Legislative Update Archives | Fort Worth Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, and Family Law

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.

DWI Deferred Adjudication Texas

Deferred Adjudication for DWI Offenses in Texas | New Law Effective Sept 1, 2019

By | DWI

Finally, Common Sense Prevails Regarding First-time DWI Offenses

DWI Deferred Adjudication TexasFor years, I’ve had the difficult task of trying to explain to clients facing a first-time DWI charge why their case is treated more harshly under the law than other misdemeanor criminal offenses like assault, prostitution, theft, drug possession, etc. In Texas, you can be charged with one of the latter crimes and have the option of deferred adjudication probation. Deferred adjudication probation has not been an option for DWI offenses in Texas. Until now.

Effective September 1st, 2019, a first-time DWI offense may qualify for deferred adjudication probation in Texas. The Texas legislature passed legislation that was signed into law by Governor Abbott that will amend Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 42A.102(b) and make deferred adjudication probation available for some first-time DWI offenses.

What is Deferred Adjudication Probation?

Deferred adjudication probation typically requires the same terms and conditions as regular probation. So, why is it a better option? In Texas, if you receive regular or “straight” probation, the judge is required to enter a finding of guilt in your case which results in a criminal conviction.

Deferred adjudication probation is different because the judge “defers” that finding of guilt and, if you successfully complete the probation, the case results in a dismissal of the charge. Thus, you avoid the penalties and consequences that result from having a criminal conviction on your record.

The New Provisions are Effective September 1st, 2019 and Are Not Retroactive.

Deferred adjudication probation on first-time DWI offenses will apply ONLY to offenses committed on or after September 1st, 2019. That means all offenses committed prior to that date will be governed by previous law that does not allow deferred adjudication probation for DWI offenses.

Are All DWI Offenses Eligible for Deferred Adjudication Under the New Law?

The new law also limits which types of first-time DWI offenses will qualify. Deferred adjudication will NOT be available for first-time DWI offenses if:

  • If it is adjudicated that your blood or breath alcohol concentration was .15 or higher at the time the analysis was performed (see Texas Penal Code 49.04(d).)
  • You held a commercial license or commercial learner’s permit at the time of the DWI arrest

Also, if you are charged with a subsequent DWI after receiving a previous conviction or convictions for DWI, you are disqualified.

The Interlock Trade-Off

For years, defense attorneys and prosecutors (yes – even prosecutors!) have lobbied for making deferred adjudication probation an option for first-time DWI offenders. However, MADD staunchly opposed the idea. So, what’s changed MADD’s position? MADD agreed to the new law because it makes first-time DWI offenders (who previously were NOT required to have an ignition interlock device as a condition of probation) now have it as a requirement. The new law requires the judge to order the ignition interlock device as a condition of probation if you receive deferred adjudication probation for a DWI offense (see the amendment to Texas Code Crim. Procedure Art. 42A.408(e-1).)

There is, however, an exception to this requirement under TCCP Art. 42A.408(e-2) of the new law. If you submit to a substance abuse evaluation and the judge determines (based on that evaluation) that the ignition interlock requirement is “not necessary for the safety of the community,” then the judge may waive the requirement. This is certainly something you would want to discuss with your attorney.

What Will My Record Look Like if I Receive Deferred Adjudication Probation for a DWI Offense?

Although successful completion of deferred adjudication probation results in a dismissal of the underlying criminal charge, there is still a criminal record that must be addressed following the dismissal. The new law limits your remedy options to a nondisclosure (sealing of the record) and even that is not guaranteed.
You will not qualify for a nondisclosure if:

  • You have previously been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication probation for another offense (other than a traffic offense that is punishable by fine only.)
  • There is sufficient evidence to show that offense resulted in a motor vehicle accident involving another person (including a passenger in the motor vehicle operated by you.)

It’s also worth noting there is a two-year waiting period after discharge from probation to petition the court for a nondisclosure.

Can a Future DWI Arrest Be Enhanced Even if I Wasn’t Convicted on the First One Under the New Law?

If, after your successful completion of deferred adjudication probation and dismissal by the court, you are arrested again for DWI, the new law allows the state to use the prior for enhancement purposes. If your case is dismissed, how can the state use it as a prior conviction? This can make for a candid debate, but, at the end of the day, this was another MADD trade-off conceded by the legislature that you should be aware of when considering long-term consequences of the new law.


If, after September 1st, 2019, you or a loved one are faced with a first-time DWI charge and qualify for deferred adjudication probation, it might appear to be an easy option. However, we can’t stress enough how important it is that you retain a qualified DWI attorney who can analyze your case to determine If the state has enough evidence to prove their case or if there are legal or evidentiary issues present that may prove problematic for the state. The experienced DWI Attorneys at Barnett, Howard & Williams, PLLC are here to help determine what your best options truly are. So, please feel free to give us a call.

Texas CBD Legal 2019

CBD Update: Texas Legislature Clarifies the CBD Issue

By | Drug Crimes

Gov. Greg Abbott has now signed House Bill 1325 into law, clarifying the legality of hemp-derived, low THC CBD products in Texas.

Texas CBD Legal 2019On June 10, 2019, Gov. Abbot signed HB 1325 which modified sections of the Texas Agriculture Code and sections of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

The first major modifications come by way of the Texas Agriculture Code. The code now defines and legalizes “hemp” and establishes a legal production plan for the regulation of hemp and hemp-based products.

The Definition of Hemp

“Hemp” is now defined in in Section 121.001 0f the Texas Agriculture code as

“the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds of the plant and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

This definition is essentially the previous definition of marijuana under the Health and Safety Code but now isolates plants that contain less than .3% THC as being legal “hemp”.

By providing a clear definition of “Hemp” including plants or products that contain .3% THC or less, the legislature has resolved the issue that previously existed making the possession of any amount of THC regardless of it’s origin a felony level offense in Texas.

The Texas Agriculture Code has also been amended to establish a legal production plan for the regulation and sale of hemp and hemp-based products. The Code now establishes a licensing process for businesses looking to grow or sale hemp products.

New Rules for Peace Officers

The amendments to the Code also now give powers and duties to Peace Officers who come into contact with hemp regard to determining whether a plant or substance is marijuana or hemp. Under Sec. 122.358 of the Texas Agriculture Code, a peace officer may now inspect and collect a reasonable sized sample of any material from the plant Cannabis sativa L. found in a vehicle to determine the THC concentration of that material. Unless the officer has probable cause to believe the plant material is marijuana, the peace officer may not seize the plant material or arrest the person transporting the plant material. This would include hemp-derived CBD oil containing .3% THC.

In regards to the Health and Safety Code, HB 1325 has amended the code to exclude hemp (and more importantly the THC in hemp) as defined by Section 121.001 from the definition of a Controlled Substance. The bill also now specifically excludes hemp as defined by Section 121.001 (and the THC in hemp) from the definition of “Marijuana” in Section 481.002 (26) of the Health and Safety Code.

House bill 1325 has significantly clarified the previously confusing state of the law concerning CBD products in Texas. We advise those that are selling, buying or possessing CBD products to read the text of the bill for more details.


Seal Texas DWI Non Disclosure HB 3016

New Texas Law Makes First-Time DWI Convictions Eligible for Sealing

By | DWI

Expanding Eligibility for Orders of Nondisclosure for First-Time DWI and Other Offenses

Seal Texas DWI Non Disclosure HB 3016Let’s face it, a criminal record is not a good thing when it comes to employment opportunities and other things that require a background search. Even when the criminal offense is non-violent and unintentional, like DWI, it can negatively impact a person’s future. Our Texas lawmakers recognized this stigma and did something about it. This past legislative session (2017), Texas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle proposed legislation to help expand the opportunity to seal criminal convictions with an order of non-disclosure.

What is an Order of Non-Disclosure?

Having your record “sealed” is common verbiage used by laypersons. Under Texas law, this is referred to as non-disclosure. Orders of non-disclosure “seal” a criminal record from the eyes of the general public and allow a person to deny such record in most situations. However, the offense will remain visible to law enforcement, state and federal authorities, and employers in government fields.

Non-Disclosures Prior to House Bill 3016

Before the legislature acted in 2017, the Texas Government Code required a court to issue an order of nondisclosure of criminal records for a person receiving discharge and dismissal of certain nonviolent misdemeanors for which the person was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision (probation). The code also allowed for some “second-chance” considerations under limited circumstances. However, the Texas Government Code did not previously allow for nondisclosure of DWI offenses under any scenario.

What is HB 3016?

Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 3016 on June 15th, 2017. HB 3016 will be effective, retroactively, beginning September 1, 2017. This law amends and expands the Texas Government Code to allow a person convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors, including DWI’s, to petition the court for orders of nondisclosure under certain circumstances and alters some waiting periods.

HB 3016 also allows a person to petition for an order of nondisclosure of criminal history if that person was ineligible to receive an automatic order based solely on a judge’s affirmative finding that issuing such an order was not “in the best interest of justice.” If the offense was a misdemeanor punishable by a fine only an individual may petition for an order of nondisclosure immediately upon the date of completion of their sentence. However, if the misdemeanor was not punishable by fine only, they must wait until the second anniversary of the date of completing the sentence to petition.

See the full text of HB 3016 – Enrolled version.

Orders of Non-Disclosure for DWI Offenses

HB 3016 now allows a person convicted of a first-time Driving While Intoxicated offense with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) less than 0.15 to petition for an order of non-disclosure of criminal history related to that offense. However, there are certain criteria that must be met to be eligible to petition for a non-disclosure of a Texas DWI.

A person may petition to have a DWI sealed only if he/she:

  • has never been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision (probation) for another offense—this does not include a traffic offense (punishable by fine only);
  • has successfully completed any imposed community supervision and any term of confinement;
  • has paid all fines, costs, and restitution imposed; and
  • the waiting period has elapsed:
    • 2 years if the person successfully completed a period of at least six months of driving restricted to a motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device as a part of the sentence; or
    • 5 years if there was no interlock requirement as part of the sentence.

Additionally, the court will not issue an order of nondisclosure if an attorney representing the state presents evidence sufficient to the court that demonstrates that the underlying offense, for which the order was sought, resulted in a motor vehicle accident involving another person (this includes a passenger of the defendant).

When may you Petition the Court for an Order of Non-Disclosure for a DWI?

The law requires individuals to wait until the second anniversary of the date of completion of their sentence, if the person:

  • complied with all conditions of the sentence for a period not less than six months; and
  • was restricted to operation of a motor vehicle equipped with an interlock device for at least 6 months.

If the court did not impose the above conditions, they are required to wait until the fifth anniversary of the date of completion of their sentence.

NOTE: Having a first-time DWI sealed by an Order of Non-Disclosure will NOT prevent another DWI from being charged as a DWI (Misdemeanor Repetition).

What are the Disqualifying Factors for DWI Sealing?

A person may NOT have their DWI record sealed if:

  • The DWI was a 2nd or 3rd offense;
  • The DWI involved a finding that the Blood-Alcohol Content was greater than 0.15;
  • The DWI involved an accident involving another person;
  • The DWI was within the last 2 years (5 years if there was not interlock requirement)*

*If the waiting period has not expired, but all other conditions are met, the applicant must simply wait until the waiting period is complete.

Which Offenses are Specifically Excluded from Consideration for an Order of Nondisclosure?

Certain misdemeanors are not eligible for consideration for an order of nondisclosure, mostly intoxication related offenses, which include any misdemeanors under the:

  • Alcoholic Beverage Code §106.041 (possession and/or consumption of or selling alcohol to minors); or,
  • Penal Code § 49.04(d) (driving while intoxicated .15 or higher);
  • 49.05 (flying while intoxicated);
  • 49.06 (boating while intoxicated); or,
  • 49.065 (operating an amusement park ride while intoxicated).

Additionally, any conviction under Chapter 71 of the penal code (engaging in organized criminal activity) may not be non-disclosed.

Furthermore, a person will not be granted an order of nondisclosure and is not eligible to petition the court if the person has previously been convicted or placed on deferred adjudication probation for:

  • an offense requiring sex offender registration;
  • murder;
  • capital murder;
  • aggravated kidnapping;
  • trafficking/continuous trafficking of persons;
  • abandoning or endangering a child;
  • violation/repeated violation of certain court orders or conditions of bond in a family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking case;
  • stalking; or
  • any other offense involving family violence.

Results of HB 3016 and the New Non-Disclosure Law

HB 3016 makes it easier for persons with certain low-level nonviolent offenses, particularly DWI’s, to obtain employment and become productive members of society. However, subsequent offenders will remain accountable because law enforcement may still use the “sealed” conviction against subsequent offenses and certain entities will still be able to view the offense.

Contact our Criminal Defense Team Today to See if You Qualify to Have Your Record Sealed Under this Law

Contact Barnett Howard & Williams today and let our team help you determine whether you may be eligible for a non-disclosure under this law when it takes effect in September 2017. We are happy to provide a free consultation to walk you through the steps for sealing your record.  Call our attorney today at (817) 993-9249.

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.

Texting While Driving Law Texas

Texting While Driving in Texas | Texas’ New Traffic Law

By | Traffic Offenses

Texting While Driving Law TexasVirtually every state in America has a statewide law banning the use of cell phones or texting while driving. Until recently, Texas has had minimal restrictions on cell phone usage while driving. Such restrictions include:

  • drivers with learner’s permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving;
  • Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices;
  • school bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present; and
  • in school zones, all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving.

However, after many failed efforts, Texas has finally passed a law banning the use of handheld devices in certain situations, namely texting. On June 6, 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 62, which makes using a portable wireless communication device (i.e. a cell phone) to read, write, or send an electronic message (i.e. a text) while operating a motor vehicle a misdemeanor offense.

Notice is Required to be Posted by DPS of the New Ban

The Texas Department of Transportation will be required to post signs on interstate and U.S. highways entering the state indicating that texting while driving is prohibited and carries a fine. Additionally, the new law requires that the driver’s license test cover knowledge about the effects of texting while driving or other actions that constitute distracted driving.

What is the Punishment for Texting While Driving in Texas?

Under the new law, the sole offense of “texting while driving” is not an arrestable offense. A driver’s first offense will be punishable by a fine between $25 and $99, and any subsequent offenses will carry a fine between $100 and $200. Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles is not authorized to assign points to a driver’s license for a “texting while driving offense.”

However, if at trial for the offense it is shown that the defendant caused the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the offense will become a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year. Additionally, if the conduct constituting the offense is also a violation of another law, the defendant may be prosecuted under either law, or both.

Possible Defenses to a Texting While Driving Charge:

A driver may have a defense to prosecution if the driver was:

  • not moving;
  • using a hands-free device, including voice-operated technology;
  • reporting illegal activity or summoning emergency help;
  • reading an electronic message that the person reasonably believed concerned an emergency;
  • relaying information to a dispatcher or digital network through a device affixed to the vehicle as part of the driver’s job;
  • activating functions to play music; or
  • using a GPS function.

Additionally, the law does not apply to drivers of authorized emergency or law enforcement vehicles acting in an official capacity or to drivers licensed by the Federal Communications Commission operating a radio frequency device other than a portable wireless communication device.
Furthermore, the law prohibits the search and seizure of a driver’s cell phone unless authorized by another law.

Concerns Regarding HB 62 (Texting While Driving Law)

Supporters of the law believe it will increase safety and reduce distracted driving incidents, while opponents see it as an overreach of the government into citizen’s lives. Some fear the law will allow law enforcement to gain more power to stop citizens by mistaking a person’s legal actions for texting. However, despite these reservations, this law takes effect on September 1, 2017, preempting local ordinances, and applies only to offenses committed on or after that date.

Links to the full text of the bill:


Lautenberg Amendment Federal Gun Ban

The Lautenberg Amendment Federal Gun Ban on Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Cases

By | Domestic Violence

What is the Lautenberg Amendment?

Lautenberg Amendment Federal Gun BanThe Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act enacted in the Fall of 1996 provides that those with a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cannot use, possess, or transport a firearm or ammunition.

Senator Frank Lautenberg was the chief sponsor of this amendment. The purpose behind this amendment is to keep firearms out of homes where a domestic violence relationship exists. Lautenberg presented it with the idea that domestic violence and firearms are a deadly combination and enacting this amendment would lessen the likelihood of a victim to die during a domestic violence episode. 142 Cong Rec S 11872. Additionally, since there was already a firearm ban in place for felony convictions, this Amendment combats the devastating loophole that previously allowed persons with misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence to fall through the cracks and be permitted to own firearms. United States v. Hayes, 555 U.S. 415.

When Does the Lautenberg Amendment Apply?

The Lautenberg Amendment will not have any impact until a person has a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). That is, a misdemeanor that

“has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.”

18 U.S.C. § 921(33).

A defendant will not be considered convicted unless they were represented by an attorney or “knowingly and intelligently” waived that right and the case was prosecuted at a jury trial or the defendant “knowingly and intelligently” waived that right by a guilty plea or otherwise properly waived that right. Id.

If you have been charged with a qualifying misdemeanor conviction, the amendment has no impact on you until you have received a final conviction. However, if you are subject to a protective order, the Gun Control Act and the State of Texas separately provide that you cannot use, possess, or transfer firearms. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(8); Tex. Fam. Code § 85.022(b)(6); Tex. Pen. Code § 46.04(c).

In Texas, if you have disposed of your case through deferred adjudication, which is not a final conviction, and you successfully complete the deferred adjudication, the amendment will not impact you since the statute requires a conviction. 18 U.S.C. § 921(33). Additionally, the conviction element of this statute will not be satisfied if the conviction is expunged, set aside, or the defendant has been pardoned. Id.

What Impact Does the Lautenberg Amendment Have on the Military Defendant?

Prior to the Lautenberg Amendment, 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1) provided a military and law enforcement exception to the Gun Control Act. The Lautenberg Amendment contains no similar exception.

What this means for the military defendant that gets a conviction is that his service could be compromised since they can no longer use, possess, or transfer a firearm. This conviction can impact their ability to re-enlist, cause a transfer to a military occupational specialty (MOS) that doesn’t require the handling of firearms, and affect the ability to be deployed. Many servicemembers that receive a domestic violence conviction will be processed for administrative separation.

According to the Supreme Court, What Cases are Considered Misdemeanor Convictions of Domestic Violence?

In Voisine v. United States, the Supreme Court clarified that the federal firearm ban under the Lautenberg Amendment applied to every case where the underlying conduct was an act of domestic violence, regardless of whether the state court made an affirmative finding of domestic violence (or family violence in Texas). This means that persons with misdemeanor convictions anywhere from a Class C simple assault* to a Class A assault with or without a domestic violence finding are banned from using, possessing and transferring firearms if their victim was one with whom they had a domestic relationship.

Voisine v. United States dealt with two domestic violence-related cases from Maine where both defendants’ previous convictions were based on reckless conduct, not intentional or knowing conduct. Thus, they argued that the Lautenberg Amendment didn’t apply to them. The Supreme Court ruled that the firearm ban did apply to them for two reasons:

  1. Reckless use of force is use of force the same as if it was intentional or knowing; and
  2. The legislative history and plain language of the statute lead to such a conclusion.

Looking to the statutory definition of an applicable misdemeanor conviction provided above, there is no specific mental state required. The definition provides that the Amendment applies to any misdemeanor under federal, state, or tribal law that was committed by a person through use of physical force against a victim with whom they have a domestic relationship.

*Class C is the same level as a traffic ticket.

Texas Specific Firearm Bans for Domestic Violence Convictions

In Texas, a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor involving family violence cannot possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition for 5 years after they are released from confinement or after they have completed and been released from community supervision following the conviction. Tex. Pen. Code § 46.04(b).

The Texas Family Code defines family violence as “an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.” Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004. Additionally, under Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code an assault involving the person’s family or household occurs if the person causes bodily injury to another, threatens a person with “imminent bodily injury,” or causes physical contact with someone that they know or should know would find “offensive or provocative.” From these definitions you can see that a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence in Texas expands the qualifying convictions beyond those that qualify under the Lautenberg Amendment.

If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor offense of family violence the court must notify them that it is against the law for them to possess or transfer firearms or ammunition. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.0131. Additionally, if a defendant decides to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere for a misdemeanor involving family violence the court must, before accepting the plea, admonish the defendant with the following:

“If you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense involving violence where you are or were a spouse, intimate partner, parent, or guardian of the victim or are or were involved in another, similar relationship with the victim, it may be unlawful for you to possess or purchase a firearm, including a handgun or long gun, or ammunition, pursuant to federal law under 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(9) or Section 46.04(b), Texas Penal Code. If you have any questions whether these laws make it illegal for you to possess or purchase a firearm, you should consult an attorney.”

Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 27.14.

Texas law does not require the defendant to surrender firearms or ammunition once the possession is prohibited. Neither does Texas law specifically authorize or require the removal of firearms or ammunition from the scene of a domestic violence incident.

In short, Texas law provides a prohibition of gun possession for five years after release from confinement or probation in more circumstances than under the Lautenberg Amendment. However, if your conviction is also a qualifying conviction under the Lautenberg Amendment then your right to possess a firearm is indefinitely prohibited. If you find yourself in that situation your only option to restore your firearm rights is to request a full pardon and restoration of civil rights in your pardon paperwork.

Are You Currently FacingDomestic Violence Assault Charges in Tarrant County?

Whether you have already been convicted or are currently facing charges of assault it is extremely important to know the heavy consequences that are attached to convictions where the underlying conduct is considered domestic violence. There are many misconceptions out there on whether federal firearm ban applies to a specific assault case. It is important that you know for a fact whether it applies to you so that you don’t risk violating federal law. If you are facing charges for an offense involving family violence under Texas law, contact our criminal defense team and schedule a free consultation to discuss and determine what consequences you are facing and whether the federal and/or Texas firearm ban applies to you.

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 Campus Carry

Explaining the New Campus Carry Law in Texas

By | Open Carry

What is the New Campus Carry Law in Texas and What Does it Mean to Me?

Texas Campus CarryWhether you love it or hate it, Campus Carry is coming to a college campus near you, and if you are a CHL holder, you need to know how to comply with the law. After lengthy debates in both houses of the Texas Legislature, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 11 (“Campus Carry”) into Texas law on June 1, 2015. Campus Carry will go into effect on August 1, 2016 on the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas sniper shooting— one of the first mass murders on a college campus in the United States.

Who Can Carry a Handgun on a College Campus Under the Campus Carry Law?

Campus Carry permits all Concealed Handgun Licensees who are at least 21 years old, have passed state and federal criminal background checks, have successfully completed a firearms proficiency test and have completed Department of Public Safety-mandated training and education, to carry firearms inside of buildings belonging to public universities and some private institutions of higher education. The new legislation, however, does not mean open carry by anyone, anywhere, any time on all property owned by a public or private university. CHL licensees must take great care to research and to understand the limits of the Campus Carry law and how it impacts the way handguns are carried and stored, or potentially face legal consequences.

Can the Universities in Texas Make Their Own Rules With Campus Carry?

Campus Carry allows institutions of higher education to establish policies governing the storage of handguns by CHLs in dorms and residential facilities. Public universities may also create policies around athletic venues and events, deeming them off-limits to CHL licensees. Under current Texas law, bars, hospitals, churches, and public schools K-12 are off-limits to CHL licensees and will remain off-limits under Campus Carry—and it is important to note that most large public university systems have a teaching hospital, a K-12 practicum experience at public school, a chapel, or are near campus bars. Moreover, schools may create “no-gun zones” or “exclusion zones,” but must provide effective notice about such zones. Therefore, it is extremely important for those with a CHL to know exactly which areas are permitted to have handguns, which are not, and to make plan for storage it if the CHL licensee needs to go into an off-limits area. Students should carefully read their university’s Student Handbook and Campus Code of Conduct for more information.

Campus Carry removes criminal prohibitions in the Texas Penal Code on the possession of concealed handguns by concealed handgun licensees on the campuses. The new law provides institutions of higher education with immunity from liability for actions of CHLs on campus. Campus Carry mandates that an institution of higher education widely distribute the rules to the institution’s students, staff and faculty, including prominently publishing such provisions on the school’s website, and provide effective notice of the areas that are “exclusion zones.” Parents of college students may feel concerned with the new law and campus procedures.

The legislature granted rule-making authority to the presidents of the university system to create campus rules and policies pursuant to S.B. 11, with the only stipulation being that public institutions of higher learning may not “circumvent the intent” of Campus Carry by “imposing administrative bans and sanctions on CHLs on their campuses.” In order to comply with S.B.11, institutions of higher learning must submit a report every other year to the state legislature and to the standing committees that describe the campus rules and policies concerning CHL licensees and the schools must explain the reason the administration has established the provisions. Residents who live in college towns (even if they are not students) should also learn about Campus Carry and the implications of being a CHL at a campus library, sporting event, artistic venue, or even the university hospital.

This is no doubt a very interesting time for policy-making in Texas. Please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only and is subject to change as each public university system and private university determines campus policies based on S.B. 11. This article does not constitute or substitute legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our office at (817) 993-9249 for a free consultation.

For more information, see also the full Campus Carry Law, including a Bill Analysis and Fiscal Note or see our Frequently Asked Questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Campus Carry

What is Campus Carry?

Campus Carry refers to legislation, Senate Bill 11, signed into law last summer. Campus Carry will make it possible for licensed gun owners, over 21, to carry handguns onto public (and some private) institutions of higher education, in compliance with individual university policies.

When will Campus Carry Take Effect?

Campus Carry will take effect on August 1, 2016—at the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Do I have to have a Concealed Handgun License (“CHL”) to carry my handgun?

Yes. Campus Carry mandates that all gun owners must:
(1) pass federal and state background checks;
(2) be 21 years old (unless in the military);
(3) complete a firearms proficiency test; and,
(4) complete Department of Public Safety-mandated training and education.

It will be extremely important for every student with a CHL, to know exactly where to go with your handgun and to plan for where you will be able to legally store it if you must go into an off-limits area. Read your Student Handbook and Campus Code of Conduct for more information.

Will Professors be able to carry guns?

Yes. Professors, administrators, faculty, staff and visitors may carry under the Campus Carry law, provided they are in compliance with the law and campus policies.

Does a private school have to follow Campus Carry?

Maybe. Private institutions may establish policies that prohibit CHLs. So far, the following schools have “opted out” of Campus Carry.

  • Rice University
  • Texas Christian University (TCU)

NOTE: This information is subject to change and it is up to each student, to know if your school has opted out.

Can a student at a public university take a gun anywhere on campus?

Not necessarily. Campus Carry allows institutions of higher education to establish policies governing the storage of handguns by CHLs in dorms and residential facilities. The public university may also create policies around athletic venues and events, as off-limits to CHLs. Under current Texas law, bars, hospitals, churches, and public schools K-12 are off-limits to CHLs and will remain off-limits under Campus Carry—and most large public university systems have a teaching hospital, a K-12 practicum experience at public school, a chapel, or are near campus bars. Schools may create “no-gun zones” or “exclusion zones,” but must provide effective notice about such zones.

Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys

Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC is a criminal defense law firm located in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys handle all felony and misdemeanor charges in the Fort Worth, Tarrant County area. If you have questions about this post or need more information about Campus Carry, please contact us at (817) 993-9249.