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New Laws in Texas as of September 1, 2019

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

New Laws in Texas as of September 1, 2019

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The 86th session of the Texas legislature was as busy as ever. On September 21, several new laws or updates to laws took effect. Some of them were no surprise, but a few may be unexpected. Most people won’t need to worry about them, but it pays to educate yourself on the laws of the state you live in or visit.

Here are a few of the new or updated laws now on the books of the State of Texas.

SB 18 – Free Speech on Campus

Free speech is now guaranteed on college campuses across the state. Schools may use only content-neutral standards when approving a speaker requested by a student organization. It also makes it illegal to deny a student organization “registered status” due to political, religious, or ideological viewpoints. Universities have until August 1, 2020, to institute the changes to their free speech policies.

SB 21 – Increase in the Minimum Age for Tobacco Sales

As of September 1, 2019, no one under the age of 21 may purchase, consume, or possess tobacco products. The previous minimum age was 18. Notice that the law includes possession, meaning that a person under the age of 21 is not allowed to carry around tobacco products. And yes, the law includes e-cigarettes.

SB 37 – You Can Keep Your Occupational License Despite Student Loan Default

A licensing agency can no longer take disciplinary action against an applicant or licensee based on the individual’s default on a student loan or breach of student loan repayment contract or scholarship contract. Texas may not refuse to issue or renew an occupational license based on a student loan default.

If you think about it, this makes sense. It would be hard to earn money to pay the student loan without a license to do the work.

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SB 38 – Hazing and Alcohol

In response to deaths and injuries incurred during hazing activities at various campuses, Texas has redefined hazing to include specific actions, especially the consumption of alcohol. The bill also gives immunity from civil or criminal liability to anyone who voluntarily reports a hazing incident under certain circumstances. 

SB 719 – Child Murder Charges

Prosecutors now have the option of seeking a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole in the death of a child who is between the ages of 10 and 15. Also, capital murder charges may be pursued at the prosecutor’s discretion for the murder of children under the age of 15.

SB 1232 – Changes in Alcohol Delivery Regulations

Retailers who deliver food to customers may now deliver beer and wine as long as the customer is over the age of 21. The delivery person must also be 21 years of age or older, and the business from which the delivery is made must have an active beer and wine permit.

SB 1259 – Updates to the Definition of Sexual Assault

The parameters of the definition of sexual assault have been broadened. Sexual assault now includes the use by a health service provider of human reproductive material from a donor when the provider knows the recipient had not expressly consented to use of material from that donor. 

This law is in response to multiple cases of fertility doctors using their own sperm for artificial insemination. Sexual assault also includes the use of reproductive material from anyone else the recipient did not expressly consent to use.

HB 8 Sexual Assault Kit Testing

In response to the significant backlog of rape kits requiring testing, the legislature decided to pass a law establishing official timelines for getting sexual assault kits processed. Now kits must be analyzed within 90 days of receipt.

Also, if a rape kit is involved in a felony prosecution, the evidence must then be preserved for at least 40 years or until the statute of limitations expires.

HB 134 – The Lemonade Stand Law

Now that officials have been called to keep children from running a lemonade stand, Texas decided to step in. As of September 1, 2019, any person under the age of 18 may sell non-alcoholic beverages on private property without fear of prosecution. 

The Lemonade Stand Law keeps cities, local health codes, and neighborhood associations (like HOAs) from blocking or regulating these early entrepreneurial activities.

HB 253 – Guidance on Post-Partum Depression Screening and Treatment

Post-partum depression receives the attention it has needed for years. The new law requires the implementation of a five-year strategy for improving access to post-partum depression screening, referral, treatment, and support services. 

In addition, the law requires promoting public awareness of post-partum depression as well as destigmatizing the illness.

HB 446 – The Brass Knuckle Law

Awhile back, Texas had made certain types of self-defense weapons illegal. Now you may carry brass knuckles, clubs, and “kitty keychains” (self-defense wildkat keychains) legally.

HB 1325 – Hemp Legalization

Eagerly awaited but still confusing, Texas has made it possible for farmers to grow and process industrial hemp. It created a state-regulated program and legalized hemp-based products, including CBD oil.

To clarify, hemp is no longer considered the same as marijuana and is legal to cultivate and sell because it contains virtually no THC, the component in marijuana that makes people high.

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HB 1387 – Higher Cap on School Marshals

An increase in the number of school marshals appointed by campuses has been permitted. Now, a school can appoint one marshal per 100 students in average daily attendance. Private schools may appoint one marshal per 100 students enrolled.

HB 1518 – Ban on the Sale of Dextromethorphan to Minors

Now that kids have been using cough medicine to get high, lawmakers have restricted the sale of products with a substance called dextromethorphan, the ingredient added to suppress coughing. Individuals under the age of 18 may no longer purchase over the counter medications containing it. 

HB 1631 – Red Light Camera Phase-Out

The dreaded red light cameras are now being phased out across the state. The reason for the incremental change is that some cities and counties must wait until their contracts run out. In some cases, they will be waiting for 15 to 20 years. However, if they can get out of the contract quicker, the law requires they do so.

HB 2048 – Repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program

Now that the Driver Responsibility Program has ended, drivers with a suspended license may have it reinstated. But wait, there’s more.

Traffic and intoxicated driver fines have gone up. State traffic fines went from $30 to $50. Driving while intoxicated fines went up according to the number of previous convictions the driver has or the level of alcohol measured.

  • $3,000 for the first conviction within 36 months, or
  • $4,500 for a subsequent conviction (meaning the second or more) within 36 months, or
  • $6,000 for a conviction if the individual’s alcohol concentration is shown to be 0.16 or more (twice the legal limit).

So, it’s easier to get your suspended license reinstated, but you will pay much more for drunk driving.

This is just a sampling of the new laws for Texas. If you have any questions or require assistance with any other legal issues, call Greg Tsioros, Attorney at Law.

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