Texas Senate considers a measure to deny bail for violent or sexual offenses

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Senate is expected to adopt a resolution on Monday that would deny bail to those facing assault or sexuality charges, as part of a broader push by Republicans on bail reform after campaigning on promises to ” tough on crime” policies.

If approved by voters, SJR 44 would authorize judges to deny bail “under certain circumstances” to a person accused of a “violent or sexual offense or continuing trafficking in persons.” The resolution’s author, Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said during a March 7 committee hearing on her legislation that she would give local officials the tools they need to determine bail.

“Texas has no viable options for holding our most habitual and violent offenders without bond,” he said. “This bill has been delayed for a couple of years. And I think it cost lives to be honest.

Currently, the Texas Constitution has few exceptions for cases where judges can deny bail.

The legislation has garnered bipartisan support, with additional sponsorship from Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. A similar proposal passed the Senate during the 2021 legislative session, but House members did not get the necessary two-thirds majority support to pass it.

Opponents have expressed concern that this could violate the due process rights of Texans or lead to higher rates of incarceration. Lauren Rosales with the Bail Project testified against the bill at an earlier March hearing in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

“This amendment would mean more Texans would be locked up in jail for weeks, months or years without being convicted of a crime,” he said. “More Texans will plead guilty…resulting in more unnecessary incarceration.”

Other state leaders like Gov. Greg Abbott have pointed to a growing number of defendants charged with additional crimes while on remand, particularly in Harris County, as reasons to prioritize bail reform and other measures that Republicans say will ramp up public safety.

“I signed into bail reform legislation last session to try to strengthen bail policies, but to make sure we got what we were supposed to get, we also needed to amend the Texas constitution,” Abbott said last September.

SJR 44 is scheduled on the Senate calendar on Monday for a second reading on the floor once lawmakers show up around 3 p.m.

This is a developing story, check back for updates. Capitol correspondent Monica Madden will have a full report on KXAN at 6:00 p.m

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