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Filed bill aims to make tampering with an electronic monitoring device a felony in Texas

Legislation filed Monday seeks to make it a felony for someone on parole or probation to tamper with their electronic monitoring device.

AUSTIN, Texas — “If you have an ankle monitor and you cut it off, under this law, you go to jail immediately to serve the rest of your term. And you'll be charged with a felony,” Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchía said Monday.

Anchía was referring to House Bill 3549, which he filed Monday and which aims to make it a crime for someone to tamper with a monitoring device.

The proposed legislation comes after a man killed two people at a hospital in Dallas. The gunman, police say, was under electronic monitoring considered a “curfew monitor.”

The Texas Parole Board uses two types of electronic monitoring. One is a radio frequency monitor that shows when a parolee leaves their house and comes home. It is not a tracker. The second type of monitor has GPS and can track parolees.

The KVUE Defenders pulled data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that shows 4,464 parolees are currently subject to electronic monitoring and GPS monitoring. Here's a breakdown of the local data:

  • Travis County: 97 parolees on GPS and 27 on other electronic monitoring
  • Williamson County: 31 parolees on GPS and 8 on other electronic monitoring
  • Bastrop County: 7 parolees on GPS and 3 on other electronic monitoring
  • Hays County: 13 parolees on GPS and 3 on other electronic monitoring   

“The bigger question that policymakers and law enforcement are going to need to grapple with is if you can have violent offenders on any type of monitor, be they GPS or otherwise, and whether that really keeps us safe,” Anchía said.

In fiscal year 2022, 1,127 warrants were executed statewide. Each returned warrant confirmed a cut monitor strap.

If Anchía's filed legislation passes, cases like those could lead to felony charges.

“If you violate that public trust, that promise you made to us as a society, then there should be harsh penalties for that,” Anchía said.

This is the second bill of this kind filed during this legislative session. State Sen. Joan Huffman has filed a similar bill, Senate Bill 1004. If passed, hers would also make tampering with an electronic monitoring device a state felony. 

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