Major Momentum Shift: Texas Legislature Squarely Rejects New Jersey-Style Bail Reform

As the gavel came down last night in Austin and the Texas Legislature adjourned sine die, a historic attempt by Senator John Whitmire and Chief Justice Nathan Hecht to undo Texas’s bail system was soundly defeated as the clock finally ran out on the legislation.

Senate Bill 1338 and companion legislation would have implemented New Jersey’s “No Money Bail System” in Texas.  The legislation faced major opposition from a wide swath of stakeholders from across the criminal justice system including judges, prosecutors and those in law enforcement.

For those in the bail industry, this represented a two week reversal of fortunes of sorts.  Not only was the threat of Senate Bill 1338 looming as last night approached, but a Federal Judge in Harris County held a few weeks ago that Harris County’s bail system was unconstitutional, adding further momentum to bail reform in Texas.  In a stunning turn of events, the Texas legislature then killed Senate Bill 1338, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay on the judge’s order all within a short period of time.  In other words, there was serious momentum that has now been stopped dead in its tracks.

Said ABC’s Jeff Clayton: “I have to start by congratulating the Professional Bondsmen of Texas.  Glenn, Scott, John and Ken were amazing to work with both in the legislature and fighting the lawsuit in Harris County, and without their steady hands, we certainly would not have prevailed.  I’d also like to thank all of the other agents and sureties that contributed to this historic defeat when the odds were heavily weighted against us.  This victory, hopefully, will begin to turn the tide on Eric Holder’s bail reform plan.”

While the gavel coming down last night means no legislation on bail reform will be considered in Texas until the 2019 session, ABC and PBT will continue to work strongly together to fight bail reform locally where needed and continue to fight the lawsuit in Harris County to victory.