Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue: Texas Penal Code §48.03

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue law gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you offered to buy, offered to sell, acquired, received, sold, or otherwise transferred any human fetal tissue for economic benefit and you don’t fall into any of the exceptions.

This law was created by the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017 and was codified at Section 48.03 in the Texas Penal Code. The statute was not amended in 2023, and in fact has not been amended since its enactment in 2017. There are five categories of people to which the law does not apply, and there are also two defenses to prosecution delineated in the statute.

The Penal Code codifies the Texas Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue law under Title 10 “Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, And Morals,” Chapter 48 “Conduct Affecting Public Health.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue below.

What is the current Texas law about Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue in Penal Code Section §48.03 as follows:[1]

(b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers to buy, offers to sell, acquires, receives, sells, or otherwise transfers any human fetal tissue for economic benefit.

(d) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:

(1) is an employee of or under contract with an accredited public or private institution of higher education; and

(2) acquires, receives, or transfers human fetal tissue solely for the purpose of fulfilling a donation authorized by Section 173.005, Health and Safety Code.

(e) This section does not apply to:

(1) human fetal tissue acquired, received, or transferred solely for diagnostic or pathological testing;

(2) human fetal tissue acquired, received, or transferred solely for the purposes of a criminal investigation;

(3) human fetal tissue acquired, received, or transferred solely for the purpose of disposing of the tissue in accordance with state law or rules applicable to the disposition of human fetal tissue remains;

(4) human fetal tissue or human tissue acquired during pregnancy or at delivery of a child, provided the tissue is acquired by an accredited public or private institution of higher education for use in research approved by an institutional review board or another appropriate board, committee, or body charged with oversight applicable to the research; or

(5) cell lines derived from human fetal tissue or human tissue existing on September 1, 2017, that are used by an accredited public or private institution of higher education in research approved by an institutional review board or another appropriate board, committee, or body charged with oversight applicable to the research.

This law was created by the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017 and was codified at Section 48.03 in the Texas Penal Code.[2] The bills that passed in the legislature that year created an entire regulatory system regarding adult stem cell research and took effect September 1, 2017.[3]

How can I be charged with a Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 48.03(b) as described in the section above have been met and you don’t fall into one of the exceptions in subsection (e).

What is the statute of limitation for Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue in Texas?

Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue offenses have a three-year limitations period.[4]

What is the penalty for a Texas Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue offense?

Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue in Texas is punished as a state jail felony.[5]

Can you get probation for Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[6]

Note, however, that no matter the offense, neither judges nor juries may recommend community supervision for any suspended sentence of over 10 years.[7] Also, 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.[8]

What level of crime is Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies Prohibition On Purchase And Sale Of Human Fetal Tissue as a state jail felony.

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


^1. Texas Penal Code §48.03. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Senate Bill 8, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 17^3. See HB 810, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 5-6^4. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^5. Texas Penal Code §48.03(c)^6. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^7. Art. 42A.053(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^8. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure


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