Texas lawmakers pass Senate Bill 6, reforming bail system

This week state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 6, also known as the Damon Allen Act, in order to require those accused of violent crimes to pay a bond before getting out of jail.

Prior to the bill’s passage, some courts had released people accused of crimes on personal bonds that did not require money.

"I mean, it's the answer to our prayers," said Melanie Infinger who has been fighting for the legislation since her daughter Caitlynne Guajardo was killed in 2019.

"Bail reform is extremely important to me, because it ultimately cost my daughter her life, my daughter and my unborn grandchild who she was pregnant with at the time," Infinger said.

Investigators said Caitlynne’s husband, Alex Guajardo, stabbed her and her unborn baby to death at their Pasadena apartment. Infinger said just days before Caitlynne was killed, Alex was taken to jail for assault.

"We were really trusting the system and that they were going to keep him in there. Because, I mean, why wouldn't they? Because he has this horrible criminal history, and he is a danger to society. He had beat her up, he had killed their cat," Infinger said.

Caitlynne had returned to her apartment, believing her husband would remain locked up until his trial. "His family wasn't going to bond him out. They were gonna make him sit in there and no one was gonna bond him out," said Infinger.  

It wasn’t until after Caitlynne’s death that her mother learned from police Alex had been released from jail on personal bonds, meaning he didn’t put up any money.

"I was angry and I was mad and I wanted to know who in their right mind would have let out Alex. Who in their right mind would have let out such a monster?" Infinger said.  

Infinger turned her anger into action, calling on state lawmakers to reform the bail system so those accused of violent crimes couldn’t be released without posting bond.

"It was my time to make a difference, and, hopefully, make it so that this didn't have to happen to any more people," said Infinger.

This week Senate Bill 6 was passed by legislators and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. The bill prevents judges from approving personal bonds for defendants charged with violent crimes. It also requires judicial training and directs officials to look at a defendant's criminal history prior to setting bail.

"Had that been done with Alex, he would have never gotten out. So this bill would have saved Caitlynne and her unborn baby's life, and it will absolutely save many, many lives in the future," Infinger said.  

Opponents of the legislation worry it could lead to discrimination of poor people and people of color who are less likely to be able to afford to pay to get out of jail before their trial.

Abbott released a statement vowing to sign the bill and saying in part, "…Public safety is at risk because of our current bail system that recklessly allows dangerous criminals back onto our streets, which is why I made bail reform an emergency item…"

Infinger hopes the law is a step towards protecting domestic abuse survivors. "I've turned my grief into a mission, that her death wasn't in vain," she said.

Alex Guajardo is currently in jail awaiting trial for capital murder.

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