation in the program if they have committed some level of felony offense.