Texas residents who have been taken into custody may find that their fates are determined by risk assessment tools. These tools are used by judges to determine if a person should be released on bail or held until further notice. A person's risk score is determined partially the crime that he or she is charged with and partially by demographic information. However, the process used to determine that score has been called racist by some.
Texas residents may feel that their phones are private property that can't be searched by police. However, officers can get warrants demanding that citizens provide the passwords to their cellphones and access to the contents inside of the device. One man in Florida was held in contempt of court for failing to provide the password to his phone after authorities got a warrant compelling him to do so.
Racial disparities are a significant factor in how people in Texas and across the country encounter the criminal justice system. An individual's personal experiences tend to inform the level of trust or regard that they have for police departments, the court system or other agencies. According to one study, black Americans are much more likely to say that racial bias and discrimination is a serious problem in the American justice system. Indeed, a full 87% of black participants in the survey said that black defendants are treated less fairly.
Texas residents can face serious consequences as a result of inaccurate warrants. One man spent an hour in a cruiser after a warrant for a charge dismissed 25 years ago came up in a police database. The same man was taken into custody and jailed in 2014, 2015 and 2017 based on a conviction for writing bad checks in 2006. While his probation period had ended, he still spent months in custody despite the fact that no additional charges were pursued.
Texas' Laws on Expungement
In Texas and across the United States, ensuring that defendants are fully understood when they tell their side of the story is a tenet of criminal defense law. Unfortunately, this does not always happen in cases when individuals facing criminal charges communicate in slang or a difficult to understand vernacular. It has become especially problematic for many black defendants.
The First Step Act is a criminal justice bill that could help reform prisons in Texas and across the United States. The bill is the first step in what many believe to be the beginning of prison reform and has been hailed by both the president and the American Civil Liberties Union. There are several components of the bill that could help thousands of individuals who are currently in prison.
In Texas and across the country, black defendants may be at a disadvantage when seeking bail in criminal cases, especially if the results of a recent study can be generalized nationally. One study conducted in Miami and Philadelphia showed that both white and black bail judges showed bias against black defendants when setting bail in these cases. According to the study, conducted by researchers from Princeton and Harvard, black defendants were more likely to be detained awaiting hearings or trial than white defendants by 2.4 percentage points.
Texas residents may be interested to learn that some states are beginning to prosecute individuals who are believed to be associated with a fatal overdose. These drug-induced homicide laws essentially put the blame for a person's fatal overdose on the drug dealer or even friends or acquaintances who might have provided the deceased person with the drugs.
Wrongful convictions may be high on a person's mind when they are charged with a crime in Texas. While many people grow up with a belief in the fairness of the criminal justice system, that belief can be easily challenged through firsthand experience or by learning about some of the prominent cases of wrongful conviction that have taken place. Some exonerations make major news, especially when DNA is used to show that a person convicted years ago of a serious crime like rape or murder is actually innocent. However, most wrongful convictions to not attract the level of attention given to these key cases.