Improper Influence

Texas Criminal Law

The Texas Improper Influence crime essentially prohibits ex parte communications that fall short of bribery in an attempt to obstruct the fair administration of justice.

The wording of the statute is a bit confusing (see below), but it seems to cover communications predominantly to judges.

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Improper Influence is classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 8 “Offenses Against Public Administration,” Chapter 36 “Bribery And Corrupt Influence.” Learn more detailed information about the Improper Influence offense below.

What is the current Texas law about Improper Influence?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Improper Influence in Penal Code Section §36.04 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if he privately addresses a representation, entreaty, argument, or other communication to any public servant who exercises or will exercise official discretion in an adjudicatory proceeding with an intent to influence the outcome of the proceeding on the basis of considerations other than those authorized by law.

How can I be charged with Improper Influence?

You can be charged with Improper Influence if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 36.04(a) as described in the section above have been met.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals examined the Improper Influence statute in Alfred Isassi v. The State of Texas.[2] The Court looked to the Model Penal Code for guidance on what the Improper Influence statute was supposed to cover. Very few states have a crime similar to Improper Influence. But the CCA held that, at least one clear cut case was that of Isassi’s, in that “An elected official may not manipulate and influence the judicial system to help a family member avoid conditions of pretrial supervision and prosecution for a felony.”

What is the punishment for Improper Influence?

A conviction for Improper Influence is punished as a Class A misdemeanor,[3] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to one year. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors

Legal References:

^1. Texas Penal Code §36.04^2. Alfred Isassi v. The State of Texas^3. Texas Penal Code §36.04(c)

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