The measure, Senate Bill 6, was approved in the Texas House and Senate in August, following a delay that was triggered by dozens of House Democrats fleeing the state to deny Republicans a quorum over a Republican-backed election overhaul bill.
Known as the Damon Allen Act, the legislation was named after a Texas state trooper who was killed in 2017 during a traffic stop by a suspect who was free on $15,500 bond. The law now mandates that people accused of committing violent offenses can’t be released on personal bonds, which don’t require a defendant to pay money, but require other measures such as monitoring.
Suspects believed to be involved in violent crimes will now have to post cash bail set by a court, the text of the legislation reads. They can also pay a percentage to a bail bonds company to be released.
“The Damon Allen Act makes it harder for dangerous criminals to be released from jail on bail,” Abbott, a Republican, said on Sept. 13 before signing the bill.
Some cities that are controlled primarily by Democrats, including Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland, Oregon, have enacted bail reform laws that have rescinded cash bail. Critics of such measures, including police unions, have said such laws increase the violent crime rate in an area.
“Texas cities will not follow the lead of Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis; Texas will remain a law-and-order state and continue using every tool available to preserve the safety that Texans deserve,” Abbott said. “That is why I am proud to sign the Damon Allen Act into law, which will reform our broken bail system in the Lone Star State.”
The law will go into effect on Dec. 2. Other measures included in the measure will create a new system of court officers to review a defendant’s criminal history before bail is set.
Before signing the legislation, Abbott suggested that an overall decline in morality is the reason why crime is on the rise, arguing that Texas needs “better parenting,” and it needs to “restore God in our communities.”
“If we do that, we will be able to reduce crime in this region,” he said.
Democrats and left-wing organizations have largely opposed the measure and say that it will lead to overcrowded jails.
“SB 6 is built on right-wing hysteria that violates Texans’ rights, not on public safety,” Laquita Garcia with the Texas Organizing Project said in a statement. “If implemented, this bill will lead to more overcrowding in jails and further criminalize poverty in our state.”
However, family members of victims who were killed by offenders who were released on personal bond praised the move.
“I am beyond pleased that the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 6,” Melanie Infinger, the mother of Caitlynne Infinger Guajardo, whose estranged husband allegedly killed her right after he was released on personal bond, said in a statement to the Texas Tribune.
Guajardo was pregnant with a child when she was killed.
“Since my daughter Caitlynne’s murder in 2019, I vowed to do whatever possible to save other families from the excruciating preventable pain of losing a loved one in the manner in which I lost my girl and her unborn child,” Infinger said.