In January 2022, SB6 took effect, changing bonding procedures. It has also had an impact on walk-throughs. A walk through is a procedure to clear an active warrant. Basically, you turn yourself in to the jail, but you are ready with a bond already posted. Instead of actually spending any time in jail, you are released right away. At least that’s how it used to work. The procedure is very different now, so if you have an active warrant in 2022, read this article and consult an attorney before doing a walk through.
I’ll go over the changes individually, but the big picture is this: Walk throughs are more complicated, more expensive and take longer than they did before SB6 was passed. There are several reasons for this.
No Personal Recognizance Bonds for certain offenses
You might not qualify for a personal bond. If you have a pending charge or are on probation or deferred adjudication for a violent offense, you won’t qualify for a PR bond. This means you will need to spend more to post bond – usually through a bondsman. This doesn’t affect the walk-through per se, but needs to be mentioned because it can significantly add to the cost of the entire process.
You must hire an attorney to save yourself hours in jail
You must hire an attorney before doing a walk-through. The Travis County Sheriff is no longer allowing a walk-through without an attorney to guide the client through the process. The reason is that they are asking anyone doing a walk-through to knowingly waive magistration.
Magistration is a formal process whereby a judge reads your rights and the charges against you. While it is important to understand these things, magistration itself is largely a formality. The problem is that magistration will only happen a couple times a day. This means that if you turn yourself in at the wrong time, you’re going to cost yourself hours in jail. Maybe even an overnight stay. An attorney can go over your rights with you and waive magistration, which can save you hours waiting for the judge.
The process is more complicated even with an attorney
Even with an attorney, a walk through is still going to take longer and be more complicated. Before SB6, a walk-through would take about an hour on average. A person turning himself in would be processed and released without changing their clothes. That has all changed. Because of a seemingly minor provision in SB6, a report must be generated for a person’s criminal history before a judge can sign a bond. This report must include the new arrest. This means the report can’t even be generated before the person turns him or herself in. This results in a situation where I can ask a judge tom commit to signing a bond, BUT the bond cannot be signed until the report is generated – after the turn in!
Because the turn-in is happening before a bond is signed, it is not treated as a walk-though by the bonding desk. They act as if a person is simply turning themselves in to custody. Instead of being released right away, the person clearing the warrant has their possessions and clothes taken, is given jail clothes, is handcuffed, and put into the regular jail population. When being released, this person must now be processed out in the regular way, which takes hours, especially if there are others in line to be released.
No walk throughs for out of county warrants
One more complication involves out of county warrants. If you have a warrant that is based outside of Travis County, the sheriff here will no longer conduct a walk-though. You can still post bond in the other county, but if there are complications with the bond you might need to be transferred to the other county before being released. I recommend finding an attorney in the county where the warrant was issued before attempting to clear any warrant outside of Travis county.
Taken together, all the added complications serve to lengthen and complicate the process to clear an active warrant. In my opinion, they do not make the community any safer. Instead, the new procedures only serve to extend the gap between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to the criminal justice system. This can only breed more contempt for a justice system that is already on shaky ground. It’s a step backward in the movement toward cashless bail and a more fair system. Governor Abbott and any others who supported this bill should be ashamed of themselves, propagating a system that is less fair and harsher on those accused of crime, before those charges have been proven.
If you have an active warrant in Travis County or elsewhere in Texas, it is more important than ever to consult an attorney. The landscape is changing fast, so these procedures might be different even a month or two after this blog is posted. This blog is for educational purposes only, but if you would like legal advice on your specific case, you can reach out to atx.legal or call us at 512-677-5003.