Although new laws typically take effect when the new year starts, Texas residents will see some new laws coming their way later on this year—September 1, to be exact. The new Texas criminal laws cover various topics, including DWI convictions, cyberbullying, police brutality, texting, swords, drones, education and even voting. Read on to see which ones may affect you.
Second Chances for Non-Violent Offenders
Those convicted of non-violent crimes—such as misdemeanors—may get the opportunity to remove the crime from public view. This means that employers and citizens would not be able to view the conviction, although law enforcement would be able to if necessary.
In order to request this, the person would have to serve their sentence and pay any fines or restitution. They can then ask the court for an order of nondisclosure.
A first-time DWI offender may be able to get a second chance if they meet certain criteria. Their blood alcohol content must have been below 0.15 and they must not have any prior DWI offenses. They must not have hit a pedestrian or car with someone inside. The conviction must have resulted in community supervision (probation) as opposed to a jail sentence. In addition, they must fully pay court fines and either wait five years after their conviction or wait two years after a successful discharge from a community supervision if you had a Deep Lung Device (DLD) installed in your car as a condition of supervision before you apply. There are a lot of hoops to go through, but it would be worth it, especially for someone looking to find decent employment.
Texting While Driving Will Be Illegal
This is a big one for Texas motorists. Motorists will not be able to read, write or send text messages while the car is in motion. The car must be stopped. You are also not allowed to use your phone for accessing GPS or the stereo. The maximum fine for a first offense is $99.
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Swords Can Be Carried in Public
This may seem like an odd law, but come September 1, Texas law will allow you to carry any knife longer than 5.5 inches—such as a machete or sword—in public. There are some restrictions, of course. The knife cannot be taken into a school, park, church, hospital, jail, bar or sporting event. In addition, a child under age 18 will not be allowed to carry one without adult supervision.
Don’t Fly Your Drone Near a Jail
This seems like another odd law, but it was passed for a reason. Many people carry drugs or weapons on drones to deliver to inmates. Therefore, flying them near correctional facilities is no longer allowed. Drones also cannot be flown near large sporting venues. You could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which could mean six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Attacking an Officer Will be Considered a Hate Crime
The Police Protection Act will go into effect in Texas on September 1, enhancing penalties for judges and police officers who are victims of assault. Threatening a police officer will be a state felony, which could mean two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Assault of a police officer is a second-degree felony and could mean $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison. Bodily injury to a police officer is a first-degree felony, which could result in life in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Cyberbullying Will Be a Crime
Electronically harassing children under age 18 with an intent to harm themselves will be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Courts will be able to find the identity of the bully and public schools will be required to report and intervene. Victims will also have the ability to obtain restraining orders and sue the parents of cyberbullies.
Protections for Good Samaritans
Good Samaritans who break into a vehicle to rescue a child, senior or disabled person trapped inside will no longer face civil liability. They are already protected against criminal charges—if they follow certain criteria, which includes calling 911 first and avoiding using unnecessary force. They must also believe the person is in imminent danger. This law will provide extra protections so the “hero” is not punished.
Work with an Experienced Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, you need to give your case a fighting chance. An experienced Collin County criminal lawyer can evaluate your situation and help provide the best defenses possible. Contact our team at Rosenthal & Wadas, PLLC today to set up your free confidential consultation in our office.