Friday, May 13, 2005

Common Sense Down in Austin

Grits for Breakfast has some updates on some more good stuff happening down at the legislature. Common sense probation reform is moving closer to becoming law. Grits has extensive coverage of this issue, which has been kicking around in the legislature all session. In addition, both the House and Senate have passed a bill which would get rid of one of the most non-sensical provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. As I've mentioned before, in Texas, a defendant is eligible for jury-assessed probation for just about every offense from first degree felonies down to class C misdemeanors. The one exception to that is state jail felonies which are the lowest level felonies. For some reason, only judges can assess probation for these offenses; juries are restricted to sentencing from 180 days up to two years imprisonment. There has never been any reason for singling out these offenses for this treatment. The new bill will correct this craziness by giving juries the power to grant probation in state jail felony cases. Now, it just has to get signed by the governor. And finally, the bill requiring written consent for searches after traffic stops has passed out of committee, and is one step closer to passage. As I've stated before, I think this is a very important bill. I'm pretty optimistic about this bill passing out of the legislature, but I'm wary of a gubernatorial veto. I wouldn't be shocked to see Gov. Perry veto it after the session is ended so the legislature has no way of overriding him. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


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