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Combat the High Crime Rate - Democrats Should Mobilize to Modify, Not Oppose, Senate Bill 21.

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

On 3/30/21, Harris County Commissioners Court voted 3-2, along party lines, to condemn Senate Bill 21 authored by State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston). In summary, S.B. 21 is designed to enhance public safety by making it more difficult for the most troublesome of criminal defendants to be released from jail on personal (free) bond. While Commissioners Court members made some valid points, I strongly believe a state law similar to S.B. 21 is desperately needed to help combat the skyrocketing crime rate in Houston/Harris County. Hardcore criminal defendants should not be arrested and then promptly released from jail on personal or low bond (just go through the turnstile). Rather than outright oppose S.B. 21, Democrats should work with Republicans to modify the proposed language to exclusively target serious felony defendants (thus avoiding any potential conflicts with the federal court settlement in the O’Donnell lawsuit). As Democrats, we must be proactive in protecting the public, especially those living in lower-income neighborhoods who seem to be under siege, constantly being victimized by gangs and career criminals (recidivists with extensive criminal records). Frankly, public safety should be a bipartisan issue. During the next election cycle, do Democrats really want to be known as the Party "weak" on crime? I urge the Democrats on Commissioners Court to reconsider and modify their position on S.B. 21.

For more information, the proposed text of S.B. 21 is shown below:

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relating to rules for fixing the amount of bail, to the release of

certain defendants on a bail bond or personal bond, to related

duties of a magistrate in a criminal case, to the reporting of

information pertaining to bail bonds, and to the regulation of

charitable bail organizations.


SECTION 1. Articles 17.03(b) and (b-1), Code of Criminal

Procedure, are amended to read as follows:

(b) Only the trial court with jurisdiction over [before

whom] the case [is pending] may release on personal bond a defendant


(1) is charged with an offense under the following

sections of the Penal Code:

(A) Section 19.03 (Capital Murder);

(B) Section 20.04 (Aggravated Kidnapping);

(C) Section 22.021 (Aggravated Sexual Assault);

(D) [Section 22.03 (Deadly Assault on Law

Enforcement or Corrections Officer, Member or Employee of Board of

Pardons and Paroles, or Court Participant);

[(E)] Section 22.04 (Injury to a Child, Elderly

Individual, or Disabled Individual);

(E) [(F)] Section 29.03 (Aggravated Robbery);

(F) [(G)] Section 30.02 (Burglary);

(G) [(H)] Section 71.02 (Engaging in Organized

Criminal Activity);

(H) [(I)] Section 21.02 (Continuous Sexual Abuse

of Young Child or Children); or

(I) [(J)] Section 20A.03 (Continuous Trafficking

of Persons);

(2) is charged with a felony under Chapter 481, Health

and Safety Code, or Section 485.033, Health and Safety Code,

punishable by imprisonment for a minimum term or by a maximum fine

that is more than a minimum term or maximum fine for a first degree

felony; or

(3) does not submit to testing for the presence of a

controlled substance in the defendant's body as requested by the

court or magistrate under Subsection (c) of this article or submits

to testing and the test shows evidence of the presence of a

controlled substance in the defendant's body.

(b-1) A defendant is not eligible to be released [magistrate

may not release] on personal bond if the [a] defendant:

(1) [who,] at the time of the commission of the charged

offense, is civilly committed as a sexually violent predator under

Chapter 841, Health and Safety Code;

(2) has, in the preceding two years, failed to appear

after being released on personal bond or has had a bond found to be


(3) is charged with committing any offense while

released on bail for another offense;

(4) was convicted of any felony offense in the

preceding three years or any Class A or Class B misdemeanor offense

in the preceding year;

(5) is currently charged with multiple offenses,

regardless of whether the offenses are pending before the same


(6) is charged with any offense under Title 5, Penal

Code, in which there is an identifiable victim;

(7) is charged with an offense that involves

possession of four or more grams of a controlled substance;

(8) is charged with, or in the preceding five years was

charged with, an offense under Section 38.06, Penal Code;

(9) has been convicted of an offense under Section

22.011 or 22.021, Penal Code; or

(10) is charged with any offense involving the use of a

deadly weapon as defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code.

SECTION 2. Article 17.15, Code of Criminal Procedure, is

amended to read as follows:


amount of bail to be required in any case is to be regulated by the

court, judge, magistrate or officer