Text: H.R.46 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (01/06/2015)

 
[Congressional Bills 114th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[H.R. 46 Introduced in House (IH)]

114th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                 H. R. 46

To increase the evidentiary standard required to convict a person for a 
   drug offense, to require screening of law enforcement officers or 
others acting under color of law participating in drug task forces, and 
                          for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                            January 6, 2015

 Ms. Jackson Lee introduced the following bill; which was referred to 
                     the Committee on the Judiciary

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
To increase the evidentiary standard required to convict a person for a 
   drug offense, to require screening of law enforcement officers or 
others acting under color of law participating in drug task forces, and 
                          for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``No More Tulias: Drug Law Enforcement 
Evidentiary Standards Improvement Act of 2015''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS; SENSE OF CONGRESS.

    (a) Findings.--Congress finds the following:
            (1) In recent years it has become clear that programs 
        funded by the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant 
        program (referred to in this Act as the ``Byrne grants 
        program'') have perpetuated racial disparities, corruption in 
        law enforcement, and the commission of civil rights abuses 
        across the country. This is especially the case when it comes 
        to the program's funding of hundreds of regional antidrug task 
        forces because the grants for these antidrug task forces have 
        been dispensed to State governments with very little Federal 
        oversight and have been prone to misuse and corruption.
            (2) Numerous Government Accountability Office reports have 
        found that the Department of Justice has inadequately monitored 
        grants provided under the Byrne grants program. A 2001 General 
        Accounting Office report found that one-third of the grants did 
        not contain required monitoring plans. Seventy percent of files 
        on such grants did not contain required progress reports. 
        Forty-one percent of such files did not contain financial 
        reports covering the full grant period. A 2002 report by the 
        Heritage Foundation reported that ``there is virtually no 
        evidence'' that the Byrne grants program has been successful in 
        reducing crime and that the program lacks ``adequate measures 
        of performance''.
            (3) A 2002 report by the American Civil Liberties Union of 
        Texas identified 17 recent scandals involving antidrug task 
        forces in Texas that receive funds under the Byrne grants 
        program. Such scandals include cases of the falsification of 
        government records, witness tampering, fabricating evidence, 
        false imprisonment, stealing drugs from evidence lockers, 
        selling drugs to children, large-scale racial profiling, sexual 
        harassment, and other abuses of official capacity. Recent 
        scandals in other States include the misuse of millions of 
        dollars in Byrne grants program money in Kentucky and 
        Massachusetts, wrongful convictions based on police perjury in 
        Missouri, and negotiations with drug offenders to drop or lower 
        their charges in exchange for money or vehicles in Alabama, 
        Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and 
        Wisconsin.
            (4) The most well-known Byrne-funded task force scandal 
        occurred in Tulia, Texas, where dozens of African-American 
        residents (totaling over 16 percent of the town's African-
        American population) were arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced 
        to decades in prison, based solely on the uncorroborated 
        testimony of one undercover officer whose background included 
        past allegations of misconduct, sexual harassment, unpaid 
        debts, and habitual use of a racial epithet. The undercover 
        officer was allowed to work alone, and not required to provide 
        audiotapes, video surveillance, or eyewitnesses to corroborate 
        his allegations. Despite the lack of physical evidence or 
        corroboration, the charges were vigorously prosecuted. After 
        the first few trials resulted in convictions and lengthy 
        sentences, many defendants accepted plea bargains. Suspicions 
        regarding the legitimacy of the charges eventually arose after 
        two of the accused defendants were able to produce convincing 
        alibi evidence to prove that they were out of State or at work 
        at the time of the alleged drug purchases. Texas Governor Rick 
        Perry eventually pardoned the Tulia defendants (after four 
        years of imprisonment), but these kinds of scandals continue to 
        plague Byrne grant program spending.
            (5) A case arose in a Federal court in Waco, Texas, 
        concerning the wrongful arrests of 28 African-Americans out of 
        4,500 other residents of Hearne, Texas. In November 2000, these 
        individuals were arrested on charges of possession or 
        distribution of crack cocaine, and they subsequently filed a 
        case against the county government. On May 11, 2005, a 
        magistrate judge found sufficient evidence that a Byrne-funded 
        antidrug task force had routinely targeted African-Americans to 
        hold the county liable for the harm suffered by the plaintiffs. 
        Plaintiffs in that lawsuit alleged that for the past 15 years, 
        based on the uncorroborated tales of informants, task force 
        members annually raided the African-American community in 
        eastern Hearne to arrest the residents identified by the 
        confidential informants, resulting in the arrest and 
        prosecution of innocent citizens without cause. On the eve of 
        trial the counties involved in the Hearne task force scandal 
        settled the case, agreeing to pay financial damages to the 
        plaintiffs.
            (6) Scandals related to the Byrne grants program have grown 
        so prolific that the Texas legislature has passed several 
        reforms in response to them, including outlawing racial 
        profiling and changing Texas law to prohibit drug offense 
        convictions based solely on the word of an undercover 
        informant. The Criminal Jurisprudence Committee of the Texas 
        House of Representatives issued a report in 2004 recommending 
        that all of the State's federally funded antidrug task forces 
        be abolished because they are inherently prone to corruption. 
        The Committee reported, ``Continuing to sanction task force 
        operations as stand-alone law enforcement entities--with 
        widespread authority to operate at will across multiple 
        jurisdictional lines--should not continue. The current approach 
        violates practically every sound principle of police oversight 
        and accountability applicable to narcotics interdiction.'' The 
        Texas legislature passed a law that ends the ability of a 
        narcotics task force to operate as an entity with no clear 
        accountability. The legislation transfers authority for 
        multicounty drug task forces to the Department of Public Safety 
        and channels one-quarter of asset forfeiture proceeds received 
        by the task forces to a special fund to support drug abuse 
        prevention programs, drug treatment, and other programs 
        designed to reduce drug use in the county where the assets are 
        seized.
            (7) Texas's ``corroboration'' law was passed thanks to a 
        coalition of Christian conservatives and civil rights 
        activists. As one Texas preacher related, requiring 
        corroboration ``puts a protective hedge around the ninth 
        commandment, `You shall not bear false witness against your 
        neighbor.' As long as people bear false witness against their 
        neighbors, this Biblical law will not be outdated.''
            (8) During floor debate, conservative Texas legislators 
        pointed out that Mosaic law requires corroboration: ``One 
        witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or 
        for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two 
        witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter 
        be established.'' Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus concurred with the 
        corroboration rule: ``If thy brother shall trespass against 
        thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. . . 
        . But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two 
        more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word 
        may be established.'' Matthew 18:15-16.
            (9) Texas's ``corroboration'' law had an immediate positive 
        impact. Once prosecutors needed more than just the word of one 
        person to convict someone of a drug offense they began 
        scrutinizing law enforcement tactics. This new scrutiny led to 
        the uncovering of massive corruption and civil rights abuse by 
        the Dallas police force. In what became known nationally as the 
        ``Sheetrock'' scandal, Dallas police officers and undercover 
        informants were found to have set up dozens of innocent people, 
        mostly Mexican immigrants, by planting fake drugs on them 
        consisting of chalk-like material used in Sheetrock and other 
        brands of wallboard. The revelations led to the dismissal of 
        over 40 cases (although some of those arrested were already 
        deported). In April 2005, a former Dallas narcotics detective 
        was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the 
        scheme. Charges against others are pending.
            (10) Many regional antidrug task forces receive up to 75 
        percent of their funding from the Byrne grant program. As such, 
        the United States Government is accountable for corruption and 
        civil rights abuses inherent in their operation.
    (b) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that--
            (1) grants under the Byrne grants program should be 
        prohibited for States that do not exercise effective control 
        over antidrug task forces;
            (2) at a minimum, no State that fails to prohibit criminal 
        convictions based solely on the testimony of a law enforcement 
        officer or informants should receive a grant under such 
        program; and
            (3) corroborative evidence, such as video or audio tapes, 
        drugs, and money, should always be required for such criminal 
        convictions to be sustained.

SEC. 3. LIMITATION ON RECEIPT OF BYRNE GRANT FUNDS AND OTHER DEPARTMENT 
              OF JUSTICE LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSISTANCE.

    (a) Limitation.--For any fiscal year, a State shall not receive any 
amount that would otherwise be allocated to that State under section 
505(a) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 
U.S.C. 3755(a)), or any amount from any other law enforcement 
assistance program of the Department of Justice, unless the State--
            (1) does not fund any antidrug task forces for that fiscal 
        year; or
            (2) has in effect throughout the State laws that ensure--
                    (A) a person is not convicted of a drug offense 
                unless the fact that a drug offense was committed, and 
                the fact that the person committed that offense, are 
                each supported by evidence other than the eyewitness 
                testimony of a law enforcement officer or an individual 
                acting on behalf of a law enforcement officer; and
                    (B) a law enforcement officer does not participate 
                in an antidrug task force unless the honesty and 
                integrity of that officer is evaluated and found to be 
                at an appropriately high level.
    (b) Regulations.--The Attorney General shall prescribe regulations 
to carry out subsection (a).
    (c) Reallocation.--Amounts not allocated by reason of subsection 
(a) shall be reallocated to States not disqualified by failure to 
comply with such subsection.

SEC. 4. COLLECTION OF DATA.

    (a) In General.--A State that receives Federal funds pursuant to 
eligibility under section 3(a)(2), with respect to a fiscal year, shall 
collect data, for the most recent year for which funds were allocated 
to such State, with respect to the--
            (1) racial distribution of charges made during that year;
            (2) nature of the criminal law specified in the charges 
        made; and
            (3) city or law enforcement jurisdiction in which the 
        charges were made.
    (b) Report.--As a condition of receiving Federal funds pursuant to 
section 3(a)(2), a State shall submit to Congress the data collected 
under subsection (a) by not later than the date that is 180 days prior 
to the date on which such funds are awarded for a fiscal year.
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