Bail reform coming for Harris County's misdemeanor offenders

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A new bail system will be implemented in Harris County after the old system was found to be unconstitutional.

All individuals with misdemeanor cases in Harris County will be allowed to "return to their families, jobs, and communities without having to pay money for their freedom," according to county officials.

Officials said research shows that the vast majority of misdemeanor offenders are able to be released safely and quickly back into the community without posing as a safety threat to the community.

Some misdemeanor offenders may be detained for up to 48 hours to see a judge. Here are the reasons offenders can be detained:

  • They violated bond conditions in an open case.
  • They are charged with domestic violence.
  • They violated a protective order.
  • They are facing a second DWI offense.

Officials want the changes to take place fast.

"We want to settle within the first 30 days of the new judges taking office," said presiding Judge Darrell Jordan, who was the first judge to implement bail reform locally. "The cash bail system used by the prior judges had devastating effects on individuals and the community. Our plan will make Harris County a better place for everyone."

The old system of cash bail in Harris County was found to be unconstitutional by United States District Judge Lee Rosenthal in April 2017. Previous judges spent millions of dollars in public funds to pay three private law firms to defend the previous practices of jailing people because they could not pay for their release, officials said.