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5 Texas Criminal Law Changes from the 87th Legislature

The 87th Texas Legislature was held from Jan 12, 2021 to May 31 of that same year. This included both the Texas Senate and House of Representatives. A number of issues were discussed, but some of them led to a “mixed bag” of new criminal laws. Here are some of the new changes that resulted from this legislative session.

criminal law changes

#1: Constitutional Carry

Starting September 1, any Texans over the age of 21 can carry a handgun in public without having a license or training. Also called HB 1927, it eliminated the need to have a license to carry if they’re not prohibited from having a gun in their possession by state or federal law. This piece of legislation also made a number of other changes and additions to the Texas Penal Code with regard to firearms. Some of them included the following:

  • Making it a crime to carry a firearm while you’re intoxicated, which is a Class A misdemeanor that can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
  • Making it a crime for gang members to carry a firearm while they’re inside their vehicle, which is a third-degree felony that can result in 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The law will allow a peace officer to disarm someone at any time if he or she believes it to be necessary for the protection of that person, the officer, or some other individual. The officer must, however, give the handgun back before leaving the scene if it was determined that the person in question was not a threat and didn’t break the law. It will also allow people who had convictions for unlawfully carrying a weapon before September 1, 2021 to have their records expunged.

#2: Obstructing Emergency Vehicles

HB 9 made it a state jail felony to knowingly block any emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on. It also made it illegal to knowingly block access to a hospital or health care facility. This crime is classified as a state jail felony that’s punishable by six months to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Anyone who is convicted of this crime must spend at least 10 days in jail, even if he or she was given probation. The bill was passed in response to protestors who were blocking roadways during the nationwide protests against police brutality.

#3: Financial Abuse of the Elderly

HB 1156 created a new offense with regard to the financial abuse of the elderly. People commit this crime if they “knowingly engage in the wrongful taking, appropriation, obtaining, retention, or use of money or other property of an elderly person” in any way. This includes any type of financial exploitation. This type of crime can have a range of punishments from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony (depending on the amount of money or property that was taken), and it was passed in response to the growing number of Texas seniors who fell victim to scams, frauds, and exploitations every single year.

#4: Impersonating a Private Investigator

HB 1400 made it illegal to impersonate a private investigator who is licensed by the Texas Department of Public Safety and deals with highly personal and sensitive issues. People commit this crime if they do it with the intention of inducing someone to submit to the person’s pretended authority or to rely on his or her pretended actions. They also commit this offense if they knowingly exercise any function as a licensed investigator. Impersonating or purporting to be a private investigator is considered a Class A misdemeanor that can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

#5: Soliciting Prostitution as a Felony Offense

The State of Texas had made no previous distinction between prostitution and the soliciting of prostitution. Prostitutes and what are called “Johns” could both face misdemeanor charges, so they faced equal punishments. All of that changed in September 2021 with HB 1540, which was signed on June 16. It made Texas the first state to make soliciting prostitution a state jail felony. This new law means that “Johns” could face harsher punishments than those who are offering sexual services.

A state jail felony is punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. This new law was part of a number of legislative measures that were taken in an effort to crack down on human trafficking. In addition to raising the penalties for soliciting prostitution, HB 1540 implemented a series of other measures. One of them was making human trafficking a first-degree felony if the person performing the action recruited, enticed, or obtained the victim from a shelter or treatment center for runaways, foster children, and the homeless (among others).

If you’re facing criminal charges in Texas and are looking for a criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christi to help you with your case, be sure to get in touch with Gale Law Group.