DALLAS — A bill filed by a Dallas lawmaker aimed at making it a crime to cut off ankle monitors was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.
State Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) filed the legislation in response to the tragic October 2022 shooting at Methodist Hospital Dallas. Anchía named two of the bills after Jacqueline Pokuaa and Annette Flowers, the two hospital workers killed during that shooting.
The suspect, Nestor Hernandez, was on parole and wearing an ankle monitor when it happened.
Lawmakers and law enforcement officials were outraged that Hernandez was on the streets since he had violated his parole multiple times by failing drug tests, missing curfew and cutting off his ankle monitor.
In Texas, it wasn’t a crime to cut off your ankle monitor. It was only an administrative violation. After passing through the 88th Legislative Session and Abbott's signing, Senate Bill 1004 law now makes it a crime.
“Breaking your ankle monitor is like breaking out of jail," Anchía said. "I promised our community to pass legislation that would prevent this tragedy in the future. The ankle monitor law, which received bipartisan support, will protect Texans and increase accountability of offenders on parole.”
WFAA dove deep into the ineffectiveness of ankle monitoring prior to the bill's passage. Authorities said despite repeated violations, violent felons were not effectively tracked.
"Violent criminals were thumbing their nose at the system in the process. Because if they wanted to commit a crime, the ankle monitor was not going to stop them," Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told WFAA.
The Methodist Dallas Medical Center shooting was among many instances in Texas where a suspect was arrested after their ankle monitor was cut off. A 37-year-old man charged for the 2019 murder of his wife disappeared and was recaptured in San Antonio back in March.
Also in March, 29-year-old Wahib Sadek Hamed – who was charged in a brutal assault at a Cleburne, Texas, hotel – vanished after cutting off his ankle monitor before a court date.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), in fiscal year 2022, there were 1,127 parole warrants executed for individuals on parole or mandatory supervision who cut their ankle monitor, Anchía's office said.
"If they mess with their ankle monitor, tamper with it or cut if off in any way, it's going to be a felony and going back to jail immediately to serve the rest of their sentence and going to put a felony on top of it," Anchía told WFAA.
Additionally, the Dallas Police Department reported 123 incidents of crimes by people wearing electronic monitoring devices in FY 2022.
"For me, I have to pinch myself every once in a while. I'm not used to state government listening to their police departments," Garcia said.
Senate Bill 1004 goes into effect on Sept. 1, 2023.
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