AUSTIN, Texas - Most people arrested for misdemeanor crimes in Travis County will no longer have to pay to bond out of jail.
Last Thursday, Travis County judges issued a standing order they hope will keep people out of jail, who simply can’t afford to post bail -- and will cut down on time spent in custody ahead of legal proceedings.
Most people arrested for Class A and B misdemeanor crimes in the county will now be pre-approved for release on a personal bond, meaning they will be released without posting bail.
“They would be on the fast track almost. They would get to go see pre-trial sooner, and that way they can go back to work and then they appear back in court for their next court setting,” explained Travis County Judge Elisabeth Earle.
There are some exceptions as to who would be on this so-called ‘fast-track’:
- Violation of protective order cases
- DWI 2nd cases if the prior DWI conviction was with in the past five years
- Threat to exhibit or use a firearm in a school or bus
- Already out on bond or currently on probation or parole
- Have had a bond forfeiture warrant or a bond revocation capias issued for this case
- Have other holds preventing release
- Arrested on other charges for which person bond is not granted pursuant to this order
- Pretrial services believe present an imminent danger to the community
Advocates, like Amanda Woog, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project, believe the last exception about pretrial services is too broad.
“That threatens to swallow the entire rule. That grants pretrial services a lot of authority to keep people held to be magistrated and to be assigned a cash bond amount,” she said.
At Tuesday's Travis County Commissioners meeting, Woog and others sought additional reform.
It is clear discussion is far from over. The push for 24-hour magistration and representation was dominant at Tuesday's meeting.
Many are now looking to Harris County for guidance. The Travis County order comes after Harris County settled a lawsuit, resulting in similar bail reform practices.
“We don’t wanna model necessarily Harris County, 'cause I think Travis County can do better, but just to see another jurisdiction and problems they’re kind of figuring out along the way,” she said.