New Hays County Criminal District Attorney Kelly Higgins has come under fire for taking a position on not charging certain crimes in Texas. Higgins has since been sued by Hays County District Clerk, Avrey Anderson, asking that Higgins be removed from office for refusing to prosecute a type of criminal offense that is named in Texas state law. The criminal defense team at Mendoza Law Firm takes a deeper dive into this issue in today’s blog.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed on September 12, 2023, Higgins demonstrated “intentional, corrupt failure and neglect of his duties” when he refused to prosecute cases involving low-level marijuana offenses and simple drug possession. Higgins also refused to prosecute doctors who have treated transgender patients illegally or who have conducted abortions against Texas law.
The lawsuit also states: “Allowing him to continue as District Attorney undermines the very laws of our state that he swore to uphold. These same laws were laws that he was charged to defend and instead, he abused his official capacity to counteract our legislature thus undermining our process itself.”
Higgins made promises during his campaign for Hays County’s Criminal District Attorney that he would purposely not prosecute these types of cases using taxpayer money if he were to be elected in an effort to reduce the jail population throughout the county.
“This is a matter of conscience for me… I cannot charge medical patients with crimes,” he posted on his campaign website regarding the prosecution of abortion cases. “Only the presence of other criminal activity, such as human trafficking, could provoke prosecution by my office.”
The lawsuit filed by Anderson against Higgins cites House Bill 17, which became law in September 2023 in Texas. House Bill 17 allows courts to remove any district attorney in the state for failing to perform their duties by choosing not to charge specific crimes.
House Bill 17 states the following:
“A public declaration or announcement by a district attorney or a county attorney of an intent to prohibit the enforcement of any criminal offense is prima facie evidence of an adoption or implementation of a formal or stated policy for purposes of this chapter.”
The impact of Higgins’ failure to prosecute crimes in Hays County will be wide-reaching. Not only does Higgins’ public comments about refusing to prosecute certain crimes send a bad message to constituents, but it also emboldens those willing to partake in criminal activity without worry of any recourse.
On the other end of the spectrum, the lack of criminal prosecutions will lead to fewer convictions, which means that there will be fewer people in the jails and prisons of Hays County. This is the ultimate goal of Higgins during his tenure as District Attorney of Hays County, according to the statement he made during his campaign.
The failure to prosecute certain crimes will also make it easier for criminal defense attorneys to have certain charges thrown out by the courts if the judges and prosecutors know that the District Attorney will not move forward with prosecutions. Criminal defense attorneys should be able to find it easier to represent clients and have their charges reduced or dropped with little hassle for their clients.
It is important to still contact a criminal defense attorney when charged with any of the crimes listed earlier. Even though you might know that the District Attorney will not prosecute the crime it is still in your best interest to have someone represent you in court. You might be required to attend one or two hearings before the charges are eventually dropped, and you do not know the law as well as an attorney knows the law.
One of the biggest advantages of working with a criminal defense attorney is their experience with the local prosecutors. They know how the prosecutors operate, what they look for in how to charge defendants, and what it takes to have charges dropped or reduced.
A Hays County criminal defense attorney has deep knowledge and understanding of Texas laws and how your charges fall under those laws. This knowledge makes it easier to evaluate your case and determine the best course of action should the District Attorney decide to move forward with prosecuting your case. Let the team at Mendoza Law Firm fight for your rights.
Do you have questions about criminal charges in Texas? If so, it is important that you discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call the office of Mendoza Law Firm or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment today.
Take the first step to protect your future. Tell us about your case to receive
a free and confidential consultation.