The Harris County’s District Attorney’s Office is currently working to present dozens of indictments for defendants to clear a backlog of cases that piled up for two weeks thanks to Hurricane Harvey.
Grand juries met on Thursday in the 1910 Courthouse to begin taking action on cases that were forced to go into limbo for two weeks during both the storm and its aftermath. Some defense attorneys used the delay to free clients from jail who could not afford bail while their case is pending. Texas law requires the government to present an indictment to the grand jury within 90 days of the defendant going into custody. If that does not occur, the accused citizen must be released on a personal recognizance (PR) bond.
A PR bond is a promise to appear before the court on their court date without having to pay money. If the defendant fails to show up, the judge can revoke the bond and issue an arrest warrant. The delay with the grand juries may allow some defendants to use the law so they could fight their case while still being able to work, visit their friends, and enjoy time with their family.
The president of Harris County’s Criminal Lawyers Association has gone on record stating that the requirement is a fundamental right that is guaranteed by the United States Constitution. He also said that the accused should be released if they have not been indicted by the deadline; however, that wouldn’t mean that their case would be dismissed.
Meanwhile, Harris County District Attorney’s Office prosecutors maintain that the county was under a state of emergency due to the storm, pointing to a declaration that suspended deadlines by the state’s highest court. Because it was next to impossible for grand juries to be able to meet, the trial bureau chief said, the deadline should either be extended or suspended.
A judge has yet to hear this issue due to the fact that ever since the end of August, courts have remained closed. Substitute courts are scheduled to reopen soon. Grand juries, in the meantime, have been convened in order to consider the backlog and hear new cases.
Thank you for visiting Collin Evans’s blog, a Houston criminal attorney. We write about local events and news in Houston, Texas.