BILL ANALYSIS C.S.H.B. 1395 By: Place 4-28-95 Committee Report (Substituted) BACKGROUND Judges are prohibited by law from dismissing the prosecution of a criminal offense without the consent of the prosecuting attorney. Yet, many governmental entities refuse to provide prosecuting attorneys for Class C misdemeanors in justice or municipal courts. This includes violations of traffic laws. A judge is bound by two ethical provisions: (1) to dispose of the business of the court promptly; and (2) to sit as a fair, impartial, and neutral judge of the cases pending in his or her court. When a prosecuting attorney is not provided to the court, the judge must either allow the case to languish on the docket, call the case to trial and prosecute it himself, or call up the case and when the state does not answer the docket call, find the defendant "not guilty." More citizens come into contact with justices of the peace and municipal court judges than with judges from any other court in our legal system. There is a need for judges to have the ability to dismiss these cases without leaving them on the docket or delivering a verdict of not guilty. A dismissal prior to the swearing of witnesses allows the state to re-file the charges against the defendant, if the two-year statute of limitations has not yet expired. PURPOSE If enacted, C.S.H.B. 1395 would empower justices of the peace and municipal court judges with the legal authority to dismiss the prosecution of traffic offenses when they can show good cause for such action and if certain other conditions apply. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the committee's opinion that this bill does not expressly grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Article 45.23, Code of Criminal Procedure (TO TRY CAUSE WITHOUT DELAY), by changing the title of the article to read TO TRY CAUSE WITHOUT DELAY; DISMISSALS and as follows: (a) Adds a municipal court judge in addition to a justice to try a defendant's cause under this section. (b) Allows a justice or municipal court judge to dismiss the prosecution of an offense involving violation of a traffic law if: (1) the justice or judge gives notice of the trial no later than five days before the cause is set for trial to: (A) the prosecuting attorney; or (B) the district or county attorney (if no prosecuting attorney is assigned in that court) if the case is pending in justice court or to the city attorney if pending in municipal court; and (2) when the justice or judge of the municipal court calls the cause to trial, the state's attorney does not appear and announce the attorney's intention to prosecute the cause. SECTION 2. Emergency clause. Effective upon passage. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE SECTION 1 of the substitute includes municipal court judges among those allowed to postpone or dismiss a defendant's trial in certain situations. The substitute does not allow justices or judges to dismiss for good cause, but rather if certain conditions apply and within a certain time frame. SUMMARY OF COMMITTEE ACTION HB 1395 was considered by the full committee in a public hearing on March 27, 1995. The following person testified in favor of the bill: Michael L. O'Neal, representing the Texas Municipal Courts Association. The bill was left pending. HB 1395 was considered by the full committee in a formal meeting on April 28, 1995. The committee considered a complete committee substitute. The substitute was adopted without objection. HB 1395 was reported favorably as substituted, with the recommendation that it do pass and be printed, by a record vote of 7 ayes, 0 nays, 0 pnv, and 2 absent.