Texas Legal Consequences During the Coronavirus Pandemic
With the declaration of a state of disaster in Texas by Governor Greg Abbott on March 13,2020 comes some new consequences that Texas citizens need to be aware of.
We previously posted a blog addressing enhancements that have gone into place for certain criminal offenses. But, there are also new laws activated as a result of state, local and interjurisdictional emergency management plans.
Broadly speaking, Texas Government Code (TGC) 418.173 establishes a penalty for citizens failing to comply with emergency management plans.
Specifically, TGC 418.173 states:
(a) A state, local, or interjurisdictional emergency management plan may provide that failure to comply with the plan or with a rule, order, or ordinance adopted under the plan is an offense.
(b) The plan may prescribe a punishment for the offense but may not prescribe a fine that exceeds $1,000 or confinement in jail for a term that exceeds 180 days.
Most local Texas governments have already established emergency management plans. County Judges in Dallas and Austin, for example, have published their Orders regarding these plans on their local websites and are regularly amending them.
The Emergency Order for Tarrant County can be found here.
It’s important that citizens know that with the disaster declaration in effect, violation of these Orders can result in a person being arrested. For practical purposes, that means that if local government is limiting community gatherings and business closures, a violation of those Orders could result in an arrest.
Information coming from our local government is changing on almost a daily basis now. Check with your local jurisdiction for their emergency management plans and be aware of the consequences of violating those plans.
There are a number of special powers and provisions established with the declaration of a statewide emergency effecting many different areas of law. The full text of the extent of those can be found in Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code.