County corrections officers or jailers in Texas can complete various certifications through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). However, if you are a peace officer and you receive notice that someone has filed a complaint against you with TCOLE, your certification and your job may be at risk. No matter how unfounded the allegations against you may be, you should always take disciplinary complaints seriously to protect your career. Contacting an experienced Texas law enforcement professional license defense lawyer should be your first step if you receive notice of a complaint against you.
Certification of County Correction Officers or Jailers
TCOLE handles the certification of county correction officers or jailers. These individuals can obtain basic, intermediate, advanced, or master proficiency certificates from TCOLE by completing the required years of service in an appointment and certain coursework. Jailers also can obtain a Jailer Firearms Certificate and a Jailer Mental Health Officer Proficiency Certificate if they complete specific training courses.
Complaints Against Jailers
TCOLE has jurisdiction over only certain complaints against county correction officers or jailers. The agency handles complaints containing an allegation of a rule or law related to licensing, training, certification, appointment, or a related standard. TCOLE also processes complaints and disciplinary action related to conviction or placement on court-ordered supervision or probation for a covered criminal offense. Other complaints, such as those concerning rude or unprofessional conduct, must go directly to the law enforcement agency that employs the jailer. Furthermore, allegations of criminal misconduct also may go to the appropriate office of the county or district attorney or the Department of Public Safety – Office of the Texas Rangers. Finally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation handles allegations of civil rights violations.
Understanding the Investigative Process
Suppose a preliminary investigation indicates sufficient evidence of a violation of Chapter 1701, Texas Occupations Code, or TCOLE Rules. In that case, the case goes to the enforcement division of TCOLE to open an enforcement or criminal case as needed. Likewise, if the investigation reveals sufficient evidence of a criminal offense, TCOLE may proceed with disciplinary or criminal action.
Criminal Offenses and Disciplinary Action by TCOLE
For instance, if a complaint alleges that a jailer has been convicted of or placed on deferred action for a covered criminal offense, TCOLE will request certified court records from the court concerning the final disposition of the criminal case. If the final disposition is a conviction or placement on deferred adjudication for a covered criminal offense, the case then goes to the legal division of TCOLE for disciplinary action. Potential penalties for this type of disciplinary action may include reprimands, license suspensions, or license revocations.
37 Tex. Admin. Code §223.19 lists various grounds under which TCOLE must revoke a jailer’s certification, including a conviction for any felony offense. Mandatory revocation of a jailer’s certification also must occur if the jailer is convicted or placed on community supervision for any offense involving family violence.
Under 37 Tex. Admin. Code §223.15, TCOLE may suspend a jailer’s certification for violating any law or rule governing the occupation. This section also specifies the mandatory suspension of certification for varying types of criminal convictions, including the following:
- The license of a person charged with a felony and placed on community supervision shall be suspended for thirty years;
- The license of a person convicted or placed on community supervision for any offense above the grade of Class C misdemeanor may be suspended for ten years;
- A suspension based on a Class A misdemeanor shall be at least 120 days; and
- A suspension based on a Class B misdemeanor shall be at least 60 days.
Additionally, under 37 Tex. Admin. Code §223.18, TCOLE can immediately suspend the certification of jailers who are arrested or indicted for felony offenses if remaining licensed during their criminal proceedings would constitute an immediate peril to the public health, safety, or welfare. These offenses include sexual offenses, assaultive offenses, and offenses classified within Chapter 39 or section 31.03(f) of the Texas Penal Code.
TCOLE Procedures for Disciplinary Cases
TCOLE commences disciplinary action by filing a petition as to the intended disciplinary action and giving notice of the petition to the jailer. Under 37 Tex. Admin. Code §223.3, the jailer has 20 days from the date of receipt of the petition to file an answer. If the jailer fails to respond within that timeframe, TCOLE can enter a default order or refer the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for a contested hearing. Likewise, the jailer can respond to the complaint within the 20-day timeframe and ask for a contested hearing to be scheduled at SOAH.
SOAH will assign an administrative law judge (ALJ) to the case, who will permit the parties to conduct discovery, similar to what occurs in a regular civil court case. The ALJ then will conduct a contested administrative hearing at which both sides can present evidence, including documents and witness testimony. Following the hearing, the ALJ will issue a proposal for final decision (PFD) to TCOLE. The full Board of TCOLE meets four times per year and will vote to adopt the ALJ’s PFD or issue an amended PFD.
Defend Yourself Against Disciplinary Proceedings Involving Your County Correction Officer Certification
Don’t allow an isolated complaint to wreak havoc on your career. Losing your ability to support yourself will only worsen your situation. If you are facing the loss of your county correction officer certification, we can help you take the steps necessary to challenge the allegations against you in your disciplinary proceedings. Contact a county correction officer certification defense attorney at Bertolino, LLP, for advice today. Make an appointment by calling (512) 515-9518 or contact us online to see how we can help.