Much has been made of the ongoing bond to murder spree in Harris County. With the local judges, by and large, being criminal friendly and readily giving out bond it raises the question of just how many individuals are out on bond to establish the scope of the bond issue. To that end a Public Information Act request was filed with the district attorney office to find out the number of individuals were out on felony bond. The response is 53,830 individuals are out on felony bond for 75,344 charges.
The total number of individuals out on felony bond seems shockingly high. The county courts at law have a somewhat higher number of individuals out on bond compared to the district courts, with the high, low and average as follows:
County Courts at Law District Courts
Low: 1,558 Low: 973
High: 2,697 High: 2,194
Average: 2,329 Average: 1,730
Of the district courts, the 177th and to a lesser extent the 337th had low outlying values for bond, but otherwise the courts seemed to not have any high bond outliers. The district courts could be broken into tiers of bond, with a fairly even distribution between the tiers. A graph of the County Courts at Law and the District Courts is shown below. The District Courts are broken into two charts so each court is visible on the axis; there’s no other reason for breaking it into the two charts.
Types of Charges
The District Attorney’s office was asked to provide a breakdown of defendants out on bond broken down by court and by offense type. This was further reduced to felony bond only given the sheer number of offenses involved. In the dataset they provided the information is too dense to publish in any meaningful form. Even breaking the crimes down into the various “trees” of crimes (all assaults for example) gives over 40 different offense listings. It’s noteworthy these numbers are only felony bonds, so offenses like animal cruelty are only the felony number out on bond. A table with these trees can be found at the end of the article. What’s below is some of the worst of the worst crimes.
Murder tree – 454
Deadly Conduct – 131
Crimes against Children – 1443
Family Violence not involving a protective order – 10,692
Protective Order Violation – 642
Sexual Assault not against a child – 261.
Note this is for unique defendants – this isn’t a case of an individual shows up in multiple categories in this breakdown. Looking a little deeper than these broad categories 76 people are out on capital murder bond. With the crimes against children 1,099 of the crimes against children are sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. With family violence 1,984 are aggravated assault.
The penal code sets out the criteria to be used for bail bond. The penal code directs:
Art. 17.15. RULES FOR FIXING AMOUNT OF BAIL. The amount of bail to be required in any case is to be regulated by the court, judge, magistrate or officer taking the bail; they are to be governed in the exercise of this discretion by the Constitution and by the following rules:
- The bail shall be sufficiently high to give reasonable assurance that the undertaking will be complied with.
- The power to require bail is not to be so used as to make it an instrument of oppression.
- The nature of the offense and the circumstances under which it was committed are to be considered.
- The ability to make bail is to be regarded, and proof may be taken upon this point.
- The future safety of a victim of the alleged offense and the community shall be considered.
Being poor is not a crime. However, it is only one factor in the list of factors the penal code requires to be used for evaluating bond. The current criminal courts and the democrats on Commissioner’s Court seem to favor the second on fourth element over the other three. Evidence of this can be seen by looking at some of the more heinous crimes listed above.
With the ongoing bond to murder spree it’s hard to say that the fifth element – future safety of victims and the community – is given any consideration. The six hundred forty-two bonds for violation of a protective order is especially disturbing since it establishes the defendant already has willfully violated the court’s instruction. The courts have no reason to believe an individual will appear for their court date if they already are disregarding orders. Also, the courts have no reason to suspect the victim of community is safe in the instance of an individual who violates a protective order. Yet, 642 times a court has allowed the individual bond.
While others doubtless can and will do a more fine toothed analysis of the specific crimes and courts, hopefully the sheer number of individuals out on felony bond is a wake up call to show just how expansive of a problem we are facing.
Consolidated list of crimes:
|Burglary – Building||1938|
|Controlled Substance – Possession||7204|
|Failure to ID||504|
|Motor Vehicle – Intox Assault||89|
|Motor Vehicle – Non-DUI||1762|
|Violation of Protective Order Attempted-FV||642|