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'Thousands of Sandra Blands': Just Liberty analyzes new arrest data from Texas traffic stops

As the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee today prepares to hear HB 2754 (White), the committee substitute to which would limit most Class C misdemeanor arrests (with certain public safety exceptions), Just Liberty put out a new analysis of data titled, "Thousands of Sandra Blands: Analyzing Class-C-misdemeanor arrests and use-of-force at Texas traffic stops."  The analysis relies on the new racial profiling reports which came out March 1st, analyzing information for Texas police departme...
Tags: Texas, Law, Houston, Texas Department of Public Safety, Sandra, Appleseed, Gritsforbreakfast, Sandra Blands, House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee

$12K bail for stealing $1?; Twin Peaks prosecutions petered out; Harris justice system still digging out after Harvey, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused elsewhere: Hurricane Harvey aftermath still affecting Harris County The Houston Chronicle reports on long delays and an uncertain future for Harris County criminal courts. Commenters are blaming the new county judge, but this is a crisis she inherited. Meanwhile, terms of the county's bail settlement proffer has been announced; more on that development once your correspondent has time to digest it and talk to ...
Tags: Google, New York, Texas, Law, Austin, New York Times, Houston Chronicle, HARRIS, Moore, Harvey, Harris County, York Times, Austin Police Department, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Gritsforbreakfast, Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee

Austin PD misreported use of force data at traffic stops

After The Atlantic and the Austin Chronicle picked up on the data Grits first crunched in this blog post regarding use of force and Class C arrests at Texas traffic stops, the Austin Police Department issued a correction regarding its use-of-force data in the department's most recent, annual racial profiling report.New reporting on use of force was mandated by the Legislature as part of the 2017 Sandra Bland Act, which required departments to include much more data about traffic stops than anyon...
Tags: Law, Gritsforbreakfast

Dallas DA dishes decarceration decisions: John Creuzot releases a much-anticipated memo

At a debate co-hosted by Just Liberty last fall, then-Dallas-DA-candidate John Creuzot promised to produce a memo three months into his term to identify changes/reforms designed to reduce mass incarceration.Here's the memo. Check it out! Let's run through some highlights: Marijuana : The Dallas DA will not prosecute first-time offenders unless the offense occurred in a drug-free zone, involved a deadly weapon, or there is evidence of delivery. He also said he'd decline first-time 3rd degree felo...
Tags: Texas, Law, Dallas, Philadelphia, Gritsforbreakfast, Dallas News, Larry Krasner, Dallas DA, John Creuzot, Creuzot

Governor Abbott radically scales back support for reduced pot penalties

I'll take "Things you say in a campaign that you don't really mean" for $500, Alex What a disappointment!During his campaign last year during a debate with Democrat Lupe Valdez, Governor Greg Abbott announced his support for making possession of up to two ounces of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor. But the governor has now backed off of that position, radically limiting his earlier proposal. He's still for reducing marijuana penalties, but only for amounts so small that it won't affect mos...
Tags: Texas, Law, Alex, Abbott, Greg Abbott, Moody, Dutton, Lupe Valdez, Texas GOP, Gritsforbreakfast, House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Nicole Collier

Texas bail-reform legislation not ready for prime time

Competing bail-reform bills are up in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee today, but in this writer's view, none of them is ready for prime time. For reasons articulated before, the Texas Judicial Council bill carried by Murr/Whitmire (HB 1323) fails to address the main constitutional flaws identified in Texas' system by federal litigation. The Governor's bill, carried by Rep. Kyle Kacal and backed by the bail-bond industry (HB 2020), is even worse. It creates a new layer of governmen...
Tags: Texas, Law, 5th Circuit, Gritsforbreakfast, Office of Court Administration, Texas Judicial Council, House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Kyle Kacal, Murr Whitmire, Bail Advisory Program

Vetting police arguments against limiting Class-C misdemeanor arrests

In preparation for tomorrow's hearing on HB 482 (Thompson) limiting Class C misdemeanor arrests Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, I just watched last session's hearing on Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson's similar bill, which passed out of that committee on a 7-1 vote.A few thoughts:First, on defining the problem: the ship has sailed on the idea that Class C misdemeanor arrests are rare or only used in extraordinary circumstances. They happen tens of thousands of times arou...
Tags: Maryland, Law, House, Oklahoma, Thompson, Brady, Peter Parker, McVeigh, Spidey Sense, Timothy McVeigh, Gritsforbreakfast, Senfronia Thompson

'Epidemic' of Class-C arrests poo-pooed in 2001 by SCOTUS now documented by new Appleseed report, racial-profiling data

"Data, data, data, I cannot make bricks without clay." - Sherlock Holmes One of the frustrating aspects of debating the issue of Class C misdemeanors in Texas has been a general lack of information about how often people are arrested for these low-level infractions. When legislation to limit such arrests was heard in 2017, law enforcement claimed Class-C arrests almost never happened and were nothing to worry about. "Move along," we were told, "nothing to see here."Except that was patently false...
Tags: Texas, Supreme Court, Law, Kentucky, Austin, House, Rick Perry, Dallas, Homeland Security, Sherlock Holmes, Connor, Thompson, Legislature, Kathy Mitchell, Harris County, Atwater

Class C misdemeanor arrests and incarceration in Texas, by the numbers

Beginning with the consideration of HB 482 (Thompson) in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, the Texas Legislature will spend quite a bit of time over the coming weeks considering the consequences of arrest and incarceration for Class C misdemeanors, which in Texas are minor offenses carrying a maximum punishment of a $500 fine and no jail time.There are two ways people end up incarcerated over Class C misdemeanors. First, after the US Supreme Court okayed the p...
Tags: Texas, Law, Austin, Harper, US supreme court, Thompson, Texas Department of Public Safety, Sandra, Harris County, Atwater, Gritsforbreakfast, Office of Court Administration, Municipal Judges, Percentage of Americans the Federal Reserve, Office of Court Administration Judicial Statistics

Bail-reform blues: Can't please all parties when reforming pretrial-detention process

Governor Greg Abbott's endorsement of bail reform last year appeared to give the issue fresh life. But Abbott has now backed a bail-reform bill that eschews best practices and instead puts his office at the center of future decisions about pretrial reform.The Houston Chronicle editorial board rightly opined that the move puts legislative reform efforts at extreme risk, but it's hardly just the governor. There's a swirl of backroom drama surrounding this topic with an array of competing interests...
Tags: Law, Abbott, Greg Abbott, Houston Chronicle, Laura, Legislature, 5th Circuit, Gritsforbreakfast, John Arnold Foundation, Office of Court Administration, Texas Judicial Council, Whitmire Murr, Damon Allen

Why Police Should Be Required to Get a Warrant to Use Cell-Site-Simulators (aka, "stingrays")

Legislation heard this week in the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, HB 352 (Blanco) would require warrants for Texas law enforcement to use so-called “stingrays” or “cell-site simulators” to track people's cell phones, and provide more transparency surrounding use of these devices.So-called “Stingrays” or cell-site simulators are examples of relatively new surveillance techniques hovering at the bleeding edge of both cell-phone technology and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Because ...
Tags: Texas, Supreme Court, Law, Navy, California, US, Houston, US supreme court, Blanco, US Department of Homeland Security, Sims, Carpenter, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, Cesar Blanco, Gritsforbreakfast

Podcast: Elsa Alcala says Texas death penalty unreliable; parsing new TX traffic-stop data; prospects for Lone-Star marijuana reform, and other stories

Here's the March 2018 episode  of the Reasonably Suspicious podcast, recorded last week on the SXSW Podcast Stage hosted by Cadence13. Former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala was our special guest, focusing on junk forensic science and the death penalty.Here's what's on this month's show: Opening Riff Would permanently shifting to Daylight Savings Time reduce crime? Top Stories Prospects for marijuana reform in TexasNew data on use of force at Texas traffic stopsLegislative pr...
Tags: Amazon, Texas, Law, Alcala, Texas Legislature, Gritsforbreakfast, Elsa Alcala, SXSW Podcast Stage, Cadence13 Former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Death, Texas Public Information ActAs always Grits

Defining an 'undue hardship': Updating last session's debtors-prison reform bill

The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday heard HB 465 (White), which is update legislation from debtors-prison reform legislation (HB351/SB1913) passed in 2017. (Attentive readers may recall that, when he laid out HB 351, state Rep. Terry Canales told the committee that the ideas in his legislation originated with a post on this blog!) Despite predictions two years ago that collections would plummet and indigent drivers wouldn't be held accountable, the opposite occurred: colle...
Tags: Law, Republican Party of Texas, Texas Democratic Party, Gritsforbreakfast, Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Terry Canales, Texas Fair Defense Project and Texas Appleseed

New reports show Austin police use force at traffic stops much more often than other agencies

Austin police are more likely to use injury-causing force against drivers they pull over than any other large Texas jurisdiction, according to new "racial profiling" data reports out this month from law-enforcement agencies around the state. Go here to look up reports from various departments, which agencies were required to submit to the state by March 1st.These are called "racial profiling" reports because documenting racial discrimination was their original purpose when they were mandated in ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Odessa, Denton, Beaumont, Midland, Arlington, Waco, Corpus Christi, Lewisville, Gritsforbreakfast, John Whitmire, Garnet Coleman

A tale of two approaches to Texas property-theft thresholds

A pair of bills heard in two Texas House committees this week demonstrate opposing philosophies when it comes to incarcerating people for low-end property theft.At Monday's Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing, state Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, proposed HB 760 making theft of packages delivered to someone's front porch an automatic state-jail felony, even if the value of the stolen items were just a few dollars. Wu said this was justified because going onto someone's porch ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Houston, Don, Plano, Wu, Shaheen, Texas House, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Gritsforbreakfast, Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Matt Shaheen, Konni Burton, Andrew Murr, Gene Wu, Sen Konni Burton

TX marijuana reform news, notes, and questions

Grits' analysis of prospects for marijuana penalty reform haven't changed since the beginning of the legislative session. Full-blown Colorado-style legalization is off the table this year, but penalty reduction for user-level marijuana possession has an excellent chance.The Republican Party in its platform has endorsed one proposal making possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil penalty, a measure embodied in Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody's HB 63, which received an early hearing this w...
Tags: Texas, Law, Senate, Gop, House, Republican Party, San Antonio, Abbott, TX, Texas Department of Public Safety, Moody, Texas Tribune, Dan Patrick, Dallas County, Express News, Gritsforbreakfast

Funding needed to bolster Office of Capital and Forensic Writs

My Reasonably Suspicious podcast co-host, Amanda Marzullo, who is the executive director of the Texas Defender Service, asked me to publish this guest blog post she authored advocating for expanded resources for the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs. Give it a read:Members of the Senate Finance Committee’s Article IV Subcommittee should take a lead from their counterpart committee in the House  and adequately fund the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs (OCFW), which has been under-resourced...
Tags: Texas, Law, Austin, House, Dallas, Senate Finance Committee, Lubbock, Gritsforbreakfast, Forensic Science Commission, Texas Defender Service, Hinojosa, Office of Capital, Amanda Marzullo, OCFW, Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases

Pot debate at #txlege launches early, Soldiers as cops?, Tailoring corrections practices to women prisoners, and other stories

At the Texas Legislature this week, criminal-justice bills are finally being heard, although not yet in all committees, and all on the House side. Most of the major legislation remains to be seen; some of it has yet to be filed. Excepting marijuana discussions described below, all the biggest #cjreform debates of the session are all yet to come. But here are a few mostly-small bills up in committee this week that deserve Grits readers' attention: Marijuana reform debate launches early This after...
Tags: Amazon, Texas, Law, Gop, House, Republican Party, Greg Abbott, Legislature, Plano, Moody, James White, Wu, Texas Legislature, Juvenile Justice, Gritsforbreakfast, TDCJ

Reasonably Suspicious podcast: Harris commissioners nixed DA hiring request, and other stories

The Harris County District Attorney can't hire more prosecutors, the Houston PD can't find the informant behind a botched SWAT-style narcotics raid, and the chairman of the House Corrections Committee can't understand why local government spends so much money jailing people. My co-host Mandy "Tiger" Marzullo and I discussed all this and more in the better-late-than-never February episode of the Reasonably Suspicious podcast:Here's what we discussed on the show this month: Top Stories Harris Co...
Tags: Law, Houston, Chris Harris, HARRIS, DPS, Harris County, James White, Gritsforbreakfast, House Corrections Committee, Houston PD, Mandy Tiger Marzullo, Interview House Corrections Committee

Bill aims to close 'dead suspect loophole' to TX Public Information Act

For 25 years in Texas, from 1971 to 1996, police files on closed criminal cases were open records, whether or not anyone was ultimately convicted. But in 1996, the Texas Supreme Court eviscerated what was then the Texas Open Records Act when it came to law enforcement records, ruling in a case styled Holmes v. Morales that police case files are closed unless they resulted in a conviction or deferred adjudication. Then, the following year, the Legislature codified the restrictive court ruling rat...
Tags: Texas, Law, Austin, Bill, Holmes, Legislature, Morales, House State Affairs Committee, Texas Supreme Court, Joe Moody, Gritsforbreakfast, Ciaramella, At Reason, Texas Public Information Act Local media

Bill limiting suspensions a start at untangling worst-in-nation driver-license mess

Texas revokes more drivers licenses, by far, than any other state, The Washington Post reported last year. But House Corrections Committee Chairman James White wants to change that. He has a bill up in the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday that would rectify a small but unremittingly ill-conceived provision in the current law.Presently, Texas law doubles down on license suspension as a punishment, even when it fails to keep drivers off the road. When the Transportation C...
Tags: Texas, Law, Washington Post, Bill, James White, Gritsforbreakfast, House Corrections Committee, Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee

Legislation filed to abolish driver surcharges

Yesterday, Texas Senate State Affairs Committee Chairwoman Joan Huffman and House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas filed companion bills which appear to be the leadership-driven abolition proposal for the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) that will be the main focus this session. SB 918 and HB 2048 aren't perfect, but they're certainly headed in the right direction. The bills suggest an array of new funding sources for trauma hospitals, most of which are less objectionable than t...
Tags: Texas, Budget, Law, Federal Reserve, Legislature, House Appropriations Committee, Joan Huffman, Gritsforbreakfast, Driver Responsibility Fee, DRP, Lege, DWI, Yesterday Texas Senate State Affairs Committee, John Zerwas

Decarceration, police accountability, transparency: Little bills worth watching

Much attention at the Texas Legislature gets paid to a handful of Big Bills in the criminal-justice world like bail reform, driver-surcharge abolition, and enacting a constitutional standard for executing people with serious mental illness or developmental disabilities. But thousands of bills get filed, including lots of smaller ones that merit attention and potential support from justice reformers. Here are just a few that caught Grits' eye in the last couple of days. In the coming weeks I'll p...
Tags: Texas, Law, Davis, Legislature, Tony, Moody, House Transportation Committee, Texas Legislature, Joe Moody, Canales, Jarvis Johnson, Harold Dutton, Gritsforbreakfast, Senfronia Thompson, Terry Canales, Toni Rose

Legislation filed to abolish driver surcharges, but what about debtors in legacy program?

Yesterday, Texas Senate State Affairs Committee Chairwoman Joan Huffman and House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas filed companion bills which appear to be the leadership-driven abolition proposal for the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) that will be the main focus this session. SB 918 and HB 2048 aren't perfect, but they're certainly headed in the right direction. The bills suggest an array of new funding sources for trauma hospitals, most of which are less objectionable than ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Federal Reserve, Legislature, Amnesty, DPS, House Appropriations Committee, Joan Huffman, Gritsforbreakfast, DRP, Lege, Yesterday Texas Senate State Affairs Committee, John Zerwas

Turmoil at Lubbock ME, Texas' failing state jails, implications of youth-prison riot for raise-the-age bill, and other stories

Here are a few browser-clearing odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention: Lubbock ME's office a Grade A clusterf#@k The interim medical examiner at the Lubbock medical examiner's office has alleged that the previous ME, Dr. Sridhar Natarajan, was frequently drunk at work, used county facilities for his private practice, and, most seriously, took bribes to change the results of autopsies. But the main source for the allegations came out and vehemently disputed his account. In the meantim...
Tags: Texas, Law, Austin, Gainesville, Houston Chronicle, Lubbock, Texas Tribune, Avila, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Gritsforbreakfast, TDCJ, Dallas News, Austin PD, Rigoberto Avila, Keri Blakinger, Lubbock ME Texas

TX bail-reform momentum growing amidst supportive press

Source: SA Express-News In San Antonio, bail companies openly advertise to defendants that they should reject "personal bonds" and use bail bondsmen instead to avoid court fees, in-person check ins, and drug testing. That's pretty brash, for a group trying to convince the Texas Legislature that they're in the business of protecting public safety!Here are several items anyone tracking the Texas bail debate will want to have read:SA Express-News: Bexar's stunning embrace of cash bailAustin ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Texas Legislature, Bexar County, Travis County, Express News, Bexar, Jerry Valdez, Gritsforbreakfast, SA Express News, Larry Krasner, Mandy Marzullo, Janice Dotson Stephens, John Longoria

Houston PD will end most no-knock warrants after botched drug raid

"The no-knock warrants are going to go away like leaded gasoline in this city," declared Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo at a town hall meeting after police killed two people (along with two dogs) and four officers were shot while serving a search warrant, reported the Houston Chronicle.The chief said he no longer "sees the value" in such raids, which were criticized earlier this month in a Texas Monthly story. In the future, said Acevedo, HPD won't use the tactic in most instances, and in the ...
Tags: Law, Houston, Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly, Texas Legislature, Acevedo, Gritsforbreakfast

Travis judges reject public defender, DA discretion the solution to budget constraints, crime deterrent from traffic stops minimal, and other stories

Here are a few browser clearing odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention: Travis County judges refuse state money for public defender office Travis County's bid to create a public-defender office isn't officially dead yet, but it may as well be after Presiding Judge Brenda Kennedy authored a letter saying local judges unanimously opposed the idea. Kennedy has urged judges not to speak for themselves and has thrown their support solidly behind the local criminal defense bar, which habitu...
Tags: Texas, Law, California, Virginia, Va, Nashville, Houston, Kennedy, Houston Chronicle, Harris County, Travis, George Powell, Texas Tribune, Texas Legislature, Acevedo, Travis County

Why we know so little about the bad cop at the center of the botched Houston drug raid

A couple of weeks ago, Grits raised numerous questions about a drug-raid-gone-bad in Houston that left four officers shot and two homeowners and two of their dogs dead. Police-union leadership blamed police-accountability activists for the episode, and the mayor and city council members backed them up.Now, it turns out the informant identified in the search warrant may not exist, and the narcotics officer in question has a lengthy disciplinary history, though much of it only documented in closed...
Tags: Texas, Maryland, Law, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston Chronicle, Brady, Legislature, Bryant, Sheriff s Office, Harris County, Texas Legislature, Bexar County, Court of Criminal Appeals

Austin's Chief Manley blames victims for misunderstanding his victim-blaming comments

Austin Police Chief Bryan Manley apologized if rape victims felt he had blamed them in his department's coverup surrounding inflated sexual-assault clearance rates, but insisted he had never done so. Here's what he said."If my comments made survivors of sexual assault in my community feel like we were victim-blaming, then I absolutely apologize," Manley said in the interview. "Sitting here today, absolutely, if there are survivors in my community that felt like we were in any way victim-blaming ...
Tags: Law, Austin, Houston, Apd, DPS, Manley, Austin Police, Texas DPS, Gritsforbreakfast, Austin PD, Art Acevedo, Bryan Manley

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