United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MARANDA LYNN ODONNELL, et al ., On behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, et al., Defendants.
ORDER OF CLARIFICATION
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge
Harris County Sheriff has moved for a modification and
clarification of this court's Order of Preliminary
Injunction issued April 28, 2017. (Docket Entry No. 316). The
court denies the request for modification as unnecessary,
clarifies the Order, and will, if the Sheriff believes that a
hearing remains necessary, hold it on Friday, May 12, at 2:00
p.m. in Courtroom 11-B.
Sheriff first requests authority to create and administer an
affidavit of financial condition for misdemeanor defendants
in cases in which Pretrial Services officers do not complete
and deliver the affidavits to the Sheriff in a timely manner,
as specified in the court's Order. (Docket Entry No. 316
at 2-3). As the administrator of the Harris County Jail, with
all “powers, duties, and responsibilities” of
administration, the Sheriff does not need authorization from
this court to proceed as requested. Tex. Loc. Gov't Code
§§ 351.035, 351.041. Under the court's Order,
Pretrial Services must work with the misdemeanor arrestees to
complete the affidavits of financial condition and timely
deliver the completed affidavits to the Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff may, without further court order, administer
affidavits to arrestees detained in the County Jail for whom
the Sheriff believes Pretrial Services has not or will not
timely complete these steps.
Sheriff requests clarification that the Order authorizes him
to use the Peace Officer's Unsecured Bail Bond to
effectuate the Order. (Docket Entry No. 316, Ex. 2). The
Sheriff is correct that the Order authorizes this step.
Sheriff also asks for clarification on various timing issues.
The first issue is whether probable cause hearings should be
scheduled in the same way for those released on unsecured
bond as for those released on secured money bail.
(Id. at 5). The answer is yes. The Sheriff
specifically asks about misdemeanor defendants who do not
have a probable cause hearing until the 23rd hour, and about
defendants for whom the administrative processes of release
take significant time. (Id. at 5, 7). To clarify the
timing issues, the court's Order is satisfied so long as
either the probable cause hearing or the administrative
processes for executing an unsecured bond is begun no later
than the 24th hour after arrest. The court understands that
some administrative processes will take longer than others,
particularly for misdemeanor defendants who have their
probable cause hearings right at the statutory limit of 24
Sheriff also asks whether misdemeanor defendants who are
granted unsecured bail under the court's Order are
otherwise subject to the Central Records Division's
processes of review and release. The answer is yes.
Sheriff asks whether he has discretion to accept partial
payments of secured money bail. (Id. at 5). The
answer is no; the Order does not create or add this
authority. Judicial officers set the amount of bail.
Misdemeanor defendants may pay the full amount as a cash bond
or pay the bondsman's premium in order to be released on
secured money bail. Misdemeanor defendants who cannot pay
either, as shown by the affidavit of financial condition, are
subject to the money bail amount set, but the Sheriff must
accept it on an unsecured basis. It is not the Sheriff's
duty or within his discretion to assess or collect partial
payments falling between these alternatives.
Sheriff seeks a modification of the court's Order to
permit the Houston Police Department or the Sheriff's
Office to order direct release of misdemeanor defendants
before they are taken to the Harris County Jail. The court
cannot grant this request. The Houston Police Department may
order direct release from the City Jail if otherwise
authorized to do. But the City of Houston and its Police
Department are not parties to this litigation or subject to
this court's orders. If the County Sheriff otherwise has
the authority to order direct release from the City Jail, he
may do so, without further order from this
court. The court's Order takes effect when
the Sheriff takes custody of misdemeanor defendants, whether
he exercises that custody before transport to the County Jail
the Sheriff asks whether, in the rare circumstance that a DWI
defendant does not have a probable cause hearing within 24
hours, it is the Sheriff's duty to impose alcohol abuse
treatment conditions or other pretrial supervision conditions
in place of a magistrate's order under Texas Code of
Criminal Procedure article 17.441 and article 17.03(c).
(Docket Entry No. 316 at 6). The answer is no. The
Sheriff's authority under this Order is limited to
accepting bail, either secured or unsecured. Bail amounts and
nonfinancial conditions of pretrial release and supervision
are at the discretion of Harris County judicial officers.
Texas law requires that misdemeanor defendants who do not
have a probable cause hearing within 24 hours be released on
unsecured bail, and Texas law does not provide discretion to
officers with custody of these defendants to impose
additional conditions of pretrial release. See Tex.
Code Crim. Pro. art. 17.033. The proper recourse in DWI cases
is to take the steps necessary for the defendant to appear
before a magistrate promptly, as Texas law already requires.
court appreciates the Sheriffs thoughtful requests and his
commitment to complying with the court's Order and to
continue collaborative efforts to implement the County's
planned reforms to the misdemeanor bail system. If further
clarification is needed, the Sheriff must promptly notify the
court and a conference will be held on May 12, 2017, at 2:00
p.m. in Courtroom 11-B. Dated: May 10, 2017, at Houston,
 The court acknowledges the
Sheriff's recently filed supplement resolving this issue.