Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland Act is Supported by Texas Senate Panel

By Peek & Toland on October 11, 2017

The so-called Sandra Bland Act, named after an African American woman who took her life in a cell, has been passed by the Texas Senate.

However, the family of Sandra Bland branded it a missed opportunity because it was watered down from the original version.

The family of Sandra Bland was unhappy that the amended bill focused mostly on mental health issues and county jail operations. The Texas Senate unanimously passed the bill in May.

Criticism over watered down Sandra Bland Act

Sandra Bland Act sparks criticism

Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister, pointed out the measures intended to prevent such an arrest in the first place were stripped out of the bill. She told the Texas Tribune:

“It’s a complete oversight of the root causes of why she was jailed in the first place.”

Bland was an African American woman from Illinois. She was arrested after a routine traffic stop that escalated in Texas.

Brian Encinia, a trooper who was working for the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2015, charged Bland with assaulting a public servant after an altercation. She was found dead in the Waller County Jail days after being arrested during the traffic stop.

The original bill required a more onerous requirement on police obligations to stop and search suspects. This was removed from the bill.

Sandra Bland Act Targets Mental Health

The Sandra Bland Act will make it easier for county jails to divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment for their conditions. It would also make it easier for people in jail with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond. It would make it mandatory for independent law enforcement agencies to investigate jail deaths.

Politicians came under sustained pressure from police groups to remove provisions relating to law enforcement from the bill. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire struck out provisions from the original bill.

Police groups argued the original bill would hamper law enforcement’s work and would require additional steps to legally secure a consent search.

The tragedy of Sandra Bland illustrates how even a minor traffic infraction can quickly escalate in Texas. If you are pulled over or arrested by an officer, it’s important to know your rights. It’s also important to know your jail release rights.

If you have been arrested in Texas, it’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible. Contact us here.

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Sweeping Criminal Justice Bill Would Strengthen Racial-Profiling Law After Sandra Bland Death

By Peek & Toland on July 24, 2017

The death of Sandra Bland in a jail cell in 2015 has proved a catalyst for sweeping legislation that targets racial-profiling in Texas.

Rep. Garnet Coleman submitted House Bill 2702, dubbed the Sandra Bland Act, in March. The Statesman reported how the bill would strengthen racial-profiling laws in Texas. It would also prevent people being jailed for fine-only offenses and curtail police powers during traffic stops.

Some legislators believe the bill would have saved Bland’s life. In late March, the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety heard public testimony on two bills that would make traffic infractions like speeding and the failure to use a turn signal punishable only via a fine.

Sandra Bland, a black woman, was pulled over by a state trooper in July 2015. She changed lanes without signaling in Texas. The situation quickly deteriorated. After taking her information and returning to her car window to give her the traffic ticket, the trooper told Bland she appeared to be irritated. When she refused to put out a cigarette, he ordered her out of her car.

The trooper arrested her. She was charged with resisting arrest and put in a cell.

Bland was found hanged in a Waller County Jail cell three days after the traffic stop. An investigation found she took her life. Coleman said she would not have died had the reforms in HB 2702 been in place two years ago. He said.

“It took us a long time to draft this piece of legislation. We wanted to get it right.”

Coleman submitted a 55-page bill. Its provisions include:

  • Requiring police and troopers to monitor traffic stops and officers to find out if a disproportionate number of minority members were pulled over. Officers in violation would receive extra training and counseling. If this failed and the problems persist, they could be subject to a six-month suspension.
  • Police officers would no longer be allowed to stop vehicles for a traffic violation as a “pretext” to investigate other crimes. The only exception would be when there was a strong suspicion another offense was committed.
  • County sheriffs would be required to prepare a monthly report on suicides at their jails, attempted suicides, and other incidents like injuries, sexual assaults, and use of force. An outside law enforcement agency would investigate such incidents.
  • Police officers and troopers would be required to take courses in de-escalation tactics, limiting the use of force.

Racial-Profiling in Texas – How an Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You

There is considerable evidence of racial-profiling in Texas and elsewhere. In the past, we have noted how policies such as stop and frisk can lead to racial-profiling.

In the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Duane Buck, a man from Houston who ended up on Death Row, the justices blocked Buck’s execution because of racial-profiling by a defense expert at his trial.

Many people suffer deprivations in jails and police cells in Texas. Our jail release attorneys can establish if your rights are being violated. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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