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2021 Texas Legislature Graphic

87th Legislative Session: Texas Criminal Law Update

In 2021, Texas’s 87th Legislative Session created several new criminal offenses and updated many important laws relating to criminal prosecution and post-arrest matters, including updates to record clearing laws. Perhaps the most talked-about update is the constitutional carry law. But there are lots of other updates to digest.

First, a disclaimer: this article is being updated as we go through the results of the session. This article is not an in-depth analysis, and since this is article is a summary, many important aspects of each bill may not be addressed. If you’re interested in learning more, either look at the original bill or click on the link to a related article. This is also not a comprehensive update of all of the new laws that might affect criminal defendants or criminal defense lawyers. This article will not cover bills that were nonsubstantive, of extremely limited application, or that were focused on law enforcement policy.

Punishing Protesters more Severely

HB 9 creates an enhancement to the law that Texas uses to punish protesters. The law creates an enhancement for Obstruction of a Passageway in cases where the states says you blocked an “emergency vehicle” which is defined to be much more broad than what you might think an emergency vehicle is.

Updates to Improper Relationship between Educator and Student

HB 246 amends the offense of Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student by clarifying what constitutes sexual contact and prohibits the release of the name of an accused educator until indictment.

Creates an offense called Financial Abuse of Elderly Individual

HB 1156 creates a brand new offense called Financial Abuse of Elderly Individual that criminalizes a wide swath of behavior related to “elderly individuals” (defined therein as 65 years of age or older). The criminalized behavior is not just theft, but also acting with “undue influence” with respect to elderly individuals. Of course, that sounds nice on paper, but when you’re dealing with an elderly individual who later dies, it’s pretty easy for other people to say you acted with “undue influence,” especially if they’re contesting a will. We predict that this will result in probate litigants throwing accusations around like beads off a Mardi Gras float. Learn more about the new offense of Financial Abuse of Elderly Individual