Abuse of Corpse: Texas Penal Code §42.08

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Abuse of Corpse law gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you disturbed, damaged, removed or mistreated a corpse. The police can also arrest you if they believe you bought or sold a corpse.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 42.08. The legislature did not update this statute in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since 2017. In 2017, the legislature increased the penalty classification for this offense.

The Penal Code codifies the Texas Abuse of Corpse law under Title 9 “Offenses Against Public Order and Decency,” Chapter 42 “Disorderly Conduct and Related Offenses.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Abuse of Corpse below.

What is the current Texas law about Abuse of Corpse?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Abuse of Corpse in Penal Code Section §42.08 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if the person, without legal authority, knowingly:

(1) disinters, disturbs, damages, dissects, in whole or in part, carries away, or treats in an offensive manner a human corpse;

(2) conceals a human corpse knowing it to be illegally disinterred;

(3) sells or buys a human corpse or in any way traffics in a human corpse;

(4) transmits or conveys, or procures to be transmitted or conveyed, a human corpse to a place outside the state; or

(5) vandalizes, damages, or treats in an offensive manner the space in which a human corpse has been interred or otherwise permanently laid to rest.

How can I be charged with an Abuse of Corpse offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Abuse of Corpse in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 42.08(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Abuse of Corpse in Texas?

Misdemeanor level Abuse of Corpse charges have a two-year limitations period.[2] Felony-level offenses have a three-year limitations period.[3]

What is the penalty for a Texas Abuse of Corpse offense?

Before September 1, 2017, a conviction for Abuse of Corpse was always punished as a Class A misdemeanor,[4] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $4000 and jail time of up to one year.

What changed in 2017?

As of September 1, 2017, a conviction for Abuse of Corpse is classified by default a state jail felony, unless the offense was a conviction under subsection (a)(5), in which case the offense is classified as a Class A misdemeanor.[5]

Can you get probation for Abuse of Corpse in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Abuse of Corpse, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[6]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[7]

Do I have to register as a sex offender in Texas if guilty of Abuse of Corpse?

The Abuse of Corpse offense does not appear on the list of offenses requiring registration under Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.[8]

However, the legislature can add this offense to the list at any time. If that happens, people convicted of Abuse of Corpse would have to register, even if the offense did not appear on the list at the time they accepted a deferred adjudication plea (even if later dismissed), pled guilty or were founty guilty.

What level of crime is Abuse of Corpse in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies Abuse of Corpse as either a Class A misdemeanor or state jail felony, depending on the circumstances.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.

^1. Texas Penal Code §42.08. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.02(a)^3. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^4. See SB 524, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 1, effective September 1, 2017^5. Texas Penal Code §42.08(b), as amended by SB 524, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 1, effective September 1, 2017:

(b) An offense under this section is a state jail felony, except that an offense under Subsection (a)(5) is a Class A misdemeanor.

Bolded language added by SB 524, effective September 1, 2017.^6. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^7. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^8. Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.001

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