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New Law Will Effect Criminal Defense and the Indigent Defense System in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas and the State of Texas

Governor Rick Perry signed several bills into law that will impact the San Antonio area indigent criminal defense system and surrounding communities, Bexar county, and Texas. The regular 82nd legislative session ended on May 30, 2011, and the following House Bill will take effect on September 1, 2011. The following summary of the law concerns the Government Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Local Government Code. This new law, and all Texas laws, can be located at the Texas Constitution and Statutes website. As with all new laws, the changes made apply only to offenses committed on or after the effective date.

HB 1754, Relating to the reorganization of powers and duties among agencies in this state that provide representation to indigent defendants in criminal cases and to the reorganization of funding sources for indigent defense. Subtitle F, Title 2, Government Code, is amended by adding Chapter 79. Section 71.001, Government Code, is amended. Section 78.052(b), Government Code, is amended. Section 78.056(b), Government Code, is amended. Section 81.054(c), Government Code, is amended. Section 402.035(c), Government Code, is amended. Article 26.04, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended by amending Subsections (a), (d), and (f) and adding Subsection (f-1). The heading to Article 26.044, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended. Article 26.044, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended by amending Subsections (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l), and (m) and adding Subsections (b-1) and (c-1). Chapter 26, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended. Chapter 26, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended. Articles 26.05(a), (c), and (d), Code of Criminal Procedure, are amended. Section 11(a), Article 42.12, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended. Section 133.107, Local Government Code, is amended. The following are repealed: (1) Article 26.05(i), Code of Criminal Procedure; (2) Section 71.0351, Government Code; and (3) Subchapter D, Chapter 71, Government Code.

The Texas House Bill sets up the Indigent Defense Commission. This new state agency replaces the Task Force on Indigent Defense, it becomes a permanent standing Commission of the Texas Judicial Council. While the new Commission will remain administratively attached to the Office of Court Administration, it will maintain an independent budget and must prepare and submit its own Legislative Appropriations Requests. The Commission will be made up of eight ex officious members and five appointive members. All powers, staff, property, and appropriations will be transferred from the abolished Task Force to the established Commission.

The powers and duties of the Commission include outlining the policies and standards of indigent and juvenile criminal cases, establishing state requirements for reporting indigent defense information, providing partnership efforts between officers with Commission information, and requiring Texas law schools and legal clinics that receive Innocence Project funding to submit annual exoneration reports.

The new law aims to eliminate unnecessary red tape by reorganizing the local option to establish a public defender. Local jurisdictions would be allowed (with the approval of both the judges and county commissioners’ court) to create managed assigned counsel programs.

At the Law Office of Dayna L. Jones we believe that the right to counsel in criminal cases is important and necessary component. Every person, no matter their economic status, deserves the best representation. Contact us at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.