HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Senate bill 1338 filed by Houston State Senator John Whitmire has been years in the making. If the bill becomes law Whitmire says the Lone Star State would finally do away with bail being part of the punishment.
The proposed legislation would finally level the playing field for the haves and the have nots who face criminal charges.
“The criticism of our Harris County bail system is that it punishes people for simply being poor and doesn’t protect the public from people who are truly dangerous because those with means regardless of how dangerous can get out on bail and those without financial resources regardless of how low the crime is in terms of dangerousness can’t get out,” said Harris County D.A. Kim Ogg.
Scores of poor criminal defendants have pled guilty even though they’re not because they couldn’t afford to post bail.
“We’ve seen that in Harris County,” said University of Houston criminal law Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson. “Hundreds of people pleaded guilty to drug felonies. This is not even minor stuff these were felonies and then later it turns out there were no drugs and they couldn’t make bail and they needed to get home to their kids and their lives.”
If the bill passes judges would use a risk assessment system to make bail decisions within 48 hours of an arrest.
Poor non- violent and low level offenders would be on a personal recognizance bond.
“We’re holding the wrong people and releasing the wrong people,” Thompson said.