Bexar County DA to change some policies ahead of new ‘rogue’ prosecutor bill taking effect

House Bill 17 to take effect Sept. 1

SAN ANTONIO – A new bill the governor signed into law last week will have a direct effect on district attorneys across the state who currently aren’t prosecuting certain laws.

House Bill 17 or the “rogue” prosecutor bill was created in response to elected district or county attorneys who voiced they would not enforce the state’s abortion laws or election fraud cases.

Last year, before the Texas Trigger Law went into effect, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said he would review each case but didn’t plan to prosecute abortion cases barring “extreme” circumstances — for instance, if someone was being forced to have an abortion.

HB 17 would allow the courts to remove district attorneys for misconduct.

“The statute defines official misconduct as the intentional refusal or failure to prosecute entire categories of offenses, which we’ve never done that,” Gonzales said.

Before the new goes into effect, Gonzales he is already dialing back on some of his policies.

“We’re going to change the way we operate,” Gonzales said. “We’re going to phase out these declination policies so there’s no question that we are following the law.”

Gonzales’ office has already phased out this criminal trespass policy and is looking at eliminating minor drug declination policies.

“We have until Sept. 1, but we are already talking about doing it beforehand so that we’ll have plenty of time to educate the public about the changes that we’re making,” Gonzales said.

If a district or county attorney doesn’t prosecute new laws, anyone who has lived in the county for at least six months could file a removal petition.

The petition would then be handled by a judge from a nearby county and the case could go to trial which would determine whether a district attorney would be removed from office. If that happens the governor would then appoint a replacement until the next election.

Currently, the Nueces County district attorney is awaiting his removal trial later this year after a removal petition was filed there.

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About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.