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Ruling may lead to bail reform

A judge ruled on April 28 that the bail system used by Houston-area authorities was unfair to poor offenders who cannot pay bail for low-level crimes. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a woman who was held in a Texas jail for two days because she couldn't afford her $2,500 bail. The plaintiff in the lawsuit was a single mother who was charged with driving without a license.

According to the ruling, the judge found that the bail system in Harris County violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. He ordered county authorities to release indigent defendants who were being held on misdemeanor charges. The district attorney for Harris County called the ruling a watershed moment for local criminal justice reform. Bail reform has recently become a significant issue in Houston.

According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, 75 percent of inmates are awaiting trial as opposed to just 32 percent 25 years ago. In Harris County, 50 percent of those charged with misdemeanor crimes are detained because they cannot pay their bail. According to the Texas Judicial Council, roughly 10,000 of the 41,000 inmates who are awaiting trial in Texas posed no threat to the general public.

Those who are facing criminal charges may wish to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Doing so may make it easier to create a defense. An attorney might also be able to convince a judge to reduce or eliminate bail for someone facing charges. This may allow an individual to remain free until the conclusion of his or her case while also helping to protect due process and other rights.

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R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
1545 Heights Blvd. Suite 600
Houston, TX 77008

Phone: 713-752-2728 | Fax: 713-650-1602
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