Criminal laws going into effect on Sept 1, 2015

 In Criminal

Criminal laws going into effect on Sept 1, 2015

Important changes are coming to criminal laws in Texas. The highlights include:

  • Search warrant requirement for cell phones (HB 1396);
  • The Rule of Lenity codified (HB 1396);
  • Priority docketing in criminal cases where the alleged victim is under 14 (HB 1396);
  • The monetary thresholds for many offenses in Texas are increased (HB 1396);
  • State Jail Felony Diligent Participation Credit (HB 1546)
  • Airport Gun Cases (HB 554).

Search Warrant Requirment for Arestee Cell Phones

Code of Criminal Procedure Article 18.0215 will require peace officers to obtain a search warrant to search a phone or other wireless communication device in the possession of an arrestee. There are several important exceptions:

  • the owner or possessor of the device consents to the search
  • the device has been reported as stolen by the owner or possessor
  • The officer reasonably believe that the device is in the possession of a felony fugitive
  • the officer reasonably believes an immediate life-threatening situation exists.

Priority Docketing in Criminal Courts in Texas

Code of Criminal Procedure Article Article 32A.01 will require the trial of criminal cases where the alleged victim is younger than 14 years of age to be given preference over other matters in the court. Note that the legislature did not limit this to allegations of sexual offenses.

The Rule of Lenity

Government Code 311.035 will codify the Rule of Lenity. It provides that if a rule or statute that creates or defines a criminal offense is ambiguous, the rule or statute must be construed in favor of the accused. Note the ambiguity is to be decided in favor of the accused by the court as a matter of law. It is not a matter of fact that goes to the jury.

Changes in thresholds for criminal offenses

Criminal Mischief

Criminal Mischief under $50 becomes Criminal Mischief under $100

Criminal Mischief $50-$500 becomes Criminal Mischief $100 – $750

Criminal Mischief $500-$1500 becomes Criminal Mischief $750-$2500

Criminal Mischief $1500-$20,000 becomes Criminal Mischief $2500-$30,000

Criminal Mischief $20,000-$100,000 becomes Criminal Mischief $30,000-$150,000

Criminal Mischief $100,000-300,000 becomes Criminal Mischief $150,000-$300,000

Theft

The monetary ranges for theft allegations are similarly increased and the distinction between the ranges for theft by check and theft of property are removed.

Theft under $50 becomes Theft under $100

Theft $50-$500 becomes Theft $100 – $750

Theft $500-$1500 becomes Theft $750-$2500

Theft $1500-$20,000 becomes Theft $2500-$30,000

Theft $20,000-$100,000 becomes Theft $30,000-$150,000

Theft $100,000-300,000 becomes Theft $150,000-$300,000

Counterfeit Trademarks

Trademark Counterfeiting under $50 becomes Trademark Counterfeiting under $100

Trademark Counterfeiting $50-$500 becomes Trademark Counterfeiting $100 – $750

Trademark Counterfeiting $500-$1500 becomes Trademark Counterfeiting $750-$2500

Trademark Counterfeiting $1500-$20,000 becomes Trademark Counterfeiting $2500-$30,000

Trademark Counterfeiting $20,000-$100,000 becomes Trademark Counterfeiting $30,000-$150,000

Trademark Counterfeiting $100,000-300,000 becomes Trademark Counterfeiting $150,000-$300,000

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property under $50 becomes Misapplication of Fiduciary Property under $100

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $50-$500 becomes Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $100 – $750

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $500-$1500 becomes Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $750-$2500

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $1500-$20,000 becomes Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $2500-$30,000

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $20,000-$100,000 becomes Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $30,000-$150,000

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $100,000-300,000 becomes Misapplication of Fiduciary Property $150,000-$300,000

Securing Executing of Document by Deception

Securing Executing of Document by Deception under $50 becomes Securing Executing of Document by Deception under $100

Securing Executing of Document by Deception $50-$500 becomes Securing Executing of Document by Deception $100 – $750

Securing Executing of Document by Deception $500-$1500 becomes Securing Executing of Document by Deception $750-$2500

Securing Executing of Document by Deception $1500-$20,000 becomes Securing Executing of Document by Deception $2500-$30,000

Securing Executing of Document by Deception $20,000-$100,000 becomes Securing Executing of Document by Deception $30,000-$150,000

Securing Executing of Document by Deception $100,000-300,000 becomes Securing Executing of Document by Deception $150,000-$300,000

Insurance Fraud

Insurance Fraud under $50 becomes Insurance Fraud under $100

Insurance Fraud $50-$500 becomes Insurance Fraud $100 – $750

Insurance Fraud $500-$1500 becomes Insurance Fraud $750-$2500

Insurance Fraud $1500-$20,000 becomes Insurance Fraud $2500-$30,000

Insurance Fraud $20,000-$100,000 becomes Insurance Fraud $30,000-$150,000

Insurance Fraud $100,000-300,000 becomes Insurance Fraud $150,000-$300,000

Medicare Fraud

Medicare Fraud under $50 becomes Medicare Fraud under $100

Medicare Fraud $50-$500 becomes Medicare Fraud $100 – $750

Medicare Fraud $500-$1500 becomes Medicare Fraud $750-$2500

Medicare Fraud $1500-$20,000 becomes Medicare Fraud $2500-$30,000

Medicare Fraud $20,000-$100,000 becomes Medicare Fraud $30,000-$150,000

Medicare Fraud $100,000-300,000 becomes Medicare Fraud $150,000-$300,000

State Jail Diligent Participation Credit

Penal Code 42.0199 is amended to require a judge to make a finding as to whether or not the person convicted is presumptively entitled to diligent participation credit.

Airport Gun Cases

Penal Code 46.03 (a)(5) currently prohibits a firearm from being possessed in a secured area of an airport and the offense is classified as a third degree felony. The Texas Legislature has acknowledged that Penal Code 46.03 (a)(5) provides a harsh penalty for a person who has simply forgotten a handgun was in their possession exception for CHL holders who comply with law enforcement requests once a firearm has been found.

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