Brief for Harris County Public Defender, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo*, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Precinct 1* and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amicus Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellees (*as elected officials and not on behalf of Harris County government).
Argument: A determination of bail, pursuant to TEX. CODE CRIM. P. ART. 15.17, at a defendant’s initial appearance, is a critical stage of trial requiring the assistance of counsel. The district court’s findings and conclusions aptly support this proposition. An unrepresented defendant before a magistrate at first appearance has the untenable choice of speaking on her own behalf for release – and possibly saying something that may later be used against her – or lose that opportunity to advocate for freedom by remaining silent. Once that first bail determination has been made, the chance of changing it, particularly to lower bail, significantly diminishes. That loss of liberty has a direct detrimental effect on a defendant’s outcome at trial. In support, Amicus Curiae will offer its current relevant experience and data, some of which were previously accepted as fact by another United States District Judge and a panel of this Honorable Court of Appeals.