If you get a jail sentence in Comal County, you might not have to worry anymore about starting a fight with other inmates over what TV show to watch in the jail rec room. Now you might be able to serve your jail sentence in your own private rec room, with a remote. A while back, this blog reported that the Comal County Jail was becoming overcrowded to the point that the jail was sometimes turning away defendants who had been order to report for weekend jail sentences. One of the ways that the county courts-at-law have responded is by starting he county's first house arrest program for adults.

If you are ordered to serve a jail sentence for a misdemeanor, the court may, if you make a request, order you to do your "jail" time at home. If you are in the program, you are given curfew times, during which you must be in your house. You are required to wear a GPS ankle monitor that transmits signals concerning your location to a private security company, which contracts with the County to provide the service. If you leave your house, or tamper with the monitor, during curfew hours, then local law enforcement is notified of the violation so that you may be arrested.

In addition, a friendly guy from the local probation department reserves the right to pop over to your house and check on you unannounced in order to make sure that you have not tampered with the monitor and to make sure that you aren't doing anything illegal in your home while under house arrest. If a person wants to participate in the program, he is screened by the local probation department and a recommendation is made to the court. There is no set of carved-in-stone rules that establish who does and does not qualify for the program. Generally, though, the probation department is looking for people with a non-violent, non-DWI offense, a relatively clean record, and no history of absconding.

In order for the monitor to work, you must have a telephone land line set up at your house. You must also pay to be in the program; the current cost is $6 a day. On the down side, you won't have an opportunity to get a jail tattoo, join a gang (unless they want to meet at your place), or get time carved off your sentence for good behavior. But it is a good excuse to get DirectTV and work your way through you NetFlix queue.


Our office has been getting a lot of questions from DWI clients concerning the new amnesty program for driver's license surcharges that DPS began this week. Many of our clients have read an article about the program in the newspaper, or seen a clip about it on TV, and are under the mistaken impression that driver's license surcharges are now a thing of the past. Not so.

The old driver's license surcharges are still in effect. The surcharge for a first offense DWI, with a breath test under .16 is still $1000 a year for three years; for a subsequent DWI, $1500 a year; and for a DWI with a breath test of .16 or above, $2000 a year.

What has changed is that, if you were assessed a surcharge before 2009, and you are delinquent, you can apply for forgiveness, get a reduction of the amount you owe, and possible get your license reinstated. In April, the DPS is supposed to unveil a program which will allow for surcharge reductions for those making less than 125% of the federal poverty level. In addition, if you can't qualify for amnesty, you can now qualify for an occupational driver's license, at least according to the Court of Appeals in Fort Worth.

In the past, the DPS has routinely denied requests for occupational licenses for those who are delinquent on surcharges. The Forth Worth Court of Appeals recently said that no such restriction is allowed in the statute governing occupational licenses. So, even if you can't pay your surcharges, you still may be able to drive to work on an occupational DL.


WHY IT’S GETTING HARDER TO BUST INTO THE COMAL COUNTY JAIL It’s getting harder to get into the Comal County Jail. For the past few weeks, the Comal County Jail has gone back and forth between having, and suspending, its weekend jail program due to overcrowding. Many defendants who receive jail sentences in misdemeanor cases wind up serving those sentences as part of the weekend jail program. Weekend jail is just what the name implies.

It’s a jail sentence that you knock out on the weekends, leaving the rest of the week to go to back to work. But due to jail overcrowding, many weekenders are now showing up at the jail on Friday evening, only to be turned away after being told that there are no available cells for them. They are then instructed to keep showing up every weekend until a bed becomes open. This situation is not likely to improve much any time soon.

The Comal County Jail was constructed approximately a quarter of a century ago, in large part in response to a (wait for it...) jail overcrowding lawsuit. Now that the population of the county has grown, and prisoners are backed up waiting to be processed into the equally overcrowded Texas prison system, the cells are once more stuffed to capacity. Inmates are constantly filing suit trying to get out of jail. Perhaps someone wanting to get their weekend time done sometime this decade will sue in order to get in.