This September 1, the criminal justice system finds itself amidst change. Below are some of the highlights of our new legislation.
Through House Bill 1396, Texas passed legislation that changes the “value ladder” for many property crimes. Property crimes such as theft, mischief, graffiti, frauds and other various offenses use the “value” of the property to set the level of crime and thus the punishment. In the most common example, before September 1, 2015, a class C (fine only offense) consisted of theft of property under $50. Now, effective September 1, 2015, adjusting for inflation, a class C consists of theft of property under $100.
Thanks to Judge Ryan Patrick, here is a recap of the change in the “value ladder”:
|Level||Old||New (as of 9/1/15)|
|Class C Misd1||<$50||<$100|
|Class B Misd||$50 – $500||$100 – $750|
|Class A Misd||$500 – $1,500||$750 – $2,500|
|State Jail Felony||$1,500 – $20,000||$2,500 – $30,000|
|3rd Degree Felony||$20,000 – $100,000||$30,000 – $150,000|
|2nd Degree Felony||$100,000 – $200,000||$150,000 – $300,000|
|1st Degree Felony||>$200,000||>$300,000|
Non-Disclosure is a section of the law that allows certain criminal history records to be non-public. This process (making a record non-public) serves to remove certain records from your public criminal history. Even though removed from public view, this process leaves the criminal record in tact and available for law enforcement and other entities such as regulatory agencies, schools, banks, and hospitals, to name just a few.
Effective September 1, non-disclosure of certain low level misdemeanor deferred adjudication sentences becomes more automatic. When a person meets the criteria for non-disclosure, the court must grant it. Under the old law, the judge had the discretion to grant or deny your application for non-disclosure. This new legislation found in Senate Bill 1902, sets forth the differences between automatic and discretionary non-disclosure. It also extends non-disclosure to certain misdemeanor convictions where a person successfully completed community supervision (probation). Non-disclosure laws do not apply to assaults, DWI, weapons, family violence, public indecency, and other more serious offenses. It is meant to allow the first time low-level offender to move on with his or her life without the general public viewing that mistake or transgression.
With the new changes and expansion of situation that can be non-disclosed, anyone with a minor criminal history should consult a lawyer about whether or not they may receive the benefit of a non-disclosure.
House Bill 1396 mandates that police get a warrant to access and search cellular telephones found on or near a person under arrest. This legislative change follows the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Riley v. California where the Court stated a search of these devices, today, implicates very sensitive privacy interests because these personal devices contain personal and sensitive information.
Additionally, House Bill 324 sets forth something many of us would have assumed to be common sense: a search warrant is required for body cavity searches during a traffic stop. So no more roadside cavity searches, absent a warrant supported by probable cause.
In a throwback to the way we used to do things, Senate Bill 888 makes juvenile certification decisions (for juveniles to stand trial as adults) immediately appealable rather than only after final conviction as an adult. Truancy was decriminalized (House Bill 2398) and taken out of the juvenile courts for students. And Senate Bill 107 amends the education code to eliminate automatic zero tolerances for expulsions, giving the school officials discretion through the creation of a campus behavior coordinator.
Of course there are dozens more changes to definitions of criminal conduct. “Disabled individual” has been expanded to include a broader class of citizens, giving prosecutors the ability to charge offenders with greater levels of offenses for assaults against disabled persons, the elderly, and children. Drugs, such as synthetic marijuanas are now classified and identified for prosecution. Handguns now follow “open carry” provisions as well as concealed carry provisions. We also have a new offense for “revenge porn” and “peeping Toms”. Revenge porn targets those who share or make public photos or video that was otherwise intended to be private. There are also new trial priorities for offenses where the alleged victim is younger than 14 years of age; these cases will be given priority over other criminal trials.
For convenience, the legislature even gave the ability to pay fines and fees roadside with a debit or credit card!
So many changes, but these are a few of the highlights.