Contractor Fraud Texas Tarrant

My Contractor Pulled a Houdini! Now what? | Construction Fraud Under Texas Law

By | Fraud

Contractor Fraud Texas TarrantHave you sustained property damage in a powerful storm? If so, you probably had to call a contractor to do necessary repairs. It is sometimes customary in the construction industry for contractors to ask homeowners to pay for some of the work up front, and pay the remaining balance upon completion. Some contractors will ask you to fork over a hefty deposit to someone you do not know, yet you are trusting to get the job done. You are not alone. The good news is that most contractors will operate above the board. Even though social media reviews and ratings sites, such as Angie’s List, are sensible ways of vetting contractors and service providers in 2020, they cannot predict future white collar crimes perpetrated by individuals who are focused on scamming construction deposits out of desperate homeowners.

What Happens if Your Contractor is a Crook? | Construction Fraud in Tarrant County

What legal remedies are available to homeowners in Texas when a contractor pulls a Houdini, vanishing into thin air, cash in hand, without completing the repair work? Contractual breach is the most common civil cause of action. Generally, a contractual breach occurs when (1) there is an existing contractual agreement that is (2) performed (paid for) by one party, yet (3) the other party did not perform as agreed to, which (4) caused damages to the performing (paying) party. Material breach of a roofing contract may occur without intention, when a contractor takes too long to complete a project, or perhaps uses substandard materials, for example. This civil cause of action addresses the damages to the individual, but does not hold the wrongdoer accountable in a criminal court.

So what about those instances in which a scammer intentionally preys upon homeowners in the hopes of pocketing the cash and skipping town? Is this a criminal act?

Construction Fraud Prosecutions in Texas

Tarrant County, Texas has recently begun focusing prosecution efforts on contractor fraud. Homeowners in Tarrant County may call their local police agency to make an initial report. Additionally, homeowners may call the Tarrant County District Attorney’s White Collar Crime and Public Integrity Unit, created by Sharen Wilson, the District Attorney in Tarrant County. Wilson stated in a recent news article, “Construction fraud is a crime, and our citizens need to be protected from it.

When homeowners call the DA’s office, they will talk with a representative to see if the wrongdoing rises to the level of a complaint. If a complaint is filed, the DA’s office reviews the facts of the complaint for potential prosecutable offenses based on a variety of legal theories in criminal law. If the DA’s office finds elements of criminality, an investigation ensues which may result in criminal charges for the wrongdoer.

Construction Fraud Under the Texas Penal Code

The Texas Penal Code does not specifically provide a code section for construction or contractor fraud crimes. What are some of the legal theories and statutes the DA’s office is using to go after these home repair Houdinis? The Tarrant County DA’s office has prosecuted construction and roofing contractors who have absconded with the funds for misappropriation of fiduciary property, theft, insurance fraud, and elder financial abuse, to name a few.

Recently, the Tarrant County DA’s White Collar Crime Team prosecuted a man for theft from elderly victims. For his crimes, this man received three years in jail and an order to make restitution of $77,000.00 to his elderly victims. On multiple occasions, the man used aliases to approach homeowners in the mid-cities and Fort Worth areas, soliciting demolition and repair work. He accepted large sums of money, but never completed the work, or, did substandard work.

In January of 2019, another man pled guilty to Theft of $150,000- $300,000, for scamming 41 residents in the Arlington, North Richland Hills, and Mansfield areas, out of funds they paid him for roofing repairs. This man’s scheme involved sending employees door-to-door to sign customers up for repairs. The employees took checks from the victims, but the roofing work never began. As part of his plea agreement, the man was ordered pay the victims $230,000.00 in restitution.

Each of these types of cases is fact-specific and context-laden. Tarrant County has decided to take a strong stand against construction fraud. “We have made it a priority to put white-collar criminals on notice in Tarrant County—we will not tolerate scammers preying on our residents,” says Matt Smid, chief of the DA’s White Collar Crime Team. The county has also taken steps to provide the public with information regarding scams and fraud that is targeted at seniors. If you feel that you have been a victim of contractor fraud, you do have some options in Tarrant County.

Special Note to Attorneys who represent victims or perpetrators of constructions scams, implicating civil and criminal causes of action: Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 4.04(b) states that a lawyer shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present criminal charges solely to gain advantage in a civil matter. According to the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, “giving notice required by law or applicable rules of practice, or procedure as a prerequisite to instituting criminal charges, does not violate the Rule, unless the underlying criminal charges were made without probable cause.

Scholarship Winners BHW

2020 BHW Scholarship Winners | Veteran Law Student & Military Dependent

By | Scholarship

Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC Announces the Recipients of the 2020 Scholarship Awards

BHW Scholarship WinnersThis was the 5th year for our law firm to offer scholarships. In honor of the sacrifices of our military veterans, we decided to that the scholarships should be connected to military service. The first scholarship is a $500 award for a Military Veteran Law Student and the second scholarship is a $500 award for a Military Dependent undergraduate student. Throughout the year, we received several applications from very deserving students. We appreciate all of the students that took the time to apply for the scholarships and wish them all the best in their studies. For those students that were not selected, we invite you to apply again next year as we plan to continue the scholarship offers as an annual award.

2020 Winner – Military Veteran Law Student Scholarship

The winner of the 2020 Military Veteran Law Student Scholarship is:

MATTHEW DUBRON

Matthew Dubron is a US Army veteran that served in the 82nd Airborne. Mr. Dubron currently attends Creighton University Law School. Congratulations Matthew Dubron. Best wishes as you continue toward your law degree.

2020 Winner – Military Dependent Scholarship

The winner of the 2020 Military Dependent Undergraduate Scholarship is:

KEVIN ARELLANO

Kevin Arellano is an Army dependent whose father served father served for over 20 years. Mr. Arellano currently attends the University of Texas at Austin and is pursuing a degree in neuroscience and biology. Congratulations Kevin Arellano. Best wishes as you continue in your studies.

More Information About Our Scholarship Opportunities:

For more information about how to apply for these scholarships in future years, please visit the scholarship pages:

Military Veteran Law Student Scholarship

Military Dependent Scholarship

Car accident Police Report

What if I Didn’t Get a Police Report for My Car Wreck?

By | Car Wreck, Personal Injury

Do I still have a case if the police didn’t make a report on my car wreck?

Car accident Police ReportMany people involved in motor vehicle collisions may not have police or accident reports documenting the specifics of the wreck. Sometimes it could be because the wreck was not reported and the police were never called. Other times, the police may have been called but simply did not respond. Law enforcement agencies often lack the resources to respond to each and every car wreck that occurs in their jurisdiction. More and more police agencies are putting policies into place that do not require them to respond to what the agency deems a “minor” wreck. The problem is that sometimes a wreck that law enforcement deems “minor” may actually have major long-term consequences (and injuries) for the individuals involved.

What can I do if the police never made a report of my accident?

If you are involved in one of these types of wrecks, and there was no accident report filed with the police, you can still have a valid personal injury case. Regardless of the reason, you may find that you do have a legitimate case and still need to file a personal injury lawsuit to be fairly compensated for your injuries. Having a police report can be an advantage when filing a personal injury lawsuit, but even without one it is possible to file and win your case.

Other Ways to Investigate

Police reports are helpful because they provide the parties and the court with relevant facts about the accident based on the observations of unbiased law enforcement officers. But, police officers are not the only people who can provide evidence demonstrating that the other party was negligent. A private investigator can help too.

When necessary, our personal injury attorneys work with private investigators to collect evidence about cases, find and contact witnesses, and gather information to determine which party was at fault in an accident. You will not be required to pay for these services up front. The cost for these services will most likely be presented as an expense that will be deducted from the total sum of your award or settlement.

Other Sources of Information

In addition to an accident report as well as witness testimony, other documents and materials can also be gathered as evidence of your injuries and their cost. These include medical records, videos, photos and other relevant documents. Your attorney can help you obtain these records and reports during the investigation and discovery stage of your case. These documents can help to build up a solid evidentiary basis for your case that your attorney will use to negotiate a settlement or represent you in court.

Your Own Statement

You are most often your best witness. You were present when the wreck occurred and personally went through it. It is always in your best interest to first provide an account of what happened to your attorney directly. Communications between an attorney and client are confidential, so before speaking with anyone about your case you should consult with your attorney regarding what you should or should not disclose and to whom. It is best to retain one of our attorneys so that we can speak confidentially about your case and determine the best course of action to proceed.

Ultimately, it is important to put together an accurate and coherent account of what occurred. Being injured in an accident is almost always a very emotional experience. Your attorney can help you establish a timeline of the events that is logical and provides a clear picture of how the accident happened and the injuries that resulted from it. This can be very similar to the type of narrative that the police would provide if they had written a report.

If you were seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision, and there is no police report, don’t worry. You may still have a very valid case for which fair recovery for your injuries can be obtained. Our experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers can help you determine the best course of action in these situations.

UM UIM Claims Texas

UM/UIM Insurance: When the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance is Not Enough

By | Insurance, Personal Injury

UM UIM Claims TexasTexas law is clear that every driver must maintain financial responsibility (auto insurance). But, the truth of the matter is that there are thousands of drivers on Texas roads who are underinsured with a minimum policy or not insured at all. What this means is that if you are hit and injured in a car wreck by one of these uninsured or underinsured drivers, you may have to use your own insurance to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, lost ability to work and/or other damages.

What can you do to protect yourself if you are injured in an accident caused by an underinsured or uninsured driver?

We recommend that you carry a significant amount of uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) protection insurance. These policies, which typically only cost you a few dollars per month, ensure that if you are injured by an underinsured or uninsured motorist you and your attorney will have a policy to pursue to properly compensate you for your injuries.

What are the minimum requirements of insurance in Texas and what else can you do to protect yourself?

Texas law requires that a driver have at least $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person, and a total of $60,000 per accident. Insurance companies also offer an option called personal injury protection (PIP). While some states require that drivers carry PIP, Texas does not. PIP is an additional option that provides coverage specifically for injuries sustained in a car wreck. Most people carry $2,500 in coverage under their PIP – this is the minimum coverage required to be “offered” in Texas when you purchase an auto insurance policy. PIP not only pays medical bills but, 80% of your lost income and reasonable household duties. You can purchase even higher limits of PIP through your insurance company and you should get as much PIP coverage as you can. Most insurance companies will sell you at least $10,000 in coverage under PIP, some even more.

Ultimately, if you are injured in a car wreck, your own PIP insurance would be the first policy to pay towards your damages before you can start to pursue the driver’s insurance who hit you.

Why the minimum coverage (and PIP) typically aren’t enough.

Often times, when you’re seriously injured, using your PIP and having the minimum amount of coverage to go after against the driver who hit you just isn’t enough. This is especially (and obviously) the case if the at-fault driver is uninsured. This is where your UIM/UM policy kicks in. If you don’t have UIM/UM coverage under your own policy, then you could be out of luck.

With UM and UIM insurance, claims that exceed your own PIP and the at-fault driver’s insurance will be covered up to the limits of your UM/UIM policy. Because of the vast amount of driver’s in Texas who are either underinsured or uninsured, in many cases UM/UIM policies are one of the only coverages available for your attorney to seek to compensate you for your injuries.

Do you need an attorney for UM/UIM cases?

Yes you do. First and foremost, you need an advocate to make sure you’re getting the most out of your claim against the at-fault driver. But if the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured and you have UM/UIM coverage, that doesn’t just mean that your own insurance company is going to automatically hand over the limits of your own UM/UIM policy.

When a driver seeks to be compensated out of their own UM/UIM coverage, they are often times still met with resistance by their own insurance company. The insurance company will still do what they can to pay you as little as possible (they’re a business and unfortunately, you’re often times still treated more like a number than an injured person). An attorney’s job is to break this mentality and advocate for you to be treated fairly and be taken seriously by these insurance companies – not just treated as another number in their computer programs.

What can you do if your own insurance company is not fairly compensating you under your UM/UIM policy?

The first step is to retain our firm to represent you. We’ll advocate for you and work to maximize your claim not only against the at-fault driver’s insurance company but with your insurance provider as well if you’re covered under a UM/UIM policy. Ultimately, if negotiations do not produce a fair offer from your insurance company, you may even bring suit to pursue a fair outcome against your UM/UIM policy.

To speak with an attorney about insurance policies that might be available in your case – including UM/UIM coverage – please contact our office for a free initial consultation.

Best Tarrant County Car Accident Attorney

Uber Lyft Accident Claim Liability Texas

Suing Uber and Lyft for the Accidents of their Drivers

By | Car Wreck

Uber Lyft Accident Claim Liability TexasRideshare companies like Lyft and Uber have risen to prominence over the last several years, grabbing a sizable market share from traditional taxi cab and town car companies. Additionally, there has been a surge in food delivery services (like DoorDash) and contract delivery drivers for Amazon. With more and more of these companies offering rides and deliveries from their part-time drivers, we are also seeing accidents involving the drivers for these companies. These accidents can sometimes have confusing liability issues that accompany them. It is important to know how to proceed and what you are entitled to if you are involved in an accident with a rideshare driver, as a passenger or another driver.

Can You Sue the Rideshare company? Who is Liable in a Lyft or Uber Accident?

As with most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Liability for an Uber or Lyft accident will depend upon whether the driver is logged on to his rideshare company’s app, and if so, whether the driver is waiting for a ride request or actively giving a ride or making a delivery. The Texas Insurance Code Chapter 1954 requires rideshare drivers to carry specific insurance policies that provide coverage regardless of their activity, so you will need to ascertain a few facts before you determine your course of action.

Was the Driver Logged on to the Rideshare App?

If the driver was NOT logged onto the ridesharing app, then the driver’s personal insurance will be responsible for covering the driver in the event of an accident. There generally will not be any ramifications for the rideshare company, and no real reason to pursue any claims against them. Of course, we would need many more facts to determine the exact course of action. If the driver is logged on to the rideshare app, you will need to determine whether they are in-between rides, or actively participating in a ride.

Was the Driver in-between Rides When the Accident Happened?

This is the largest gray area in the new insurance law. While coverage is required, there is no requirement regarding who must cover the driver. Many insurance companies exclude coverage on drivers using their personal vehicles for ridesharing purposes, and rideshare companies are hesitant to provide the additional coverage since they are not required to by law. Ridesharedashboard.com lays out the coverage options in Texas, pointing out that currently, only GEICO and Farmer’s offer coverage to both Uber and Lyft drivers, while MetLife will cover Lyft drivers only, and Allstate is currently working on their rideshare policy.

Nonetheless, the Texas Insurance Code Sec. 1954.052 requires rideshare drivers to be covered by a 50/100/25 policy. This means that they must be covered up to $50,000 for bodily injury or death of each person in an incident, $100,000 for bodily injury or death of a person per incident, and $25,000 for damage or destruction of property of others. This is a higher level of coverage than the standard 30/60/25 policy required for Texas drivers. This should not be an issue as drivers are required to notify their insurance provider if they are driving for a rideshare company. However, it will be very important to determine who is covering the driver in the event of an accident. Fortunately, there is a safeguard in Sec. 1954.054 that requires the rideshare company to cover claims in the event the driver’s policy has lapsed or does not cover the claim. If you find yourself in this situation, please get as much information from the driver as possible and contact an attorney immediately.

For driver’s logged onto the rideshare app but currently in-between rides:

  • Uber Provides: 50/100/25 coverage for its drivers and can supplement the personal policy
  • Lyft Provides: 50/100/25 coverage in the event a driver’s personal policy does not cover this much.

Was the Lyft or Uber Driver Engaged in a Ride?

The term “engaged in a ride” can mean two things: either the driver was on his way to pick up a passenger, or the driver currently had a passenger in the car. If the driver involved in the accident was currently engaged in a ride, that driver MUST be covered by a $1 million coverage policy according to Texas law. Recent legislative action in many states has pushed for this coverage, influencing these companies to adopt these insurance policies. Should you be involved in an accident with an engaged rideshare driver, whether as passenger or third party, this insurance should provide coverage for damages caused by the driver.

For drivers “engaged in a ride:”

  • Uber Provides:
    • $1 million coverage for damages caused by driver
    • $1 million coverage for damage done by an under/uninsured motorist
    • Supplemental coverage for collision and comprehensive personal policies
    • These will cover the rider if a rider is in the car with the Uber driver
  • Lyft Provides:
    • Lyft will take over as primary provider
    • $1 million coverage for damages caused by driver
    • $1 million coverage for damage done by an under/uninsured motorist
    • Supplemental coverage for collision and comprehensive personal policies

What Should You Do if You are Involved in an Accident with a Rideshare Driver?

  1. Get to a safe place and call 911. Safety and health are the first priority.
  2. Take pictures of the accident and surroundings.
  3. Get the names, phone numbers, addresses of everyone involved and any witnesses.
  4. Get the name of the rideshare driver, determine whether they were logged on to the rideshare app, whether he/she was engaged in a ride, and get a picture of the insurance policy
    • Under Sec. 1954.056b, the drivers are required to provide this information in the case of an accident
    • If you are the passenger of a rideshare when the accident occurs, screenshot the app on your phone
  5. Call your attorney.

 

To review companies’ insurance policies, click on their Logo below:

Uber Accident Coverage TexasLyft Driver Liability in Texas

Fireworks Laws Texas Keller Southlake

Fireworks Laws in Texas | Could a Sparkler Really Cost You $2,000?

By | Criminal Defense

Do Not Lose Your Liberty on Independence Day

Fireworks Laws Texas Keller SouthlakeIndependence Day is right around the corner. You will probably start seeing the notices spread across social media from local police departments, warning that setting off fireworks (including sparklers) is illegal inside of city limits. We know that you’re probably going to do it anyway, but we wanted to let you know what Texas law provides regarding fireworks on the 4th of July.

Texas Fireworks Law | Are Sparklers Illegal Inside of City Limits?

While state law in Texas permits possessing and using fireworks, it’s important to note that where and when a person can possess them is still highly regulated. There are State laws that limit the use and display of fireworks but use is predominantly regulated by way of city ordinances.

Specifically, under state law, a person may not:

  1. Explode or ignite fireworks within 600 feet of any church, a hospital other than a veterinary hospital, an asylum, a licensed child care center, or a public or private primary or secondary school or institution of higher education unless the person receives authorization in writing from that organization;
  2. Sell at retail, explode, or ignite fireworks within 100 feet of a place where flammable liquids or flammable compressed gasses are stored and dispensed;
  3. Explode or ignite fireworks within 100 feet of a place where fireworks are stored or sold;
  4. Ignite or discharge fireworks in or from a motor vehicle;
  5. Place ignited fireworks in, or throw ignited fireworks at, a motor vehicle;
  6. Conduct a public fireworks display that includes Fireworks 1.3G unless the person is a licensed pyrotechnic operator;
  7. Conduct a proximate display of fireworks that includes Fireworks 1.3G or Fireworks 1.4G as defined in NFPA 1126 Standards for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience unless the person is a licensed pyrotechnic special effects operator and has the approval of the local fire prevention officer; or
  8. Sell, store, manufacture, distribute, or display fireworks except as provided by this chapter or rules adopted by the commissioner under this chapter.

Texas Occupations Code, Subchapter F, Sec. 2154.251

These violations are Class C Misdemeanors, which can be punishable by a fine up to $500.

Fireworks licensing violations are Class B Misdemeanors which can result in a jail term up to 180 days and a fine not to exceed $2,000.

Fireworks City Ordinances | Local Fireworks Rules in Fort Worth, Keller, and Southlake

In addition to State law, most cities in Texas regulate the use and display of fireworks by way of specific city ordinances. For example, Fort Worth, Texas has enacted an ordinance making the sale, discharge or possession of fireworks within the incorporated city limits a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000.00 fine. Similar ordinances exist in Keller and Southlake, and most other Texas cities.

Before your celebrations, it’s always best to review the above regulations under the Texas Occupations Code and check your local city ordinances online to ensure that you’re legally possessing, using and displaying fireworks.

SBA Loans Criminal History

SBA Loans Limitations Based on Criminal History

By | Criminal Defense

Can I apply for an SBA Loan if I have a criminal history?

SBA Loans Criminal HistoryCountless small businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Government has several different loan programs offered through the Small Business Administration aimed at helping small business get through the crisis and maintain jobs for their employees. Many of the SBA loan programs for the COVID-19 crisis can be found on the SBA website COVID-19 section.

One of the questions that we have received during the last couple of weeks is whether a person with a criminal history can apply for an SBA loan. The answer is…it depends. It depends on the nature of the criminal offense.

What will disqualify me from applying for an SBA loan?

When it comes to criminal history, the following will disqualify a company and make it ineligible for SBA assistance.

If an owner of the company (who owns 20% or more) answers YES to any of the following questions taken from the SBA application, then the company is NOT eligible to apply for SBA assistance:

  • Are you currently incarcerated?
  • Have you been adjudicated for a felony in the preceding 5 years? This includes
    • Felony conviction;
    • Plea of guilty to a felony offense;
    • Plea of nolo contendere (no contest) to a felony;
    • Participating in a pre-trial diversion program for a felony offense;
    • Probation or Deferred Adjudication for a felony offense.
  • Are you currently on probation for a felony or a misdemeanor?
  • Are you currently on parole?
  • Are there pending criminal charges against you that have not yet been adjudicated (felony or misdemeanor)?

*NOTE: There is also a question on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan that asks whether an applicant has been arrested (even if the charge was dismissed) for any criminal offense (other than a minor motor vehicle violation). It is unclear whether an arrest by itself is a disqualifier or just a point of inquiry.

If a 20% (or more) owner answers YES to any of those questions, then the company will not even be able to complete its application for SBA assistance.

In the past, it seemed that the SBA was only concerned with felony criminal history (see 13 CFR 120.110), but the new applications for the COVID relief do not distinguish between felonies and misdemeanors when it comes to either active probationers or individuals with pending charges.  This is especially difficult for individuals that have a pending criminal charge to which they have pleaded not guilty and not yet received their day in court. To sink their business while at the same time presuming them innocent is not in keeping with the spirit of the presumption itself.

Please be reminded that it is a federal offense to falsify a loan application, so please don’t do that.

Paycheck Protection Loan Application

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

COVID-19 State Orders Texas

What Happens if I Refuse to Obey the COVID-19 Orders?

By | Criminal Defense

Texas Legal Consequences During the Coronavirus Pandemic

COVID-19 State Orders TexasWith 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.

Disaster Declaration Texas Criminal Law

Criminal Law Enhancements During a State of Disaster

By | Criminal Defense

Disaster Declaration Texas Criminal LawOn March 13, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in Texas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the purposes of criminal law in Texas, that disaster declaration triggered the provisions of Texas Penal Code (TPC) 12.50.

What are the Criminal Law Implications During a State of Disaster?

In general, TPC 12.50 states that for the offenses listed below, if committed during the declaration of a state of disaster, the punishment level for these offenses is increased to the next higher category for that offense. For example, if a Theft charge would normally be punished as a Class B misdemeanor (0 – 180 days in jail and up to $2,000 fine) then it would be increased to a Class A misdemeanor (0 – 365 days in jail and up to $4,000 fine) if it is committed during the time of the declared disaster.

Specifically, 12.50 applies to the following offenses:

  • Assault and Domestic Violence (TPC 22.01);
  • Arson (TPC 28.02);
  • Robbery (TPC 29.02);
  • Burglary (TPC 30.02);
  • Burglary of Coin-operated or Coin Collection Machines (TPC 30.03)
  • Burglary of Vehicles (TPC 30.04);
  • Criminal Trespass (TPC 30.05); and
  • Theft (TPC 31.03)

TPC 12.50 is limited by the following provisions:

For the offenses of Assault, Burglary of Coin-operated/Coin Collection Machines, Burglary of Vehicles, Criminal Trespass or Theft, if the offense committed would normally punished as a Class A misdemeanor, then during the emergency declaration the minimum term of confinement is increased from 0 to 180 days in a county jail.

For the offenses of Arson, Burglary, and Criminal Trespass, if the offense committed would normally be punished as a First Degree Felony, then there is no enhancement.

Reckless Texas Penal Code

What does Recklessness Mean in Texas Criminal Law?

By | Criminal Defense

Defining “Recklessness” Under the Texas Penal Code

Reckless Texas Penal CodeThere are some criminal offenses that require the state the prove that the defendant acted “recklessly” or with “criminal recklessness.” In a colloquial sense, we (including prosecutors) often think of recklessness as another word for carelessness, but it actually has a specific definition in the Texas Penal Code.

Defining “Recklessness,” Tex. Penal Code Section 6.03(c) states that “a person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist, or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”

What Does the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Say About Recklessness?

Unpacking the legal standard of recklessness, The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reasons that…

“Criminal recklessness must not be confused with (or blended into) criminal negligence, a lesser culpable mental state.” Williams v. State, 235 S.W.3d 742, 751 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). “Criminal negligence depends upon a morally blameworthy failure to appreciate a substantial and unjustifiable risk while recklessness depends upon a more serious moral blameworthiness – the actual disregard of a known substantial and unjustifiable risk.” Id.

Criminal negligence and recklessness differ from one another only in terms of mental state:

  • Criminally negligent defendant “ought to be aware” of a substantial and unjustifiable risk;
  • Reckless defendant is subjectively aware of an identical risk but disregards it

The two prongs of gross negligence or recklessness are:

  • Subjectively, the defendant must have actual awareness of the extreme risk created by his or her conduct.
  • Objectively, the defendant’s conduct must involve an extreme degree of risk (the “extreme risk” prong is not satisfied by a remote possibility of injury or high probability of minor harm, but the likelihood of serious injury to the plaintiff).

Reckless conduct…

  • Is the conscious disregard of the risk created by the actor’s conduct;
  • Mere lack of foresight, stupidity, irresponsibility, thoughtlessness, ordinary carelessness, however, serious the consequences may be, do not suffice to constitute criminal recklessness;
  • Criminal recklessness is of a gross and flagrant character, evincing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects; or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences; or which shows such wantonness or recklessness or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or that reckless indifference to the rights of others, which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them.

Recklessness: Texas Case Law Examples

Williams v. State, 235 S.W.3d 742 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007): The defendant was convicted after her children died in an accidental house fire while her boyfriend was babysitting. The defendant took the children to a house without working utilities and left them under her boyfriend’s care with a candle lit in their bedroom. The court held that there was legally insufficient evidence that defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the children would suffer serious bodily injury in a house fire. The court also said that the defendant’s stupidity did not constitute reckless disregard. The defendant was not criminally responsible for the result

Mills v. State, 742 S.W.2d 831, 1987 Tex. App. LEXIS 9214 (Tex. App. Dallas Dec. 18. 1987, no writ): The defendant’s conviction was upheld where circumstantial evidence supported the conclusion that defendant placed a child in a tub of hot water. The Court found that the jury could reasonably have found defendant acted recklessly with regard to that child’s care in violation of Tex. Penal Code § 6.03(c).

Ehrhardt v. State, No. 06-02-00208-CR, 2003 Tex. App. LEXIS 7248 (Tex. App. Texarkana Aug. 26, 2003): Where the evidence in an assault trial showed defendant struck the victim in the face, the court found that the defendant was reckless as to whether her conduct would result in bodily injury.