Study shows misdemeanor bond reform has led to most defendants not showing up for court

There is no federally mandated felony bond reform. Some Criminal District Court Judges took it upon themselves to grant multiple felony bonds to repeat violent offenders.

But misdemeanor bond reform is mandated, and some say it's created a chaotic misdemeanor court system.

RELATED: Harris County Criminal Court Judge discusses defendants with multiple felony bonds

28-year-old Maranda O'Donnell, has half a dozen mug shots, and just as many misdemeanor charges for crimes like DWI, drugs, and theft.

She's the reason a federal judge put the O'Donnell decree in place in 2019.

It mandated no one in Harris County charged with a misdemeanor must post a cash bond.

"In misdemeanor court, they are not getting a bond. They're told show back up to court on this date, obviously they are not showing up," said Douglas Griffith, President of the Houston Police Union.


The Houston Police Union commissioned this study. All the information came from the Harris County District Clerk and the Texas Office of Court Administration.

"It's just unbelievable what's going on in the misdemeanor courts," Griffith said. "They can't keep up. There are so many cases, they can't keep up, because they're continuously resetting cases."

The study looked at the week of October 11 - October 15, 2021. 

About 9,000 cases were on the dockets of all 16 Harris County Criminal Courts at Law.

According to the study, during that week, out of every 100 cases set on the docket just under 16% of the defendants showed up for court.

RELATED: At least 171 Harris Co. residents have died needlessly due to courthouse revolving door

In cases where defendants were ordered to appear in court, more than 76% failed to appear.

The study also states almost 72% of misdemeanor cases were dismissed by the courts in 2020 and 2021.

By comparison in 2011, only about 26% of misdemeanor cases were dismissed.

"What they are doing is trying to keep the backlog down, so the system doesn't collapse," Griffith said. "That's where we are in the Harris County Judicial system. It will collapse if they continue at this rate and where are we going to be then?"

The study found most misdemeanor courts do not issue bond forfeitures. That means most county criminal courts do nothing to hold defendants accountable when they fail to appear.