What is the Texas Junk Science Law?

January 1, 2019 | By Shane Phelps Law
What is the Texas Junk Science Law?

From blood-stain pattern to bite mark analysis, there are a wide variety of techniques forensic scientists use to convince the jury and judge to rule against a defendant. In fact, scientific evidence has become instrumental in many criminal trials.

However, what has been held as sure-fire proof of guilt has come into question in recent years. According to an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver which aired in October 2017, Oliver claims that even though not all forensic science is inaccurate, juries and courts are often guilty of heavily relying on such “evidence” to determine a defendant’s fate.

For example, forensic experts commonly use the phrase “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” in court to claim their findings are correct, which was depicted in a montage from various courtrooms where the saying was repeated over and over again.

Additionally, the host claims not all DNA tests are created equal since DNA could easily be passed from one place/person to another. He said that even experts can’t sometimes tell the difference between two people who have similar fingerprints.

What is the Texas Junk Science Law?

Due to the uncertainty surrounding forensic science, state legislators drafted and approved the Texas Junk Science Law (SB 344) in 2013. This allows current Texas prisoners--even those who are on death row--to challenge their convictions if they were based on “junk science.”

In actuality, this law amended the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure by expanding a prisoner’s right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus due to scientific evidence. This type of writ helps to figure out if an individual’s imprisonment is valid or whether he/she has the right to release.

The following facts must be present to apply for a writ of habeas corpus:

  • The prisoner has current, relevant scientific evidence which wasn’t available when he/she was convicted.
  • Such evidence would be admissible when the original trial took place according to Texas law.
  • If such evidence was available at the original trial, the prisoner would not have been found guilty

Essentially, there are two ways a prisoner can apply for a writ of habeas corpus based on scientific evidence: providing new types of scientific evidence which wasn’t available when the trial first occurred and to use new scientific evidence to show the scientific evidence used in the original trial was inaccurate. Before this law was enacted, prisoners found it difficult to obtain a writ of habeas corpus, despite having new scientific evidence to prove their innocence.

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, our College Station criminal defense lawyer at Shane Phelps Law. can determine whether the scientific evidence against you is valid or not. Moreover, we could collect our own evidence and create an effective defense plan to protect your rights and future.

For more information about the state’s junk science law, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.