We had a good time last week at our Annual Update on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, but did you? If so, please fill out and send in the course evaluations in your orange folder to let us know. We rely on your feedback to select future locations and topics for our training events.
Hurricane Harvey relief donations and applications
The Texas District and County Attorneys Foundation has raised more than $21,000 (with another $10,000 in pledges) for the benefit of prosecutor office personnel who suffered losses due to recent storms related to Hurricane Harvey, and the Foundation is still accepting donations through the end of October. To make a gift to this worthy cause, visit this webpage.
The Foundation is also accepting applications for relief from those prosecutor office staff members who suffered a financial loss due to Hurricane Harvey. Applications for relief funds are due by October 31, 2017. Please let your staff members who may have been impacted by the storm know about this relief opportunity! The application and related instructions are available on this webpage.
If you have any questions about this relief program, please call Rob Kepple at 512-474-2436 or email him.
Hurricane Harvey emergency orders extended
The states’ highest courts have extended for another 30 days the emergency orders issued for the benefit of local courts impacted by the recent storms. For details, visit this webpage.
During every interim between regular sessions, the standing committees of the Legislature study various topics and then issue reports to the members of the next Legislature on those topics. Depending upon the issue, the committee, and the personalities involved, this process can vary from mere busy-work to full-blown preparations for future legislation. The process of submitting possible topics for consideration is now going on behind the scenes, so if you have an issue you would like the Legislature to study over the interim, contact Shannon for instructions on how to get your idea in the hopper. But remember—if your idea is accepted, the committee to which it is assigned may expect you to do much of the work on it, so don’t say you weren’t warned!
Prosecutor fee declared unconstitutional by 1st Court of Appeals
Last month, the First Court of Appeals declared unconstitutional the $25 prosecutor’s fee collected following certain misdemeanor convictions under CCP Art. 102.008 because it allocates that fee to a county’s general fund where it can be spent for purposes other than legitimate criminal justice purposes. (Hernandez v. The State of Texas, No. 01-16-00755-CR, Aug. 10, 2017, available here) This court cost opinion rested upon the Court of Criminal Appeals’ recent decision in Salinas v. State, and if you recall our commentary about that opinion back in March of this year, you won’t be surprised by the result here. However, that doesn’t make any potential loss any easier to swallow. These fees are kept at the local level so we have no way of knowing how much individual counties collect or spend under that now-questionable provision, but we can tell you that the Harris County DA’s Office is currently preparing a motion for re-hearing on the court cost issue and, should that be unsuccessful, that office may consider filing a petition for discretionary review with the Court of Criminal Appeals. If that happens and you would like to submit amicus arguments or provide other assistance, we will let you know when and how to do so. But for now, we wait and watch.
Crime data is out for 2016
As you may have heard by now, the FBI has released its national Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data for 2016 showing that property crime rates are continuing their decades-long decrease while violent crime rates ticked upwards for the second year in a row. This national situation is largely duplicated in Texas according to the latest DPS crime data. Unfortunately, after several decades of decreases, the murder rate in Texas has now remained flat or increased every year since 2011, and other violent crime indicators are increasing as well. None of this will be news to many of you who are seeing the results of these trends first-hand, but it may come as a surprise to the more casual observers in your communities—including many legislators—who see the news about Texas closing four prisons this biennium and think everything is just swell on the crime front. This disturbing trend bears close watching going forward.
Free training opportunities
We wanted you to know about two training opportunities now open for registration (click on the links for more details):
Visit those links on our website for more details.
Order your 2017–2019 code books!
We are now shipping new and fully updated Penal Codes, Codes of Criminal Procedure, and other books! Order online now at www.tdcaa.com/publications or by calling 512/474-2436.
Quotes of the month
“I beg you not to send them a penny. They are the most inept, unorganized organization I’ve ever experienced. … Don’t waste your money. Give it to another cause.”
—Houston City Councilman Dave Martin, imploring the public not to send Hurricane Harvey relief funds to the American Red Cross.
“This is ominous. What you worry about is that the trend is broken, and the numbers are going to go back up. A 20 percent increase in homicides over the past two years is not trivial. We’ve got what looks like a serious problem here.”
—Mark Kleiman, a criminologist at New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, commenting upon the latest 2016 UCR data that shows a nationwide increase in violent crimes for two years running.
“I think county judges and mayors in their communities know what it takes to provide the services that they are expected to provide. Unfortunately, some of the brilliance we have in Austin tends to think they know better how to do some things.”
—State Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview), a former mayor, commenting upon the two most recent legislative sessions.
“The logistics will eat us alive. All of this feel-good stuff is one thing. It’s something else when you start to talk about process.”
—Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, expressing reservations about the Dallas PD’s planned implementation of “cite and release” for certain misdemeanor POM cases.
“I have never had a phone call from anybody asking to do this. I think that people have not stopped laughing yet.”
—Pat Cannon of Lewisville, spokesman for the Balloon Federation of America, when asked about Texas’ new law allowing the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons.
“Texas at this point is the gold standard in innocence reform.”
—Michelle Feldman, a legislative strategist at the Innocence Project, after the passage of HB 34 this past session.
“The fact of whether or not we have a law is not going to change whether somebody is doing something bad.”
—State Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock), author of HB 1935, which de-criminalized the carrying of many previously illegal knives.
“You have to have compassion for people—not only for victims, but defendants as well. We talk with family members, friends, employers to try to get to know the people we are dealing with, to try to make sure we do the right thing. There are bad people in this world and you should be able to recognize them and do something with them, put them away so they can’t hurt people anymore. There are also people who make mistakes, and one of the most rewarding things about this job is seeing people who screw up make themselves better because of it and the chance I gave them.”
—Longtime Walker County Criminal DA David Weeks, announcing his decision to not seek re-election in 2018.