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Texas Governor Greg Abbott Vetoes Criminal Justice Legislation

Texas Governor Greg Abbott Vetoes Criminal Justice Legislation

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has vetoed some high-profile criminal justice bills presented to him at the end of this year’s legislative session including a move to allow earlier parole and legislation intended to restrict the use of hypnosis in the criminal justice system.

Bills vetoed by Abbott over the weekend included House Bill 686, which would have permitted earlier parole eligibility to inmates who are convicted of certain crimes if they were under 18 when they committed the offenses.

The Texas Tribune reported HB 686 was authored by Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat, and included in a bipartisan criminal justice package spearheaded by Republican House Speaker Date Phelan called “Smarter Justice, Safer Texas.”

Abbott said in a statement he felt the bill would conflict with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, “which would result in confusion and needless, disruptive litigation,” the Tribune reported.

Abbott also vetoed Senate Bill 281 authored by state Sen.  Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. The legislation supported a ban on the use of statements obtained under hypnosis in a criminal court. A recent Dallas Morning News investigation found police and other law enforcement personnel used hypnosis almost 1,800 times in Texas over four decades.

The Governor objected to a late amendment to the bill that would have prevented statements made long after the hypnosis from being used as evidence in a criminal trial.

We have previously highlighted concerns over the use of hypnosis in criminal trials and noted how the Texas Rangers stopped using this controversial technique.

Abbott also vetoed the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, branding it as “micro-managing and over-criminalization.”

Senate Bill 474 would have made the chaining up of dogs outside with no water, inadequate shade, or shelter, a criminal offense.

The Tribune quoted Shelby Bobosky, executive director of Texas Humane Legislation Network.

Bobosky heads up a nonprofit that lobbies in support of animal rights. She said Abbott’s veto left the organization’s members devastated, and the bill would have “clarified the vague language that makes the statute completely unenforceable.”

Abbott also vetoed a bill that would have required middle school and high school students to learn about family violence, child abuse prevention, and dating violence. He said the bill did not give parents the option to opt out of instruction.

He also vetoed Senate Bill 237 which would have cut penalties for criminal trespassing by allowing police officers to “cite and release” suspects instead of arresting them. Abbott said the change would have a “troubling impact” on homeowners and businesses that “count” on criminal trespass arrests from homeless people who refuse to leave their properties. 

Texas has many harsh penalties for crimes. Abbott has consistently resisted moves to reform the criminal justice system. If you or a family member has been arrested in Dallas or elsewhere in Texas, please contact our criminal defense team as soon as possible.