The right to due process is critical to a fair and democratic state. Unfortunately for Texas members of the military, Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent veto curbs those protections.
Under current law, there are no requirements to notify people accused of a crime that their pleas may affect their status in the military.
To combat this issue, Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) wanted to ensure that Texas magistrates included the way a guilty or nolo contendere plea could affect enlistment status, reenlistment status, or a discharge from the military.
This appeared to strike Governor Abbott as an overreach, and he proceeded to veto HB 929 despite no testimony against it and low opposition—less than 20 members of the legislature voted against the bill.
When Rep. Anchia (D-Dallas) laid out the bill in committee, he noted that interacting with the magistrate is often the only time some accused of a crime receive legal information.
At times people appear without counsel and rely on this system to provide pertinent facts that would otherwise go unnoticed. The ins and outs of the court systems are confusing to most people, and consequences for not knowing can be detrimental, especially for those that may not realize how it could affect their status as a member of the military.
Following federal mandates, magistrates must inform individuals of many details, such as the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, the right to terminate, and the right to have an attorney present during questioning. Adding the military clause seemed like a common sense way to make sure citizens were made aware of potential legal consequences.
This is why organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Austin Justice Coalition, and the Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations registered for the bill, though there was no testimony during committee hearing.
Given the sacrifices that our military members willingly make to protect and advocate for us, Texas should provide a small piece of security for them when they are subjected to a serious situation.
Texas is home to over 160,000 active and reserve military members, in addition to over 1.5 million veterans. According to the Texas Comptroller office’s 2017 report, there are 13 military bases in Texas.