2021 Legislation: Reforms Related to Court Proceedings and Juvenile Records

When a child comes in contact with the youth justice system, it is crucial that they have a supportive, stable home environment while they navigate their court case, as well as have the easiest opportunity for juvenile record-clearing after their proceeding is dismissed. Also importantly, children with a mental illness or intellectual disability should be treated or served outside the justice system whenever possible.

HB 454 (Author: Metcalf | Sponsor: Creighton), Relating to the creation of a specialty treatment court for certain individuals residing with a child who is the subject of a juvenile court case. A county commissioners court can establish a juvenile family drug court program for individuals who are suspected by the Department of Family and Protective Services or the court of having a substance abuse problem and who reside in the home of a child who is the subject of a juvenile court case. Among other things, such a program should: integrate substance abuse treatment services in the processing of juvenile court cases and proceedings; use a comprehensive case management approach involving court-appointed case managers and special advocates to rehabilitate participants; enable early identification and prompt placement of eligible individuals who volunteer to participate in the program; conduct a comprehensive substance abuse needs assessment and make referrals to appropriate substance abuse treatment agencies; utilize a progressive treatment approach with specific requirements for participants to meet for successful program completion; monitor abstinence through periodic drug and alcohol screening; and involve ongoing judicial interaction with participants.

A drug court program may require a participant to pay the cost of all treatment and services received, based on the participant’s ability to pay. A county with such a program must explore the possibility of using court improvement project money – as well as available federal and state matching money – to finance the program. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2021

HB 1401 (Authors: Ann Johnson, White, Wu, Guillen | Sponsor: Huffman), Relating to methods to send applications and orders for sealing juvenile records. In regard to a juvenile’s record, specific to a young person in the juvenile court served by the juvenile probation department, an application for record sealing can be sent to the juvenile court by any reasonable method, now including secure electronic means. Similarly, on entry of the order sealing the record, after all adjudications have been vacated and the proceedings are dismissed, the court clerk can send copies of the order by secure electronic means to relevant entities. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2021

HB 2107 (Author: Wu | Sponsor: Menéndez), Relating to services for children who are unfit or lack responsibility to proceed in juvenile court proceedings as a result of intellectual disabilities. If a juvenile court or jury determines that a child is unfit to proceed with juvenile court proceedings for delinquent conduct, due to the child’s mental illness or intellectual disability, and the court further determines that the child may be adequately treated or served in an alternative setting, the court must order the child to receive treatment or services on an outpatient basis for 90 days. However, before issuing that order, the court must consult with the probation department and local providers to determine the appropriate treatment or services.

A similar process must be filed if a court or jury finds that a child who has engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision is not responsible for that conduct due to mental illness or intellectual disability. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2021

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