Legislative Update

Swatting False Report of Crime in Texas

New Texas Offense: Swatting (Making a False Emergency Report)

By | False Report, Legislative Update

Swatting False Report of Crime in TexasTexas legislators enacted several new criminal laws in the 2021 legislative session. Below, we highlight one of them – Swatting. Being from Texas, I initially thought this might have something to do with mosquitoes, but, as it turns out, Swatting is the act of falsely reporting a crime or emergency to law enforcement or emergency personnel. This new offense is a Class A misdemeanor unless the prosecutor can show that you’ve been convicted of this same offense in the past.


NEW OFFENSE: Article 42.0601, Texas Penal Code – Swatting (False Report to Induce Emergency Response)
Senate Bill 1056: Summary of the legislation

Text of the new law:

(a) A person commits an offense if:

(1) the person makes a report of a criminal offense or an emergency or causes a report of a criminal offense or an
emergency to be made to a peace officer, law enforcement agency, 9-1-1 service as defined by Section 771.001, Health and Safety Code, official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies, or any other governmental employee or contractor who is authorized to receive reports of a criminal offense or emergency;
(2) the person knows that the report is false;
(3) the report causes an emergency response from a law enforcement agency or other emergency responder; and
(4) in making the report or causing the report to be made, the person is reckless with regard to whether the emergency response by a law enforcement agency or other emergency responder may directly result in bodily injury to another person.

PENALTY: A violation of the Swatting statute is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a range of punishment of 0-365 days in jail and a fine up to $4,000. The offense is enhanced to a State Jail Felony if the actor has been convicted of the same offense twice before. The offense is enhanced to the 3rd Degree Felony if a person is killed or seriously injured as a result of the false emergency call and response.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The Swatting law went into effect on 9/1/21.

SPONSORS: Senate Bill 1056 was a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Joan Huffman (R) and Representative Eugene Wu (D). It was approved by both the Senate and the House in unanimous votes.

New Criminal Laws 2021

Texas Legislature Update: New Criminal Laws 2021

By | Legislative Update

New Criminal Laws 2021The 2021 Texas legislative session has now closed and there were several updates to our criminal statutes. Below are some of the more notable changes or additions to Texas criminal laws that took effect on September 1, 2021:

Constitutional Carry – HB 1927

All Texans over the age of 21 are now able to carry a handgun in public without a license or training as long as they are not prohibited from possessing a gun by state or federal law. In addition, the carrying a firearm while intoxicated is now a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine, and the carrying a firearm in a vehicle by a gang member is now a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. HB 1927 also allows a peace officer to disarm a citizen at any time if they believe it is necessary to protect the individual, the officer, or another person. The officer, however, must return the handgun before leaving the scene if the officer determines the person was not a threat and didn’t commit a violation. Finally, HB 1927 allows for the expungement of records for those previously convicted of Unlawful Carrying a Weapon before September 1, 2021.

Obstructing Emergency Vehicles – HB 9

HB 9 makes it a state jail felony to knowingly block an emergency vehicle with its lights and sirens on or to obstruct access to a hospital or health care facility. This offense is punishable by six months to two years behind bars and a maximum $10,000 fine. Individuals convicted of this offense are required to spend at least 10 days in jail, even if they are sentenced to probation.

False Reporting to Induce Emergency Response – SB 1056

SB 1056 makes it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine, to falsely report a crime or an emergency to elicit an emergency response from law enforcement or other emergency responders. The charge becomes a state jail felony, punishable by six months to two years in state jail, if the defendant has been previously convicted twice of the offense and a third-degree felony, punishable by two or ten years in prison, if a person is seriously injured or killed as a result of the emergency response.

Enhancement for Reckless Driving Exhibition – SB 1495

SB 1495 heightens the penalty for obstructing a highway or passageway from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine, for an individual who engages in a reckless driving exhibition. SB 1495 enhances the penalty to a state jail felony for a person who has been previously convicted of this offense, a person who operates a vehicle while intoxicated, or who causes someone to suffer bodily injury.

Harassment Extension to Social Media Posts – SB 530

SB 530 makes it a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine, to harass another person by publishing repeated electronic communications on a website with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, torment, or embarrass that person. The penalty, however, can be increased to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine, if the actor has been previously convicted of the offense or it if involved a child under age 18 with the intent to cause the child serious bodily injury or to commit suicide.

Silencer Legalization – HB 957

HB 957 removes firearm silencers from the list of weapons that are prohibited in Texas. In addition, firearms suppressors that are manufactured and remain in Texas are not subject to federal law or regulation.
Enhanced Punishment for Offenses against Public Servants – HB 624
HB 624 increases the penalty by one level for people who commit an offense against someone whom they know is a public servant or against a member of the public servant’s household or family. The increased punishments apply to arson, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, breach of computer security, harassment, stalking, or fraudulent use of possession of identifying information.

Enhanced Punishment for Offenses against Public Servants – HB 624

HB 624 increases the penalty by one level for people who commit an offense against someone whom they know is a public servant or against a member of the public servant’s household or family. The increased punishments apply to arson, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, breach of computer security, harassment, stalking, or fraudulent use of possession of identifying information.

Texas Cyberbullying Law | David's Law

Texas’ New Cyberbullying Law | Cyberbullying Offense 9/1/17

By | Legislative Update

David’s Law | New Cyberbullying Law in Texas

Texas Cyberbullying Law | David's LawOn June 9, 2016, the Governor signed SB 179 into effect—otherwise known as David’s law. David’s law, named after David Molak, a 16 year-old boy who committed suicide after relentless cyberbullying, was created in an effort to punish such reprehensible actions. In 2011, lawmakers added the term “cyberbullying” to the Texas Education Code under the bullying section. However, this provision did not create any legal punishment for cyberbullying. It only required school districts to develop their own policies to prevent and intervene in such cases. David’s law changes this by amending the Education Code regarding bullying to include cyberbullying as a criminal offense.

Full Text of new Cyberbullying Law

What is Bullying?

Bullying is a significant act(s) by one or more students directed at exploiting another student and involves any verbal or written statement, electronic communication, or physical act that results in:

  • physical harm to a student;
  • damaging a student’s property; or,
  • causing a student reasonable fear of harm.

Bullying also occurs when there is ongoing, severe, and persistent statements or physical acts that create an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for a student. Furthermore, cyberbullying includes such conduct that substantially interferes with a student’s education, substantially disrupts school, or infringes the rights of the victim at school.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying occurs when a person uses any electronic communication device to engage in any type of bullying described above. Relevant communications include, for example, statements made through social media outlets or text messages.

Where does Bullying/Cyberbullying have to Occur?

David’s law applies to bullying that takes place on school property, during any school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the school district (i.e. a bus). Additionally, David’s law includes cyberbullying that occurs off campus and outside of a school-sponsored or related activity if:

  • it interferes with a student’s educational opportunities; or,
  • substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a classroom, school, or school-sponsored or school-related activity.

What are the School’s Responsibilities?

Schools must install a way for students to report bullying/cyberbullying anonymously. Additionally, upon receiving a report, school officials must report the incident to the alleged victim’s parents within three business days and to the alleged bully’s parents within a reasonable time.

Furthermore, under David’s law a school may, but has no legal obligation to, report conduct constituting assault or harassment to the police. A report may include both the name and the address of each student believed to be involved.

Cyberbullying will be classified as a Class B misdemeanor beginning September 1, 2017. However, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor, if the offender has been previously convicted of cyberbullying or if the bullying was done to a victim under 18 years-old with the intent that the minor commit suicide or self inflict serious injury to themselves. Additionally, a student charged with cyberbullying can face administrative sanctions such as expulsion or alternative schooling.

A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.

Texas Police Protection Act

New Law To Increase Penalties for Violence Against Police Officers

By | Legislative Update, Police Violence

Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, Proposes Police Protection Act, Which Would Stiffen the Punishment for Violence Against Law Enforcement

Texas Police Protection ActOn Monday, Governor Greg Abbott called on both citizens and Texas lawmakers to get behind his proposed Police Protection Act in the 2017 legislative session. “While our state and the nation continue to mourn the heroes lost in Dallas, it is time for us to unite as Texans to say no more,” says Governor Abbott. The proposed legislation will strengthen penalties against those who are convicted of crimes where police officers are the target. Just this month alone, five Dallas police officers have been fatally shot and nine others injured when a shooter targeted police following a public demonstration. This past weekend, three Baton Rouge police officers were gunned down by a shooter who was also targeting law enforcement officers.

The purpose of the Police Protection Act (the “Act”) is to “make clear to anyone targeting law enforcement officials that their actions will be met with severe justice.” Under the proposed Act, Governor Abbott will extend hate crime protections to law enforcement officers, increase criminal penalties for any crime in which the victim is a law enforcement officer, whether or not the crime qualifies as a hate crime, and create a culture of respect for law enforcement by organizing a campaign to educate young Texans on the value that law enforcement officers bring to their communities, among other provisions. “At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the State will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” says Governor Abbott.

Governor Abbott’s proposed Act would make the police a protected class, where penalties for those perpetrating crimes against law enforcement would be increased incrementally. For example, assaults on police officers could be reclassified from Class C felonies to Class B felonies, and so on. Further, the Act will support efforts by Texas State Senator, John Coryn, and his proposed “Back the Blue Act,” which makes it a federal crime to kill, attempt to kill, or aspire to kill a police officer.

In recent weeks, lawmakers in other states have also made legislative provisions that protect police in the wake of the officer-targeted shootings. In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill into law this week that makes dashcam video and bodycam footage exempt from public record, except under narrow sets of circumstances. In May, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill into law that makes an assault on veterans, police officers, emergency responders, and firefighters a possible hate crime. Louisianans convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes against officers will be fined $500 and face an additional sentence of up to six months.

In Texas, word of Governor Abbott’s proposed Act is already gaining favorable ground. Grimes County Sheriff Donald Sewell emphatically states, “The Sheriff’s Association of Texas is very pleased to hear our Governor is behind an effort to protect peace officers across our state…and we support our Governor. We look forward to working with the Governor during the 2017 legislative session to pass these important protections.” Dallas Police Association President, Rob Pinkston, echoes Sewell, saying “The Dallas Police Association applauds Governor Abbott’s bold plan in response to the recent wave of attacks on police officers.”

About the violence on law enforcement, Governor Abbott tweeted, “Texas is saying no more,” and, “We must unite and strengthen our commitment to protect law enforcement.” Ray Hunt, President of the Houston Police Officer’s Association says, “Governor Abbott’s solution is the right approach for Texas law enforcement officers and the people of Texas who support them.” Texas lawmakers will review the Police Protection Act in the 2017 legislative session, which begins January 10, 2017.



Texas Penal Code Fort Worth Criminal Attorneys

Criminal Law Legislative Updates 2013

By | Legislative Update

Texas Penal Code Fort Worth Criminal AttorneysBelow is a summary of the most recent Texas legislative updates 2013 as they relates to Criminal Law:

– In an attempt to reduce wrongful convictions in Texas, Senate Bill 1611 requires prosecutors to open their files to defendants and keep records of evidence they disclose. While the United States Supreme Court has long required prosecutors to disclose evidence that is “material either to guilt or punishment,” Senate Bill 1611 requires disclosure of not only all police reports and witness statements, but also any other evidence that is material to any matter regardless of whether such evidence is “material to guilt or punishment.”

Senate Bill 344 allows courts to overturn convictions in cases where the forensic science that originally led to the verdict has changed. During an appeals process, Senate Bill 344 authorizes courts to grant relief on applications for writs of habeas corpus if there is currently available relevant scientific evidence that was not available at the time of conviction. The current relevant scientific evidence is only admissible if the evidence was not ascertainable through reasonable diligence at the time of trial.

Senate Bill 1238 authorizes the Texas Forensic Science Commission to investigate unaccredited forensic disciplines such as arson, fingerprinting, breath-alcohol testing, ballistic examinations, and unaccredited entities.

House Bill 1847 requires prosecutors to complete at least one hour of ethics training relating to the duty to disclose exculpatory and mitigating evidence.

Under Senate Bill 825, an exoneree is permitted to file a grievance up to four years following release from prison against a prosecutor alleged to have violated the ethics rule regarding the duty to disclose. This bill further prohibits a private reprimand for such a violation.

– In an effort to reduce the possibility of a false confession being admitted at trial by a person who does not speak or understand English, House Bill 2090 requires that a written statement by an accused be in the language that he or she can read and understand before it can be admitted as evidence in a criminal proceeding.

– Upon a second conviction for a “sexually violent offense” against a child under the age of 14, House Bill 1302 requires an automatic life sentence in prison without parole. Furthermore, House Bill 1302 specifically prohibits registered sex offenders from working at amusement parks or seeking employment as cab, bus, or limousine drivers.

Under Senate Bill 124, the offense of Tampering With A Governmental Record is enhanced from a Class A misdemeanor to a 3rd Degree Felony if the governmental record was a public school record, report, or state-mandated assessment instrument. If the actor’s intent was to defraud or harm another, the offense is enhanced instead to a 2nd Degree Felony.

– In an effort to address human trafficking, House Bill 8 enhances all Prostitution offenses from a Class B misdemeanor to a 2nd Degree Felony if the person solicited is younger than 18, regardless of whether the actor knew the age of the person solicited at the time of the offense. House Bill 8 also significantly alters the definition of the crime of Possession of Child Pornography. Accordingly, a person commits the crime of Possession of Child Pornography if they knowingly or intentionally “access with the intent to view” child pornography.

– If the underlying official proceeding in a criminal case involves family violence, Senate Bill 1360 enhances the penalty to the greater of a 3rd Degree Felony or the most serious offense charged in the criminal case. Senate Bill 1360 also provides a statutory forfeiture-by-wrongdoing provision, which specifies that a party to any criminal case, who causes a witness to be unavailable for trial through his wrongful acts, forfeits the right to object to the admissibility of evidence or statements based on the unavailability of the witness.

Senate Bill 275 enhances the penalty for the offense of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in the death of a person from a 3rd Degree Felony to a 2nd Degree Felony. – Upon conviction for a 1st Degree Felony Engaging in Organized Crime offense, Senate Bill 549 enhances the minimum penalty from five to fifteen years in prison. In addition, there is an automatic life sentence without parole upon conviction of Engaging in Organized Crime if the underlying offense is an Aggravated Sexual Assault and the defendant is 18 or older and the victim was either younger than six; or if the victim was younger than 14 and the person caused serious bodily injury or placed the victim in fear of death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping; or if the victim is younger than 17 and suffered serious bodily injury.

House Bill 2539 places a duty on computer technicians to immediately report the discovery of an image on a computer that is or appears to be child pornography. It is a Class B misdemeanor offense if the computer technician fails to make such report.

Senate Bill 12 suspends evidentiary Rules 404 and 405 in trials for certain sex offenses by allowing the admission of evidence during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial regarding a separate enumerated sex offense that the defendant has committed. While evidentiary Rules 404 and 405 prohibit the use of evidence of a person’s character or character trait to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait, Senate Bill 12 allows such evidence for any bearing the evidence has on relevant matters, including the character of the defendant and acts performed in conformity with the character of the defendant. Senate Bill 12 further requires the trial judge to make a determination that the defendant committed the separate offense beyond a reasonable doubt prior to the introduction of this evidence and outside the presence of the jury.

Senate Bill 2 was passed in an effort to address the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders (those under the age of 18). This posed a unique issue for 17 year olds in Texas, who are treated as adults and not juveniles. Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 2, the only punishment available for an individual (17 and older) who was convicted of capital murder was either an automatic life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. In an effort to address the unconstitutionality of this punishment on those younger than 18, Senate Bill 2 provides that an individual younger than 18 who is convicted of capital murder be punished with an automatic life sentence in prison with the possibility of parole.

House Bill 434 expands the list of those who are authorized to draw blood from an individual during a DWI investigation. Under previous law, only a physician, qualified technician, chemist, registered nurse, or licensed vocational nurse was authorized to take a blood specimen at the request or order of a peace officer for purposes of intoxication-related offenses. Now, the list of those authorized to draw blood also includes emergency medical technicians and paramedics. This bill allows for a person’s blood to be drawn without having to transport the individual to a separate facility, such as a hospital, during an intoxication-related investigation.

House Bill 1862 removes switchblade knives from Texas’ prohibited-weapons statute. There are no longer criminal consequences to possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing, or selling a switchblade knife.

Senate Bill 821 brings Texas law up to date by adding “hot drafts” to “hot checks” statutes to allow prosecution of those who pay with hot drafts by adding “sight order,” along with checks, for purposes of theft by check to allow prosecution for insufficiently funded electronic transfers or “hot drafts.”

If you have a question about how these changes in the law might affect your criminal case, please call us at (817) 993-9249.

Texas Penal Code Fort Worth Criminal Attorneys

New Criminal Laws in Texas 2011

By | Legislative Update

This month’s Texas Bar Journal alerts us to a few new criminal laws in Texas that our elected officials have just added to the books.  Below are some of the more interesting (imo) additions:

Bath Salts – House Bill 2118 outlaws the possession of bath salts, or the chemicals contained in bath salts.  Apparently, folks were using bath salts as alternatives to cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.  This is now a felony offense.

Spice – Senate Bill 331similarly bans the possession of synthetic marijuana (i.e. “K2” or “Spice”).  Depending on the quantity of the substance possessed, this new offense will be a Class B misdemeanor up to a first-degree felony.

Sexting for Minors – Under Senate Bill 407, Texas teenagers that send naked photographs via text message will no longer be deemed to have sent “child pornography.”  Sexting will now be considered a Class C misdemeanor for a first offense.