Criminal Justice Reform - Key Accomplishments

Policing, Citations & Arrests (Legislative Accomplishments)

  • 2023: We successfully advocated to include a new text messaging system for court reminders in the Texas budget. Funding for the court text reminder program was included as a budget item in HB 1. Similar programs have decreased failures to appear for court dates by 20%-25% in other jurisdictions. Based on that experience, we believe this program will result in tens of thousands more Texans getting to required court dates and reducing the number of arrest warrants for failure to appear substantially throughout the state. 
  • 2013: Successfully advocated for the passage of the Michael Morton Act, which requires prompt and broad disclosure of information held by the prosecution in all criminal cases

Fines & Fees (Legislative Accomplishments)

  • 2021: Following confinement, people incarcerated may face outstanding fines and fees or arrest warrants from unpaid debt related to low-level offenses committed prior to or at the same time as the offense for which they were incarcerated. This can create a significant barrier for people trying to re-enter society who may also face legal discrimination in employment. Texas Appleseed successfully advocated for HB 569, which enables people who were incarcerated to receive credit toward any owed fines and fees for offenses where the maximum penalty is a fine, based on how many days they were incarcerated prior to sentencing. This helps to reduce barriers to successful re-entry and the likelihood of being re-incarcerated.
  • 2019: Successfully advocated for legislation (originally filed as SB 1637/HB 465 and passed as an amendment to SB 346) to ensure people who cannot afford their fines and costs have a right to a hearing where a judge will consider their ability to pay and impose an alternative sentence when appropriate, among other things.
  • 2019: Worked in coalition with other advocates to support the passage of SB 2048 to end the Driver Responsibility Program, leading to the lifting of approximately 1 million driver’s license suspensions on account of unpaid surcharges and the forgiveness of $2.5 billion in debt owed by Texas drivers.
  • 2017: Supported legislation (SB 1913 and HB 351) that improved the fairness of court procedures for people unable to pay their fines and fees, including expanding the availability of community service in lieu of payment as well as other options and limiting warrants issued for nonpayment of fines.