AUSTIN – Governor Abbott today held a press conference in Waco, Texas to unveil new proposals that will impact the bail system in the State of Texas. Governor Abbott’s proposed policies follow the murder of Texas State Trooper Damon Charles Allen, who was killed during a routine traffic stop on Thanksgiving Day in 2017 by a criminal who was out of jail just 15 days after being convicted of assaulting a different law enforcement officer. TASC released the following statement:
“The Texas Alliance for Safe Communities applauds Governor Abbott for his steadfast commitment to strengthening public safety and protecting Texas communities,” said Mark Miner, spokesman for TASC. “Magistrates simply must be equipped with the right information when making a release condition for dangerous criminals, and knowing defendants’ criminal history is integral to that goal. We look forward to working with Governor Abbott and public officials to help him increase magistrate qualifications and provide them with the information necessary to keep Texans safe.”
Speaking alongside law enforcement officials, Governor Abbott emphasized the importance of increasing magistrate qualifications for felony offenses or misdemeanors involving sexual assault, proposing these determinations should be conducted by magistrates with formal training or who are licensed attorneys. Under current law, any magistrate – including justices of the peace, recorders, mayors and those with or without a law degree – are authorized to determine conditions of release.
Governor Abbott also proposed the creation of a new court management system that would streamline criminal history data and would strengthen the state’s ability to share important information and records between agencies. This would speed up court processes and provide magistrates with a defendant’s criminal history, giving them a better sense of whether or not a criminal defendant is a threat to the community.