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Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device

The Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device crime in the state of Texas gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you used certain types of surveillance equipment without being a law enforcement officer or an authorized business representative. Learn more detailed information about the Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device offense below.

Have you been charged with Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device is classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 4 “Inchoate Offenses,” Chapter 16 “Criminal Instruments, Interception of Wire or Oral Communication, and Installation of Tracking Device.”

What is the law in Texas about Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device?

The offense is described in Section 16.03 of the Texas Penal Code.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly installs or uses a pen register or trap and trace device to record or decode electronic or other impulses for the purpose of identifying telephone numbers dialed or otherwise transmitted on a telephone line.

An important part of this law is the provision in subsection (c) providing affirmative defenses:

(c) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a) that the actor is:

(1) an officer, employee, or agent of a communications common carrier and the actor installs or uses a device or equipment to record a number dialed from or to a telephone instrument in the normal course of business of the carrier for purposes of:

(A) protecting property or services provided by the carrier; or

(B) assisting another who the actor reasonably believes to be a peace officer authorized to install or use a pen register or trap and trace device under Article 18.21, Code of Criminal Procedure;

(2) an officer, employee, or agent of a lawful enterprise and the actor installs or uses a device or equipment while engaged in an activity that:

(A) is a necessary incident to the rendition of service or to the protection of property of or services provided by the enterprise; and

(B) is not made for the purpose of gathering information for a law enforcement agency or private investigative agency, other than information related to the theft of communication or information services provided by the enterprise; or

(3) a person authorized to install or use a pen register or trap and trace device under Article 18.21, Code of Criminal Procedure.

How can I be charged with Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device?

You can be charged with Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 16.03 as described in the section above have been met.

What is the punishment for Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Device?

A conviction for Unlawful Use of Pen Register or Trap and Trace Deviceis punished as a state jail felony,1 with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $10,000 and state jail prison time of up to two years.


Legal References:

1Texas Penal Code Section 16.03(d)

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