In Texas, arrests can stem from the actions of state or federal authorities, or a combination of both in collaborative efforts. The legal basis of an arrest is crucial from a criminal defense perspective.
This significance lies in the fact that criminal cases navigate through two separate judicial systems – state and federal. Each system has its own set of procedural rules, evidence regulations, and specific laws that define crimes and prescribe penalties. Arrests under Texas law follow the state judicial process, whereas federal cases require attorneys to have specific authorization and licensing to appear in federal courts. For example, see the Admission Requirements for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. It’s worth noting that not every Texas criminal defense lawyer handles federal cases.
The outcome of a criminal case can vary significantly based on whether the charges are state or federal. Consider our previous discussions on the differences between federal sentencing, which involves the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and the Texas system:
State and federal criminal statutes are subject to frequent changes due to legislative and judicial actions. New crimes can emerge through legislation. It’s crucial to stay informed about significant criminal laws passed by the Texas Legislature, sanctioned by the Governor, and enacted each year.
Changes in criminal law often occur more rapidly at the state level than in Congress. Texas has been at the forefront in developing and enforcing criminal laws. For instance, Texas was the first state to classify solicitation of prostitution as a felony. See “Buying Sex in Texas: A Pioneering Approach to Prostitution Laws.”
Governor Abbott’s directive to apply the Texas Penal Code to smuggling along the Texas border has sparked debate over its constitutional boundaries. See “Examining the Constitutionality of Texas Anti-Smuggling Laws: Governor Abbott’s Controversial Directive.”
In 2023, over 8000 bills were filed in the Texas Legislature, with 774 becoming law. For an overview, see “774 New Laws in Texas: A Comprehensive Guide,” by Lucy Ladis, NBCDFW.com, September 1, 2023.
The state of Texas has introduced several significant criminal statutes in 2023, reflecting its ongoing commitment to addressing various social issues and criminal activities. These laws cover a wide range of offenses, from drug-related crimes to technological abuses, aiming to enhance public safety and justice.
This groundbreaking law empowers state prosecutors to charge individuals with murder if they provide a lethal dose of fentanyl. This aligns Texas law with federal standards and represents a significant development in the state’s approach to combating the opioid crisis. The law underscores the seriousness with which Texas is addressing the fentanyl epidemic, recognizing the drug’s high potency and the danger it poses to public health. For more information, see “Understanding Fentanyl Charges Under Federal Law.”
In response to the growing concern about human trafficking, Texas has enacted laws imposing first-degree felony charges for trafficking activities conducted near schools, shelters, community centers, and childcare facilities. These laws aim to protect vulnerable populations in these areas and impose severe penalties on violators, reflecting the seriousness of these crimes.
Following a tragic incident, assaulting hospital workers has been classified as a state jail felony. This law aims to protect healthcare professionals, acknowledging the critical and often risky service they provide. The penalties include substantial fines and jail time, deterring potential offenders and ensuring a safer working environment for medical staff.
In an effort to curb underage drinking and its potentially fatal consequences, Texas has made it a state jail felony for adults to provide alcohol to minors if this leads to death or serious injury. This law emphasizes the responsibility of adults in preventing alcohol-related accidents among youth.
Recognizing the increasing danger of child exploitation, Texas has defined child grooming as a third-degree felony. This law targets individuals who engage or attempt to engage minors in sexual activities, aiming to protect minors from predatory behaviors.
With the rise of artificial intelligence and its misuse, creating or distributing deceptive deep fake videos is now a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. This law addresses the growing concern over digital manipulation used to create false representations of individuals, often for malicious purposes.
This new statute criminalizes the act of observing others without their consent using electronic means in private settings. It’s a response to the increasing privacy concerns in the digital age, where advanced technology can be used to invade personal spaces.
Elevating the severity of child pornography offenses, Texas now classifies possession or promotion of child pornography among the most serious offenses, known as 3G offenses. This includes stringent parole and probation rules, reflecting the state’s zero-tolerance policy towards child exploitation.
The act of publishing personal information to harm or threaten someone is now a criminal offense in Texas. This law addresses the growing issue of online harassment and privacy violations, with penalties varying based on the extent of harm caused.
To enhance security around correctional and detention facilities, Texas has criminalized flying drones near or into these facilities. The law includes escalating penalties for dropping contraband, addressing concerns about drones being used to smuggle items into prisons.
In response to the dangers posed by street racing, Texas has expanded its laws to categorize such activities as a form of reckless driving. This includes provisions for immediate vehicle impoundment in certain cases, aiming to deter this dangerous behavior.
Enhancing law enforcement’s ability to maintain order on the roads, Texas now requires drivers to provide identification during traffic stops. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges, ensuring that traffic stops are conducted safely and effectively.
Addressing the issue of fraudulent vehicle registrations, using counterfeit tags is now classified as tampering with government documents. This law aims to combat the misuse of paper tags and ensure proper vehicle identification.
These new laws in Texas represent a comprehensive approach to addressing a variety of modern challenges, from drug trafficking and human exploitation to the misuse of technology and public safety concerns. They reflect the state’s commitment to adapting its legal framework to evolving societal issues, ensuring justice and safety for its residents.
From a defense perspective, these new laws require careful consideration. Prosecutors may interpret these laws broadly, and investigators might not fully understand their scope. Constitutional challenges may arise, especially with laws involving emerging technologies. Defense attorneys must stay abreast of these developments, understanding their implications on evidence collection, chain of custody, and search and seizure warrants.