Starting December 2. 2021, posting bail in Texas is going to be a lot more complicated.
This year, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that is designed to keep those who have been arrested with a previous criminal record in jail awaiting court proceedings. This bill, called the Damon Allen Act – named after a Texas State Trooper killed during a traffic stop by someone who was out on bond – is meant to keep violent offenders off the streets while they await their day in court.
However, it’s not a bill without controversy. Here’s what you need to know.
How Bail Usually Works in Texas
In Texas, bail bonds are used in criminal court to allow a defendant’s release after they’ve been arrested. Once bail is posted, the defendants can leave police custody while their trial is pending. Anyone who cannot pay has to stay in jail until their trial date.
How much bail costs normally depends on the charge that the defendant is facing. Sometimes a person can be released on their own recognizance without posting bail. For instance, they might promise to appear when summoned for trial. In this case, they can still be released from jail.
If a person bails out of jail or is released on their own recognizance, they have to abide by certain conditions. If they break the conditions set forth by the court, then they will have to return to jail to await their trial. If they miss their court hearing when on bail, the bond paid is forfeited and kept by the court.
The New Texas Bail System
Under the new law in Texas, personal recognizance bonds for anyone with a history of violent offenses are no longer allowed. This means that a person who wants to leave jail to await trial with a criminal record will now have to pay cash bail or a bail bonds company instead of simply being released by the court.
The new law also requires judges to take into account the suspect’s past criminal record when setting bail. Anyone accused can still bail themselves out of jail by paying the a high bond, but many people lack the funds to actually make that a reality.
Under the new law, if someone is already out on bond from another violent criminal matter, it is no longer possible to undergo a cashless release from jail if arrested on felony charges.
Is This a Good Thing?
Proponents of this new law say that it makes the process harder for those considered dangerous criminals to be released from jail on bail. They reason that this keeps more lethal people off the streets, and, thus, it helps communities to stay safe.
However, this new law doesn’t explicitly mean that someone cannot get out of jail awaiting trial if they’re a violent felon. It simply means they cannot use cashless bonds to do so. It is still possible for the same violent people to post money bail using a different method.
Opponents of this new law say that the system unfairly targets those without wealth. They believe it will only add to the problem of already overcrowded jails. Requiring cash to get out of jail only penalizes those with a low income. Plus, it props up the for-profit bail bonds industry.
If you’re facing criminal charges, you need an attorney to navigate the process. They can help get you out of jail until your court date. Don’t try to do it on your own, or you could unnecessary spend time behind bars, awaiting your day in court.