Some federal inmates in Texas could find their sentences reduced if a bill that is making its way through the Senate is successful. Despite some conservative opposition, overall, the bill has broad bipartisan support that includes both the American Civil Liberties Union and police unions as well as senators and representatives from both parties.
The First Step Act is of particular interest to people dealing with criminal sentencing in Texas, especially if they are in the federal court system. The bill has been backed by an unusual coalition of supporters ranging from President Donald Trump to longtime advocates of criminal justice reform. Widely understood as a compromise bill, the legislation has been criticized both for being soft on crime and for avoiding serious reforms that could change the inequalities built into the system. However, it is important for people to understand what changes may take place if the bill becomes law.
As is the case in most states, marijuana is not legal in Texas. However, its legalization is a growing trend. Advocates for marijuana legalization are pointing to this trend in the wake of an FBI report released on Sept. 24 that indicates that more people were taken into custody for marijuana-related drug charges between 2016 and 2017.
The methods used by police departments in Texas during eyewitness lineups were changed when the state's Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2015. Texas is one of 25 states to change the way lineups are conducted in the wake of research revealing that eyewitness misidentifications were often primary pieces of evidence when criminal suspects are wrongfully convicted. In one such study, the Innocence Project discovered that eyewitness misidentifications were a key factor in 71 percent of 350 wrongful convictions overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.
The state of Texas takes drunk driving, also known as DWI, very seriously. As such, those who are accused of driving while intoxicated could face punishments that may range from a variety of fines to major jail sentences. Those who have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more are legally considered to be intoxicated. Furthermore, those with lower BAC levels who drive while impaired can still face charges.
Unfortunately, it is possible for a Texas court to convict an innocent person. When new DNA evidence is introduced and clears a convicted offender, however, the news is rarely publicized.