Five Things That Should Change in Texas’ Justice SystemPublished: Feb 15, 2019 in Criminal Defense
Lawmakers are expected to address several issues in Texas’ justice system in the 2019 legislative session. With decades of experience, Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett knows the justice system’s various shortcomings and will be watching these developments closely. He hopes that any changes to the law will bring about a system that is more just for criminal defendants in Texas.
Forfeiture of Assets
Many people do not realize that Texas law allows police to seize property that they believe has been used in connection with a crime, even if the owner of the property owner has not been convicted or charged. Once the property has been seized, it is then sold at public auction, and the proceeds are then used to fund police operations. There are valid concerns that this system encourages law enforcement to be over-aggressive, and that it results in an unlawful seizure of private property.
Like many other states, Texas’ justice system has seen an increase in the number of women and mothers who are incarcerated. The impacts upon children are obvious, resulting in severe behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, and even learning disabilities. Lawmakers need to consider these impacts and find a viable solution that balances the justice system’s needs with the interests of the children involved.
The Bail System
In the Texas justice system, people are jailed prior to trial for two main reasons
- The accused is believed to be a risk to public safety
- It is believed that that the accused will not return to court for their trial
The bail system is supposed to address these situations by incentivizing people to return for their trial, or by keeping truly dangerous people in jail by setting a substantially higher bail amount.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the money to pay bail or pay a bail bondsman. This comes at a tremendous cost to Texas taxpayers, as they have to pay to feed and house these inmates who do not necessarily need to be in jail pending trial. Additionally, defendants are separated from their families and often lose their jobs.
The State Jail System
Most states have only two levels of incarceration – local jail and state prison. To address overcrowding and other concerns, Texas created a third option known as the state jail system. State jails were originally intended to be a more appropriate option for low-level drug offenders and other people convicted of non-violent crimes, emphasizing rehabilitation over punishment.
Unfortunately, the state jail system was never properly funded and is now experiencing a higher rate of recidivism than both county jails and state prisons. Due to the lack of funding, rehabilitation programs have not been properly implemented, and prisoners are therefore receiving inadequate support for issues related to mental health and substance abuse. In addition, the number of crimes classified as state jail felonies has grown immensely since the system was created, leading to an increased number of inmates and higher-than-anticipated needs for services and treatment.
Fines and Costs Imposed on Defendants
In addition to incarceration, the Texas justice system often imposes harsh fines or other monetary penalties upon people who are convicted of a crime. This leads to a cycle of poverty, which arguably leads to repeat offenses and more crime. The impacts of these fines and penalties are often shouldered by defendants’ families, serving as a punishment for those who were not involved in the crime.
Failure to pay court fines can also result in jail time, even if your original punishment did not include time behind bars. It can also prevent you from getting your driver’s license renewed or reinstated.
Do You Have Questions About Texas’ Justice System? Contact Us Today
Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett has been representing people charged with crimes in for years. He understands that the consequences of a criminal conviction extend far beyond jail time, and that they can impact your job and your family. As a result, he provides his clients with dedicated legal representation. If you’re facing criminal charges, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767, or fill out the contact form to schedule a free consultation.