Despite the fact that juvenile justice was not a focal point of the 76th Texas Legislature, numerous bills were passed this session that will have a significant impact on juvenile offenders and the system that handles them. Several of these changes reflect the public’s ever-growing concern with the juvenile system and the desire of many to bring the system more in line with its adult counterpart.

The largest of these was House Bill 3517. This bill served as a general cleanup bill, but added a number of new facets to the juvenile system. It included a complete revamp of Chapter 55 of the Texas Family Code, dealing with juveniles suffering from mental illness or mental retardation. The new chapter makes it possible for these juveniles to have their commitment hearings before a juvenile judge, as was previously called for, or for that judge to pass the commitment hearing to the county or probate judge within the jurisdiction that regularly conducts those hearings for adults. The rewrite more clearly details the procedures to be used during the commitment and sets the legal standards by which a commitment can be made.

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