Harris County reforms bail bond system to be more fair to defendants who cannot bail

A new tool has gone into effect to try to make the bail bond process in Harris County more fair to defendants who cannot afford to post bail.

The Arnold tool, which went into effect July 29, is designed to measure the pretrial risk level of defendants unable to post bail, focusing on whether the individual is a threat to the public and how likely he or she is to show up for trial. It applies to defendants who have committed felonies as well as Class A and Class B misdemeanors.

"The Arnold tool does not base (decisions) upon wealth or poverty; it deals with justice and fairness for all," Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said at an Aug. 1 commissioners court meeting.

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Harris County implements sweeping change to bail system

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - While Harris County is battling a federal lawsuit over what some claim is an unfair, unconstitutional bail system, wholesale changes are going into effect.

However, county officials said these changes were in the works long before the lawsuit was filed.

“This is very different than what we’re used to," said Harris County criminal court Judge Robin Brown.

Harris County is the first in Texas to start using The Public Safety Assessment. This is a tool that helps judges assess someone’s risk of not showing up for court or committing another crime before they go to trial. Risk is a key factor in determining how high a person's bail should be set.

The tool applies to felonies and Class A and B misdemeanors. This assessment replaces the old assessment tool that Brown and Judge Susan Brown called "outdated." Both said the old system assessed risk based on questions like, ‘do you have a home phone number?’

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County Attorney Vince Ryan Wins Two Court Orders In Crackdown on Unlicensed After Hours Bars

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has obtained two court orders against three unlicensed, after-hours bars.  The Envy Lounge and Climax Lounge, in southwest Houston, and the Palacios After-Hours bar, in north Houston, have all closed since the lawsuits were filed.

Judge Larry Weiman of the 80th District Court signed a temporary restraining order against the owners of Palacios After-Hours bar at 414 North Sam Houston Parkway East, ordering them to cease selling or serving alcohol at the bar or any other location without a valid liquor license. The owners are also ordered to cease allowing patrons to consume alcohol after 2 a.m., which is illegal in Texas.  The bar advertised on social media that it is “Houston’s Premiere After-Hours Nightclub,” open from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. 

According to the lawsuit, on July 7, 2017, undercover vice officers with the Houston Police Department entered the club and purchased two tequila shots and Amaretto from two bartenders, even though the club had no license.  The bartenders were arrested for selling liquor without a license.  Since the County’s lawsuit was filed, the Palacios club has closed.

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Fifth Circuit finds County, Deputy Constables not liable for arresting groom and guests at wedding reception

The Fifth Circuit has affirmed a judgment in favor of Harris County and three deputy constables in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a groom and his guest who was arrested during a wedding reception.

During the reception the groom’s father began loudly complaining when the bartender decided to stop serving alcohol because the bartender “noticed a significant number of guests who were dressed slopp[ily], slurring their words and stumbling.” According to witnesses the groom’s father “struck or pushed” a plain clothes deputy constable who was working security at the event. When a uniformed deputy constable who was also working off duty began escorting the father from the room his son, a deputy sheriff, came to his aid along with thirty to forty other people.  The constable ordered party goers to move away and to leave the premises.  A guest who was also a deputy sheriff refused to leave.

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Harris County Prosecutors Are Trying to Shut Down an After-Hours Strip Club

The Harris County Attorney's Office is seeking a permanent injunction against a southwest Houston after-hours strip club prosecutors say is selling liquor without a license.

According to a petition filed in Harris County District Court Monday against Paradise City Southwest (9870 Westpark Drive), undercover Houston Police Department vice officers bought vodka-cranberry cocktails from bartender Andrea Dancy and manager Arthur Cisneros, who were subsequently charged with misdemeanor liquor violations. (The club otherwise advertises as a "BYOB" establishment.)

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El Abogado del Condado, Vince Ryan, Introduce Escrito Judicial Buscando Detener el Senate Bill 4

“El SB4 dañará a nuestros niños,” dice Ryan, el Abogado del Condado

Declarando que el Senate Bill 4 podría dañar a los niños de Texas en forma significativa, Vince Ryan, el Abogado del Condado de Harris, ha introducido un escrito “amigo de la corte” en la demanda judicial que busca impedir que esa legislación se convierta en ley.

El SB 4 prohíbe una política, patrón o práctica que prohíba o limite el cumplimiento de las leyes de inmigración. Ryan sostiene que la ley propuesta está en conflicto con la responsabilidad de los abogados del condado de servir a los niños de Texas.

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Harris County Attorney Ryan Files Court Brief Seeking to Stop Senate Bill 4

"Bill will harm our children" says County Attorney Ryan

Declaring that Senate Bill 4 could significantly harm Texas’ children, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a “friend of the court” brief in the lawsuit seeking to stop this bill from becoming law.

SB 4 prohibits a policy, pattern or practice that would prohibit or limit the enforcement of immigration laws. Ryan contends that the proposed law conflicts with the responsibility of county attorneys to serve Texas children.

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5th Circuit Finds County Not Liable for inmate's death

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a federal district court’s grant of summary judgment holding Harris County was not liable for the death of an inmate who punched a detention officer prompting a responsive punch.  The inmate fell, struck his head on a concrete ledge and died. The Court of Appeals reaffirmed the principle that counties may not be liable under civil rights claims on the basis of vicarious liability.  The Court said that respondeat superior liabilty was expressly prohibited in these type of cases and counties may be liable onely where “the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body’s officers.”

The Court found the plaintiffs had not produced evidence of prior acts by Harris County similar to those alleged to establish an official policy of the County sufficient to establish a practice or policy.  Accordingly the Fifth Circuit affirmed the granting of summary judgment rejecting all claims against Harris County.

 

The case is Hicks v Harris County.

County Attorney Vince Ryan Continues Battle Against Unlicensed After Hours Bars

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has obtained a court order shutting down an unlicensed, after-hours bar known as Las Palmas in a strip center near Almeda Genoa and the Gulf Freeway.

Judge Elaine Palmer of the 215th District Court of Harris County entered a temporary restraining order closing the bar at 9960 Kleckley Drive, Suite B, and ordering it to remain closed until a valid liquor license is obtained.  It is a crime to sell alcohol in Texas without a license.  Las Palmas was even advertising on social media that it is an after-hours bar, open from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.

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First Court of Appeals finds County not liable in police chase case

   The First Court of Appeals has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of Harris County in a case in which the plaintiffs sued Harris County, claiming a deputy constable improperly engaged in a police chase that ended when the deputy’s car crashed into the car occupied by a mother and her two children. The Court concluded that the County conclusively established that the officer, who was driving a car, acted in good faith when, pursuant to policies established to promote the safety of law-enforcement officers, he took over a pursuit previously initiated by another law-enforcement officer on a motorcycle. The Court said that over the course of the pursuit which lasted about seven minutes, no subsequent developments altered the balance of need and risk factors sufficiently to require an end to the chase.  

   The Court said, Harris County Constable’s guidelines provide that a constable in a cruiser generally should take over any pursuit initiated by a law-enforcement officer on a motorcycle. The policy promotes the safety of motorcycle officers, for whom a pursuit is more dangerous as compared to officers driving cars. The officer properly determined that the fleeing driver posed a danger to the general public. While speeding, the fleeing driver forced several other drivers from the road during the pursuit. Though the deputy recognized that the pursuit itself posed some risk, he concluded that the fleeing driver posed a greater risk to the public.

The case is Martinez v Harris County. Assistant County Attorneys Steve Smith and Bruce Powers were the attorneys in charge of this case.

County Attorney Vince Ryan obtains order shutting down unlicensed after-hours bars in Brays Oaks

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan obtained a court order shutting down an unlicensed, after-hours bar known as Insomnia at the corner of Bissonnet Street and the Southwest Freeway. 

Judge Elaine Plamer of the 215th District Court of Harris County entered a temporary retraining order closing the bar at 9301 Bissonnet Street and ordering it to remain closed until a valid liquor license is obtained. The bar advertises on social media that is an after-hours bar, open from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., which is illegal in Texas.

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Harris County launches Senior Justice Assessment Center, connects agencies to care for older adults

   Harris County launched the Senior Justice Assessment Center today, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, at 2525 Murworth in the Medical Center area. The Center is designed to better investigate and prosecute elder abuse in Harris County.

   The Center, the first of its kind in Texas, will be similar to the county's Children's Assessment Center, pulling together experts in geriatric medicine, protective services, civil and criminal prosecution and law enforcement.

   “I think this is a tremendous step forward,” Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said at this morning’s program launch. “This [partnership] is another statement by Harris County that we care and want to do something about it.”

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Deputy Director at Harris County Law Library Recognized with Emerging Leader Award

Joseph D. Lawson, Deputy Director at Harris County’s Law Library, has been named as a recipient of an Emerging Leader Award by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes newer AALL members who have made significant contributions to the Association and/or law librarianship and who have demonstrated potential for leadership and continuing service.

“I am honored to receive this year’s Emerging Leader Award,” Lawson said. “AALL membership is essential to my professional success and I look forward to contributing more to the organization, my law library and my community for years to come.”

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Be Ready: Protect your Paperwork In Case of a Storm

By: Vince Ryan
Harris County Attorney

Hurricane season has just begun. We’ve all heard about being prepared with bottled water, batteries and other necessities for riding out a storm. But is your legal paperwork safe and secure?

If your home floods, will your important documents be safe? If you have to evacuate, could you quickly put your hands on medical records? If you file insurance claims, would you be able to provide your policy and records of your possessions?

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Deputy, County not liable in wrongful arrest lawsuit

Harris County Vince Ryan’s Office has obtained a summary judgment in favor of Harris County and a Sheriff’s deputy in a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed he was wrongfully arrested when he returned to the Red River Dance Hall and Saloon in Tomball after being banned from the bar.

Michael Bradshaw claimed he was arrested in retaliation for a Facebook Messenger conversation he had with an employee of the bar that occurred the night he was banned from the bar in July 2013. In the profanity laden Facebook exchange Bradshaw described his encounter with the deputy, accusing the deputy of being a coward and calling him a “Barney Fife buddy” of the employee.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan Obtains Order Shutting Down Unlicensed After-Hours Bar in Southwest Houston

 Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan obtained a court order on Friday shutting down Avani Lounge, an unlicensed bar in Southwest Houston. When Houston Police officers served the court order early Sunday morning, they found 600 patrons inside the bar with alcoholic drinks.
   Judge Michael Landrum of the 113th District Court of Harris County entered a temporary restraining order on May 12 closing the bar at 6603 Harwin Drive and ordering it to remain closed until a valid liquor license is obtained. Avani Lounge operates as an after-hours bar, serving alcohol after 2 a.m., but does not have a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan obtains asset freeze after federal drug raid against smoke shop owners selling kush

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan won a restraining order and asset freeze against the owners of two smoke shops and their supplier to stop the sale of synthetic marijuana, an illegal drug known on the streets as “kush.” .The lawsuit stemmed from a lengthy investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, Conroe Police Department, and Houston Police Department to target the distributors of synthetic marijuana.

The restraining order prohibits the owners of Discount Smoke & Gift Shop at 11106 Veterans Memorial and Mr. Smoke & Gift Shop at 2946 Gears Road from selling kush and other illegal substances.  Narcotics officers executed a federal search warrant and retrieved large quantities of kush, as well as hashish, ecstasy, marijuana, hydrocodone, and other controlled substances, which were hidden throughout the stores. 

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Harris county attorney shuts down Alief smoke shop accused of selling Kush

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan is taking steps to shut down a store that was believed to be illegally selling synthetic marijuana.Ryan obtained a restraining order Wednesday against the owners of the Smoke & Tote Shop at 12127 Bissonnett Street.

They were told to cease operations. Investigators said the store was participating in criminal activity. Ryan also ordered the Lock Lim Management Trust, the owner of the shopping center in which the store is located, to take steps to close the store immediately.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan obtains court order Against Alief shopping center where Kush is sold

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan won a restraining order Wednesday from a Harris County civil district court against the owners of an Alief shopping center and their tenant to close the store and stop the sale of synthetic marijuana.

Judge Randy Wilson, of the 157th Civil District Court of Harris County, ordered the owners of the Smoke & Tote Shop located at 12127 Bissonnet to cease operations, finding the store participated in criminal activity. He also ordered the Lock Lim Management Trust, the owner of the shopping center, to take measures to close the store immediately.

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