Conditions of Pre-Trial Bail in Texas – Oppressive and Excessive?
1Charles B. “Brad” Frye – Houston, Texas
Conditions of Pre-Trial Bail in Texas –Oppressive and Excessive?
Often, persons accused of a crime find themselves – before they have their cases decidedby a judge or a jury, before they enter a plea or otherwise resolve their cases – being “punished”by the conditions set on their bonds during pre-trial release. These people post a bond, either incash or through a bonding company, and then are required by the court to observe a number of restrictions on their liberty while their case is pending. In many counties, including HarrisCounty and Montgomery County in Texas, people accused of crimes, but “presumed innocent,”are still subjected to “random drug tests,” home arrest, monitoring, and often ordered to report to“pre-trial” authorities or risk having their bond revoked and put in jail until their case is resolved.My clients often ask me how this can possibly be “legal” or “fair,” and I have to answerthat it is, probably, “legal,” but that I don’t think it’s “fair.”The Texas Constitution guarantees that "[a]ll prisoners shall be bailable by sufficientsureties, unless for capital offenses, when the proof is evident." Tex. Const. art. I, § 11; seeTex.Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 1.07 (West 1977). The constitution also permits the denial of bailin certain noncapital cases when the accused has a prior record. Tex. Const. art. I, § 11a. Unlessthose conditions apply, a defendant is entitled to a reasonable pre-trial bond to be released from jail. See U.S. Const. amend. VIII (excessive bail shall not be required); Tex. Const. art. I, § 13(same); Tex.Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 1.09 (West 1977) (same). Ex parte Beard, 92 S.W.3d566, 571 (Tex. App.-Austin 2002, pet. ref'd)In Texas, pursuant to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the amount of bail required in anycase is within the discretion of the court, judge, magistrate, or officer taking the bail, subject tothe following rules:1. The bail shall be sufficiently high to give reasonable assurance that the undertakingwill be complied with.