AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott was in Houston on Monday to sign a bill aimed at reforming Texas’ bail system.
The Damon Allen Act, passed by the Texas Legislature during the second special session this year, prohibits the release of people charged with violent crimes on personal or cash bond. It also requires defendants be granted and denied bail within 48 hours of their arrest and the person’s criminal history be examined before setting bail.
The bill is named after Texas State Trooper Damon Allen who was killed on Thanksgiving in 2017 while conducting a traffic stop. Dabrett Black, 36, of Lindale, is accused of shooting and killing Allen during the stop while out on bail. Black had been previously convicted of assaulting a public servant and arrested for evading arrest. He had an active warrant out for his arrest at the time of the traffic stop. Black’s bond after his arrest was just $15,000.
“The Damon Allen Act ensures Texas communities are safe and secure by making it harder for dangerous criminals to be released on bail,” said Abbott in a press release. “Texas cities will not follow the lead of Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis; Texas will remain a law-and-order state and continue using every tool available to preserve the safety that Texans deserve. That is why I am proud to sign the Damon Allen Act into law, which will reform our broken bail system in the Lone Star State.”
The bill was one of Abbott’s priorities during the special session, and while it has some bipartisan support, some Democrats still balked at full support, because they feel it will affect poor people and keep them in jail even if they aren’t in for violent crimes.
“We want to see a process that nonviolent defendants that are presumed innocent don’t have to linger and sit in jail if they don’t have to. And I think that’s what we want to see, and some comprehensive bail reform that hasn’t happened yet in Texas,” said Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City.
Reynolds believes the bill will lead to more crowding in local jails, with accused defendants staying in jail longer if they cannot afford posting cash bail.
“This is going to end up, you know, falling on the taxpayers. The state did not appropriate funding for that additional funding,” he said.
Reynolds is guessing lawmakers will have to revisit the issue in their next regular legislative session once they have a better idea of how the law is impacting the state’s corrections system.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Rep. Reggie Smith, R-Van Alstyne, and Kasey Allen, the trooper’s widow, all joined Abbott at the signing.
“My life and my kids’ lives were forever changed by actions that cannot be taken back,” Allen said.